A soft, beautiful pink-red jam where the fragrance of raspberry and lychee is underscored by a little rose.
This was inspired by a collaboration between Pierre Herme and la fée des confitures, the incomparable Christine Ferber. Her confiture Ispahan is a two-layer jam with lychee, raspberry, and rose. As far as I know, this item is only available for home delivery in France. Ferber’s craft is remarkable–you can read about her work here–and it inspired me to stir up a very simple jam.
The form is homey: ordinary supermarket things turned into seedy raspberry jam with torn slivers of lychee and a splash of rosewater. Nothing like the two-layer original, made in Alsace from farm to table by a mistress of her craft. But the fragrance is still elegant, evoking a rococo boudoir, all veils and plush and curving arms, with bowls of sugared fruit and rose-filled vases. A dream for most of us, I think.
(Well, I like the image of such a boudoir but the effort involved in upkeep and putting on airs seems excessive.)
I must emphasize that, despite the frilly name, this is a very simple preserve. The only difficulty I’ve encountered is actually locating lychees and raspberries at reasonable prices within the same timeframe. I had to take advantage of the fact that raspberries can be frozen: they turned out beautifully with a stash of raspberries I’d got on offer and hastily flash-froze. Also, ready-frozen raspberries are much cheaper, so feel free to use them. Lychees can also be frozen; I’ve heard that defrosted lychees retain much of their deliciousness but may turn brown, which may not matter because it’ll probably be stained berry-pink anyway. I’ve also seen recipes where canned lychees are used. If you try that out, tell me how that goes.
Obviously, the better your produce, the better the jam, but there’s absolutely no need to take pains: I used ordinary supermarket stuff and it was gorgeous. Mere mortals can have this remarkable jam, too. And if you don’t want to boil jam (understandable in hot weather), think of it as a suggestion for fruit salad, jelly, or compote.
This is, as always, a soft-set jam: it won’t run off your toast, but isn’t a suitable candidate for filling cookies. We like this with thick yoghurt, half a soft ripe peach, and maybe some chopped nuts. Also good spread onto brioche and scones; absurdly delicious if you fill doughnuts with it. I’d love to try this in layer cakes and rolls.
RASPBERRY LYCHEE ROSE JAM
Makes approx 325 – 350 ml (less than 2/3 pint or around 1 1/2 cups).
Keeps for over 1 week refrigerated when opened, 1 year in unopened jars or frozen. If potted, process it further if you wish, to ensure shelf-stability. Freeze it in sturdy tupperware, leaving some headroom. I used clippy containers and they were fine. It will become firm but scoopable in fridge; just let it sit briefly and you should be good to go!
Don’t worry too much about exact proportions–I just used the amount of fruit I could easily buy. The jam comprises 1/3 lychee and 2/3 raspberries, with sugar equal to raspberry weight and around 1 tbsp lemon juice per 300g prepared fruit.
Rosewater is to taste, but go cautiously: what tastes good in a small amount might be overwhelming in the actual eating. I kept the flavour in the macerating stage and it lingers beautifully, but add more rosewater right at the end for a more obvious flavour if you wish.
150g/approx 5 1/4 oz lychee flesh, plus any juice (this is from 200g/7 oz or 11 – 12 whole average lychees)
225g/1/2 lb raspberries, fresh or frozen
1 tbsp rosewater (the stuff in taller clear bottles; if you have the Nielsen-Massey rosewater, very cautiously add it by the teaspoon at the very end)
1 tbsp + 2 tsp lemon juice, more to taste if liked (from 1/2 a juicy medium lemon)
225g/1/2 lb granulated sugar
Prepare the lychees by peeling them, as you would a clementine, over a medium container or saucepan to catch any juice. Once peeled, seed each fruit. Cut them or do this with your fingers: look and feel for the seam of the fruit and pull to unravel the lychee flesh from the pit.
Cut the lychee flesh into small pieces. I simply tear each fruit into chunks and slivers, but you can finely chop or puree them, depending on your taste. Lychee holds its shape and texture well, so get it as small as you want to eat.
Add raspberries, rosewater, lemon juice, and sugar to the bowl or pot of lychee flesh and juice. Stir gently. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, no more than 2 hours. Alternatively, refrigerate for several hours, up to overnight–any macerating time is good, so it depends on your schedule.
When you’re ready to make jam, start sterilising your jars. If you’re doing the wrinkle test, put some small saucers or bowls in the freezer. Prepare your potting area, laying down towels or a wooden board.
If you haven’t already, pour the mixture into a medium heavy-bottomed pot; it shouldn’t come up more than halfway (mixture will bubble high). Stir over a gentle heat until juicy and sugar has completely dissolved. Increase heat to medium-medium high until it bubbles at the edges and cook the jam for 7 – 9 minutes, stirring occasionally and keeping it at a lively simmer; somehow, I find this jam turns out best if it isn’t boiled too hard. Mixture will foam up high, gradually subside into larger bubbles, and thicken slightly, at which point pull off heat and test for set.
If, after 30 seconds of waiting, a blob of the jam sits roundly on the chilled saucer and wrinkles when you push your finger through, it’s ready. You can also use this opportunity to taste-test the jam. If necessary, continue boiling and check for set every 2 – 3 minutes. (It’s better to undercook: jams really set up overnight, and can be re-boiled if not.)
When your jam has achieved set, remove from the heat. If you want to add a little more lemon juice or rosewater, wait till bubbles subside and stir in cautiously–up to 1/2 tablespoon or so of liquid shouldn’t loosen the mixture too much.
Pot up, wiping rims, leaving 5mm headspace for screw tops and 1 cm for kilner jars. Leave to cool undisturbed before adding to your jam cupboard. Heat process further if you wish. If you’re certain you’ll eat this jam within the week, though, use sterilised tupperware and refrigerate if preferred. (Jam can always be frozen if you’re not sure you’ll get round to it.)