Here in coastal southeast Virginia, jam season starts in December with kiwis. In April, the strawberries keep us busy through May. In late June, the peaches ripen along with the blackberries, which are followed by blueberries. The season rounds itself out with nectarines, figs, pears, and even apples into October.
I take advantage of our local fruit harvest and make a lot of jams. Some will be enjoyed by my family, used to sweeten yogurt and oatmeal or spread on home-baked bread. Most will be given as gifts. At this point in the season, my shelves are overflowing. There are jars in the kids’ playroom, jars in the laundry room, jars on the dining room floor.
Unfortunately, there are also jars and jars in the fridge, each containing a tablespoon or five and taking up valuable real estate. I know I’m not the only food-preserver who has this problem! With every batch of jam, there’s always just enough left-over that you can’t justify throwing it away, but it’s not enough to fill another jar. Or the kids decide that raspberry isn’t their favorite flavor anymore and decide to open another jar of something else. Or the jars just get forgotten about way back there in no man’s land. Eventually, I get frustrated enough and decide to take matters into my own hands.
My stand-by recipe for oatmeal squares is the perfect solution. The kids get a treat in their lunch boxes, and I get an emptier fridge. Instead of using one kind of jam like I normally do, I used up all eight of the the almost-empty jars I had (which also included some apple butter.)
Oatmeal Squares Recipe
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup butter
about 1 ½ cups jam
Preheat oven to 350. Grease one 9"x13" or two 8"x8” pans. In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients (I also add a bit of cinnamon if I’m using a jam like peach or even blueberry). Cut in the butter. Place about half of this mixture into prepared pans and press firmly. Spread jam and sprinkle with the remaining oat mixture. Press gently.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool before cutting.
This recipe gets made so often at our house that I decided to make my own ‘mix’ by simply combining the first 5 ingredients in a bag or jar. When I want to make them, I simply dump a bag into a bowl, cut in the butter, and choose a jar of jam, which makes it easier than any store bought box-mix, with no artificial ingredients. Every time I make them, someone wants the recipe, and they are always surprised at how easy they are. It doesn’t matter what kind of jam you use, either. Our favorites are peach and strawberry-rhubarb, but feel free to use whatever you have. Orange marmalade, blackberry, raspberry… it’s all good!
How do you use up your jam extras?
Lanette Lepper is a beekeeper, chicken keeper, gardener, food preserver, and proud Navy spouse who blogs at www.HomesteadingOnTheHomeFront.Blogspot.com