As the temperature starts to drop, the wind begins to swirl, and the leaves flutter from the trees, my tastes turn away from raw, cool, and quick to cooked, warm, and slow.
Each fall, I find myself returning to Sofra Bakery and Cafe’s pumpkin jam. Sofra—the Turkish word for picnic, a special table preparation of food, or a small square rug for eating—is helmed by chef Ana Sortun (of Oleana fame) and pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick. Chef Maura was kind enough to share their jam recipe with me after I moved away from Boston because, as I told her, I couldn’t live without it.
While Sofra’s recipe calls specifically for pumpkin, I found that other winter squash varieties work quite well. In fact, I’ve gotten the best results so far with red kuri squash. I’m particularly fond of its nutty flavor and smooth texture.
The jam is surprisingly simple to make: combine equal parts by weight cooked squash and sugar, then add seasoning. To cook the squash, I tested both steaming and roasting, the two recommended methods. I found that the steamed squash had a smooth texture, but a relatively bland flavor. The roasted squash, however, took on a silky texture and a sweet, buttery flavor. The caramelized edges on the cut side of the squash packed a particularly delicious punch of flavor.
As for seasoning, I used the recommended warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, but added cardamom (another warm spice) along with orange peel, which adds a note of citrus to the finished jam and increases the complexity of its flavor.
A pinch of salt is the secret ingredient, so don’t leave it out. There’s actually a scientific basis for this. According to food scientist Harold McGee, salt is a key element in how a food tastes. Adding salt to sweets helps to balance the sweetness and round out the flavor of the dish. Salt can also increase the intensity of flavor.
I love to enjoy the jam spread simply on top of toasted sourdough bread with a lathering of good butter. It’s also lovely paired with cheese and yogurt or added to tarts and crepes.
Winter squash jam
Adapted from Sofra's pumpkin jam recipe.
1 large winter squash (about 3 pounds)
Olive oil, as needed
Peel from one orange
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons salt
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees and adjust oven rack to lower third of oven. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Brush cut side of squash with olive oil. Place squash, cut side down, on parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast squash until skin is browned and flesh is tender and cooked through, about 45 minutes. Using large spoon, scoop squash flesh into bowl and discard skin. Measure weight of squash flesh and place in heavy-bottomed saucepan.
2. Measure an amount of sugar equal by weight to squash flesh. Add sugar to saucepan with squash. Heat jam over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and liquefies. Add orange peel and cinnamon stick. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors meld and jam darkens a bit, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove orange peel and cinnamon stick. Season with salt, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. Puree jam with immersion blender until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste. Transfer jam to jars and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate. Jam keeps up to 3 weeks refrigerated.