There’s nothing like a fruity conserve for brightening breakfast time – and beyond! The Italians certainly make them well, which is why we’re indulging in a taste of the sweet life…
Italian fruit jams never fail to satisfy a sweet tooth. Generally made quite simply from fruit and sugar – and without the water content that bulks out many mass-produced jams – artisan jams from Italy are known for their rich and intense fruit flavours and natural sugar content. This mouth-wateringly sweet spread is worth keeping in your larder at all times, and not just for your toast at breakfast time – Italian jams and conserves have many more tasty uses, from livening up panini and making sweet tarts to using as a glaze on tender cuts of meat for a unique sweet and savoury combination, or eating with a strong hard cheese. Figs, berries, cherries and plum are all firm favourites with the Italians, but there are a host of other exciting jam flavour combinations out there, a few of which we have sampled in the course of this feature, notably carrot and orange, liquorice and prickly pear, along with more familiar (but no less flavoursome) ingredients.
Italian cherry conserve
We recently featured these deliciously sour Amarena cherries from Emilia-Romagna in a rich sugar syrup. This time they are to be found in Crosta & Mollica’s sweet, fruity conserve. The label declares that the jar contains 65g of cherries per 100g, and it is indeed packed to the brim with tender chunks and whole juicy fruit. It has the soft set typical of a conserve and you definitely taste the freshness of the fruit and a slight sour tang. It is sweet without being sticky, which makes it feel rather indulgent but light at the same time – our kind of jam! They also have Fig, Peach and ACE (after the vitamins in its orange, lemon and carrot ingredients) which we can’t wait to try. Find them in major supermarkets and online at Ocado.
Verdict: This jam is so much more than a luxurious breakfast spread. Stir into mascarpone or yoghurt, use to fill a crostata or as an accompaniment to duck.
From Crosta & Mollica
Price £2.25 for 240g
Alpa Organic Carrot and Orange Jam
These organic ingredients, grown in Calabria, combine to create a delicious spread. The zesty orange brings out the natural sweetness of the carrots to deliver a balanced flavour in a delicious texture.
Verdict: This a jam with so many possibilities, sweet and savoury. Use it to fill a carrot cake or as a glaze for duck or chicken.
From Sous Chef
Price £4.50 for 200g
Fiasconaro Fichi D’India Jam
Made in Sicily from the ubiquitous prickly pear, this adventurous conserve has a great consistency with a fairly smooth texture and fresh, juicy flavour. Certainly a talking point at tea time with a unanimous thumbs up!
Verdict: Try this unusual conserve over gelato, or how about in a freshly baked Victoria sponge layered up with fresh cream?
From Sous Chef
Price £5.95 for 360g
Nature Med Liquorice & Apple
The world’s finest liquorice comes from Calabria, which is where this organic jam is produced. Rich and dark it’s sweetened with apple and woody with liquorice – we were bowled over by the intense depth of flavour.
Verdict: This intriguing sweet/savoury combination is quite addictive – try it with a strong cheese or over vanilla ice cream.
Price £5.99 for 230g
Vis Bio Delizia Apricot Jam
A solid consistency is the first impression you’ll get from this gluten-free conserve from Vis. The apricots are certainly there in abundance (there is a really good fruit content) and the flavour is deep and fruity.
Verdict: With its firm set and chunks of soft apricot, this jam has a pleasing tang for those early morning breakfasts.
From Something Italian
Price £5.50 for 330g
Paradiso dei Golosi Cedro Jam
The cedro is a member of the citrus family, not so well known outside Italy. With a subtly refreshing bitter tang, this soft set marmalade has a pleasing texture with just the right balance of sweetness.
Verdict: Packed with tender chunks of peel (the fruit is 70% rind), this bitter-sweet marmalade is the perfect breakfast spread!
Price £4.50 for 250g
Fior di Frutta Organic Wild Blackberry Jam
One of Italy’s most popular brands, this fruity choice is bursting with the flavour of wild blackberries. Sweetened with apple sugar and natural pectin, it was a hit with our sweet-toothed testers.
Verdict: A non-Italian option is the ultimate peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but try it with cheeses or stirred into fresh plain yoghurt.
From Nife is Life
Price £4.50 for 250g