Jam with Character

By David Fried

Do you ever wonder why fruit grown in Vermont—on your own trees, vines, and shrubs—tastes so amazing? The king and queen of Atlantis didn’t get anything close to this. Well, maybe.

There is something about homegrown. In Vermont, the plants have to make it through a long and cold winter. Because they don’t have the easiest soils or the most accommodating climate, they have to work harder, and they end up coming out with more flavor. Like the people who live here. Vermonters have character.

A wise man told me that sometime in February, a fruit tree is about to give up, because it’s so cold. But then an angel whispers to it: ”Hold on, spring is coming.” The tree soon feels its sap, its life juices starting to flow again. Some trees start praying, not only to make it through the winter, but also to make the sweetest fruit. That’s why some apples taste so good and some just okay. I guess in Vermont our trees do a lot of praying.

At our certified organic farm and nursery, we’ve been testing what we can grow and harvest for 35 years. Since we’re up in Elmore, we are setting an example of what the possibilities are. The ones that make it, we learn how to make more of, so that everyone can have them in their yards. You might be surprised that pears, plums, grapes, and northern kiwis are some of the easiest fruits to grow—you just have to have the right selections. We also plant and harvest hazelnuts, black walnuts, and pine nuts. I have seen 43 below zero on the thermometer at our farm and all of these fruits and nuts thrive here anyway.

When I hiked the Long Trail in 1979, I lived off fruits along the way. I thought it would be awesome to surround myself with them at my own place, so over the years the Elmore Roots crew and I have followed the dream. Are you wondering which fruit I like best? It’s whichever one that is northern-Vermont-sun-ripened and in my hand right now.

In addition to selling fruit trees, berry plants, and flowering shrubs, we make jam from our fruit. A couple of years ago we grew ginger outdoors and combined it with our pears and apples. It came out as a really tasty jam. Here is our recipe.

Elmore Roots Pear-Apple-Ginger Jam

Ingredients

  • apples, both tame and wild (Note: using some wild apples can take the place of adding pectin)

  • pears

  • baby ginger and teenage ginger (the “roots” you find in stores)

  • evaporated cane juice (natural sugar)

  • ginger to taste (in a pinch you can use powdered ginger, but you won’t get those nice chewy ginger morsels)

Amounts

For any size batch, use the following ratio:

apples, 1/3
pears, almost 1/3
sugar, 1/3

The reason we usually use sugar and not any other sweetener is because we are very proud of the flavor of our own homegrown fruit and that’s what we want people to taste; sugar’s taste does not stand out.

Directions

Cook the apples and the pears until soft. Puree and strain just to remove the seeds. Chop the ginger in a small food processor and add it in. Heat again and stir in the sugar. Keep stirring until about 180 degrees or so and the consistency you like. Pour into jars with new lids and seal.

David Fried is the dreamer-poet and founder of Elmore Roots Nursery in Elmore. He has a wife and two daughters, and roughly 50,000 young fruit and nut trees that he raised are now growing throughout Vermont.