FOR MANY, JAM evokes a sense of home: weekend PB&Js, grandma’s sweet concoctions, liquid summer in a jar. For jam maker V Smiley, it also means homecoming. Five years ago, Smiley came back to her family’s farm in Vermont to start V Smiley Preserves, her fruit preservation project, after years spent away. What took her so long?
Jam making isn’t for the impatient. Turning fresh fruit into perfectly gooey, delicious preserves takes time, and time is a key factor in Smiley’s life. When she was young, it took her some time to fully realize she was gay, and to come out to her family. While her mother had an easier time adjusting—“She has less space between her heart and her brain,” Smiley explains with charming simplicity—her father had a much harsher reaction. Smiley had to leave home. She went to college then settled in Los Angeles until calmer life came calling in the form of Hedgebrook, an art residency on Whidbey Island in Washington State. That’s where Smiley got serious about food and cooking, and met her partner Amy, a farmer. The two moved to Seattle soon after, where Smiley cooked and consulted with local restaurants. Though she only saw her father twice more before he passed away in 2012, she missed her mother and had a plan in the back of her mind: returning to the family farm. “I had unfinished business here, emotionally,” she says. This idea, combined with her growing love of fruit and preserving, led Smiley to hatch a jam-making path back home.
In 2013, Smiley began making jams and in 2015 the move finally happened. Smiley and Amy settled on the farm in New Haven, VT, and V Smiley Preserves (vsmileypreserves.com) was born. Of the sprawling 150 acres, jam-related fruits planted by Smiley’s mother, like gooseberries, jostaberries, and currants, make up a few lush gardens. There’s also a mix of flowers and herbs—like geranium, bee balm, lemon balm, and lemongrass—that Smiley incorporates in her preserves, for aromatic flavors like Blackcurrant Shiro Plum and Cherry Rosehip Hibiscus. Summer will bring juicy tomatoes (for Spicy & Smoky Tomato Jam) and hopefully plums, for a signature jam Smiley flavors with anise hyssop and lemon verbena. “Being home feels both very real and surreal, at times; I still have that ‘pinch me’ feeling when I drive around or when I’m walking down to the garden to meet Amy,” Smiley says. “I couldn’t be more excited to be here.”—Flora Tsapovsky
V Smiley Preserves Raspberry Honey Jam
Makes 42 to 48 oz., just shy of six 8-oz. mason jars
My raspberry honey jam packs all the flavor of this peak summer fruit with a sweet honey twist. It’s delicious as is, but with a single additional ingredient—habanero pepper, lime, or rosewater—you can transform the recipe into something new. Choose your own jam adventure! –V Smiley
Silicon spatula, scale, 11½ qt. copper preserving pan*, canning jars or sterile glass jars with lids
- 3 lb. red raspberries
- 1 lb. plus 14 oz. honey (reduce honey by 2 oz. if raspberries are very sweet)
- 4 to 5 oz. fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice
- Place 5 spoons on a plate in the freezer. Measure honey into your pan of choice and melt over medium to high heat. When honey is fully liquefied, add raspberries to the center, gently folding them in. Turn heat to high. When the mixture reaches a full boil, add lemon juice (but don’t stir).
- Continue to cook until jam thickens—20 - 25 minutes—scraping the bottom with a silicon spatula to prevent sticking and assess texture.
(If it boils over, reduce heat slightly then inch it back up to high.)
- To test the jam’s doneness, place a half-spoonful of jam on one of the frozen spoons and return to the freezer. Remove after 3 to 4 minutes and feel the underside of the spoon. If it’s still warm, freeze for another minute or two. Gently nudge the jam on the spoon with your finger; it should be thick and gloppy. Tilt spoon vertically; if jam runs very slowly it is done. If it runs quickly or appears watery, continue cooking a few minutes more, stirring, and re-test until done. Once done, skim any remaining foam off the jam’s surface with a spoon.
- If you are canning the jam, follow the jar manufacturer’s instructions. If you want to eat your preserves right away, simply place the jam in sterile glass jars, let cool covered, and store in the refrigerator. Open jars will keep 4 to 6 weeks; unopened jars will last up to 3 months.
Habanero Raspberry Honey Jam
Add a little heat with a single fresh or dried whole habanero pepper, prepared like this: starting at the pepper’s tip, cut it in half lengthwise stopping about ¾ of the way up so it remains intact.
Add the whole pepper, including stem, when you add the lemon juice. Remove pepper right before you jar your jam.
Raspberry Lime Honey Jam
Once your jam is finished and skimmed for foam, using a fine microplane, zest 3 smaller limes into the jam, add the juice of 1 lime, stir, and jar.
Raspberry Rose Honey Jam
Once your jam is finished and skimmed for foam, add 2 to 3 tsp. rosewater to taste; stir.
*If you don’t have something this large/wide in your kitchen, that’s fine! Just halve the recipe. The best cookware for jam making is copper followed by enameled cast iron (like a Le Creuset Dutch oven) followed by stainless steel. Avoid aluminum, it can discolor acidic food.
Photography by Dennis Welsh (v smiley); Jessie Yuchen (open jars); Elisabeth Waller (closed jars)
Header collage by Aeva Karlsrud; background: Unsplash/Amy Shamblem; portrait: Dennis Welsh; jars: Elisabeth Waller
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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