From cupcakes, to pancakes, to donuts, and even pop tarts, I’ve been known to experiment a time or two with Ube, the Filipino sweet purple yam. Despite my many Ube experiments and recipes over the years, I’ve never attempted to make Halayang Ube, AKA Ube Jam. This sweet purple jam made from the sweet purple yam is perhaps the most common application for Ube in the Philippines—jars of either store bought or homemade jam are a common pantry item there.
The best of this jarred purple stuff is said to be the Good Shepherd brand of Ube Jam, made at a convent in the mountains of the Northern Philippines (I guess nuns have a way with yams). I’ve had this Good Shepherd jam and it is earthy and sweet, even nutty and almond-y, and it is indeed the best Ube Jam I’ve had.
As ubiquitous as Ube Jam is in the Philippines, it’s also fairly easy to find decent variants at Asian markets here in the States (though you won’t find Good Shepherd here). Although Ube Jam is readily available in stores, they are mediocre at best, and filled with artificial colors and preservatives. Even the Good Shepherd brand lists sodium benzoate as an ingredient, which explains its long shelf life.
So I finally decided to make my own Ube Jam. It couldn’t be all that hard, right? Of course not!
In researching recipes for Ube Jam, I found that most versions include some combination of canned coconut milk, canned condensed milk, canned evaporated milk, butter, sugar, and fresh or frozen grated purple yam. Besides all of the canned milks, another commonality found was a long simmering time with a healthy dose of arm-numbing stirring.
In making my own jam, I streamlined the usual ingredients list, while adding a few unique touches of my own:
All you need for Ube Jam. Oh, and a pinch of salt.
I decided to cut down on all the canned milks and went with all coconut milk instead. This results in a more coconut-forward flavor, but that’s my preference. If you want a less coconutty Ube Jam, use both coconut milk and regular fresh cow’s milk if you like. And although canned condensed milk is usually used as a sweetener, I found that using just sugar alone works just fine. Also, butter is usually used to add a nice sheen and shine to the jam, but because butter isn’t very shelf stable, I cut the butter out altogether and used coconut oil instead.
Hmmm. Am I forgetting anything? Oh yes! Rum! I figured since yam recipes (the orange variety) here in the States usually feature Bourbon, why not add some extra rum kick to Filipino purple yams? The rum is completely optional, but it does lend another nice dimension of flavor to the jam.
Although I streamlined the ingredients list a bit, there’s really no avoiding the long simmering and stirring it takes to make a great Ube Jam. I imagine those Filipino nuns I mention earlier must have some serious guns under their tunics. Anyways, despite the long simmering and stirring, it really is easy to make Ube Jam. Just dump everything (except for the coconut oil and rum) in a pot and simmer and stir away until the mixture is nice and thick.
After about 10 minutes of simmering.
Nice and thick and sticky after about 30 minutes of simmering.
After about a half-hour of simmering and stirring , not only will you have yourself a sore stirring appendage (dude, arm and shoulder day, bro!), you’ll have yourself a beautifully purple and sweet, all-natural and vegan Ube Jam! And you will absolutely marvel at how vividly purple this stuff is too!
So what to do after you’ve got yourself some homemade Ube Jam? Well, you could make those Ube Pop Tarts I mentioned earlier. Or how’s about an Elvis-style Ube Jam and Saba Banana Sandwich? Or you could just eat the stuff straight out of the jar. Enjoy.
Purple jam, man.
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (Chaokoh brand)
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 16 oz. frozen grated purple yam, thawed
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- (Optional) 1 tablespoon dark rum
- Using a rubber spatula, stir together the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and purple yam in a large saucepan over high heat.
- Bring everything to a boil, while stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium, or medium-low, and continue to simmer and stir until the mixture thickens, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot with the spatula to prevent scorching. If the mixture bubbles too much, reduce heat to low.
- Continue to simmer the mixture, stirring until it becomes the consistency of thick cake batter and begins to pull away from the sides of the pot, about 30 minutes total. Remove from heat.
- Stir in the coconut oil and continue to mix until the oil is completely incorporated into the jam. Stir in the rum as well until completely incorporated.
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly in the pan, then transfer the warm mixture to jars or containers. Store at room temperature for easier spreading. If storing in the refrigerator, allow jam to come to room temp before using so it is easier to spread.