The charm of living in a large agricultural state like Michigan is the many u-pick produce farms. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries are some of my favorite fruits to pick, eat and preserve. Though, admittedly, I’m often an overzealous picker and end up with excess fruit. Freezing is always the easy route but I adore making jam and canning. Many, many jars of jam later, I realize I can only eat so many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Naturally, I thought to bake with the extra homemade fruit jams.
Oatmeal Jam Bars
6 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
¾ cup jam
Preheat oven to 350o. Combine butter and sugar in a mixer and beat until well combined. Add flour, baking soda and salt; stir until incorporated and crumbly. Stir in oats. Place 2/3 of oat mixture on bottom of 8-inch square baking pan lined with parchment paper. Top with jam and spread evenly. Press together the remaining oat mixture with your hands and place chunks of oats on top of jam to mostly cover. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and top is golden.
Cook’s Note: Bake with your favorite flavor of jam or preserves. I used strawberry—made with strawberries from Middleton Berry Farm—and it was delicious. If the fruit is very thick, you can lightly warm in the microwave to be able to spread easily.
Here are some other great ideas for using up homemade fruit preserves, jellies and jams:
In the dessert category, use jam in layer cakes, filling for muffins and donuts, thumbprint cookies, cheesecake topping, ice cream sundae topping or layer into trifle. Kids would love the jam frozen into popsicles.
Beverages also make for great use of jams. You can stir the sweetened fruit into lemonade, ice tea or Italian soda. For the grownups, mixed into cocktails with your favorite spirit is delicious. Also, blend with yogurt or ice cream for a smoothie.
Breakfast is an easy way to use jam swirled into yogurt or oatmeal. It is also a great topping for biscuits, waffles or pancakes. If you are little more adventurous, try making stuffed French toast or crepes.
For the savory route, top baked brie, goat cheese or cream cheese with preserves. Spread in the middle of a stuffed pork loin or chicken breast, pour over a ham as a glaze or stir into barbeque sauce. Sometimes simple is best—just place jam in a small dish on a cheese platter.
Raspberries, peaches, pears, apples and cherries are all waiting to be picked right now at many local u-pick farms. Go to www.upickmichigan.com to find a place near you.
—Pam Aughe, R.D.