Treat from the Philippines: Ube Jam

It must’ve been five years ago since I last tasted ube jam.

It was one of my very favorite treats growing up. I adore the bright purple color. The creamy texture. The sweet, comforting flavor. Ube jam – also called halaya – is made from the purple yam, which is cultivated in tropical countries like the Philippines. It is a common ingredient in desserts and it is, like so many other things, my taste of home.

I always remember my Lola (Grandma) Conch, who made the best – THE BEST – halaya I have ever had. She had a wonderful labor-intensive recipe for rich and creamy halaya. I would wait impatiently for hours as she prepped and cooked, and as soon as the jam is ready, still hot from the oven, and oozing with bright yellow mantequilla (butter), I would happily lap it up, savoring each thick, sweet spoonful.

My dad, well aware of my inclinations for all things sweet, brought me a treat when he arrived in Boston last week: a jar of my beloved ube jam. I like eating the ube jam plain and straight from the jar but this time, I wanted to make something a little more special with it. Inspired by the Ube Pies from Jun’s blog (Jun Belen has a beautiful blog filled with heart-warming stories and recipes for Filipino food. I urge you to check it out!) I decided to make mini ube cups with a simple graham cracker base.

a basic graham cracker crust from Martha Stewart calls for only crushed graham crackers, butter, sugar, and a teeny pinch of salt

I baked the crusts in little ramekins for a few minutes until it turned golden brown, then put a generous dollop of ube jam on top. Traditionally, ube jam is served with macapuno – a type of thick, shredded coconut meat cooked to a sweet, syrupy consistency…

but since I didn't have macapuno, I topped my ube pies with sweetened coconut flakes

the graham cracker base was a little crumbly, mixing deliciously with the dense deep-lavender jam

It tasted like an Americanized version of one of my favorite Filipino dessert, bridging my two homes with each bite.

It was perfect. Like no time has passed, I licked each spoonful clean.

You can make ube jam by mixing pureed purple yam (if you can find it, or just use purple sweet potatoes which are more common), some butter, condensed milk, and coconut milk. My Lola Conch has sadly passed away many years ago so I don’t have our family recipe, but you can find recipes online, like in Jun’s blog.

Five years may have gone by but my love for this sweet purple dessert hasn’t faded. My next project is to one day make ube jam myself!

Do you also have a particular dessert that you haven’t had in years?


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