Written by Stephanie Dula
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Gourmet preserves are a great holiday gift-giving idea, as well as a handy item to keep around the kitchen for sweetening a variety of foods. Preserves have long been a culinary tradition in many parts of the world, but I always think of them in connection with the American South. Preserved jams and jellies provide convenience and versatility that goes beyond southern foods, and can liven up many different home-cooked meals.

The Versatility of Preserves
One of my favorite uses for fruit preserves is to mix a little in to some plain softened butter for a sweet spread on bagels and breads. You can also add a scoop of preserves to a dish of ice cream for a delicious instant sundae. Use them when baking sweet breads or muffins to add an extra sweet touch.

Another option is to mix a scoop of preserves in with your meat marinades to help browning and add sweetness. Brushing your meats with sauces made with jam and jelly bases is a good way to get a good caramelized effect. A little bit of good gourmet preserves goes a long way for both the seasoned and amateur cook.

If you're just starting out cooking or baking, you'll want to stock your kitchen with some basics. I would definitely consider a jar of preserves essential to the pantry. Anything that helps you take ordinary foods like plain cake and pie mixes and make them extraordinary culinary creations is worth having around.

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