There’s one thing that we have lots of in the South and that is sunshine. Whether you’re reading this article in Florida, Texas, or up in Tennessee there’s a good chance you’re looking up at blue skies and a bright sun.
When it’s hotter than Georgia asphalt (or whichever colorful phrase you prefer to indicate the blazing temperatures) the last thing you want to do is turn on the stove. That’s when you can let Mother Nature take over and do the cooking for you. Sun Jam (it has other names, but this one works) is the perfect way to put up an entire batch of preserves using the power of the sun.
The recipe is simple enough for even the most amateur cook to manage. Start with fresh fruit. While strawberries are always good, up in Nashville they have turned sun-cooked peach preserves into an art form. They mash them up with some sugar and a little lemon juice, boil them briefly (blessedly not long enough to heat up the kitchen), and then let the whole mixture sit out in the sunshine in a glass bowl, covered so the bugs don’t get in. Glass is key so that the sun’s rays can heat the glass and cook the fruit.
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From there it’s just a waiting game. Because you’re relying on someone else to do the hard work of turning fruit into jam, it requires some patience. It usually takes a few eight hour shifts under the sunshine for the transformation to take place, so plan for between two to four days to make jam depending on the liquid in the fruit and the weather. As with many weather-related events in the South when it comes to sun jam, it’s not the heat but the humidity that can slow the cooking process down. According to The Southern Kitchen simply bring the preserves in at the end of each day and put them in the refrigerator until putting them back outside to soak up more sun. If you want to speed up the cooking process a little, NPR suggests putting the fruit on baking sheets where the sun can work its magic in as little as eight hours.