Recently I ran a small series of stories online about restaurants who make things from scratch. Not the things you’d expect them to prepare themselves, but the little things, the things we’ve all become accustomed to purchasing out of a bottle, jar or can from the store. In the series we visited Buffalo restaurants making housemade ketchup, butter, tater tots and brown sugar. All of the featured items were exceptionally yummy, and in a day and age when the word “ketchup” summons the exact same flavor, texture and scent in the minds of 99.9% of Americans, it’s important to take a step back and look at how we came to accept the chemically-laden versions of these items as the standard.
Of all of these stories, my favorite featured Chef Jen Boye of the Mansion on Delaware Avenue, who makes fresh berry jam for the hotel’s guests nearly every day. I have always thought of jams and jellys as something that required the preservation process. Silly me! Chef Boye’s jam is made from fresh local berries and the fruit from the Mansion’s fig tree during the growing season. Her desire to make even the most common things a special treat for her guests reminds me of why I love chefs, especially those who are dedicated to their profession and seek perfection in all that they do, even when they think no one else may notice.
This fresh jam recipe is very forgiving, allowing you to use whichever type of berries you can most easily get your hands on. It also requires little effort and will last in your fridge for weeks if it is handled carefully. The flavor is bright, sweet and redolent of summer. It also makes toast feel like an occasion.
Chef Boye’s Fig Berry Jam
3 cups mixed berries (an equal amount of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries works well)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 fresh figs, quartered
pinch of salt
Place above ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until sugar starts to melt and berries start to release their juices. Turn heat down to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until mixture is thickened and most of the liquid has evaporated. Let cool slightly and refrigerate in an air tight container. Keeps for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.