Pros: unique recipes, good instruction
Cons: some chapters are a bit wordy, not reccomended for beginner cook
Jam has been around almost as long as fruit. Laena McCarthy’s book Jam On is not your typical jam making book. Her book delves into the artisan jams. Artisan jams are a category that I had not thought much about till receiving this book. Jam is jam I thought. Jam is sugar, fruit, pectin….maybe slathering it on toast or with peanut butter in a sandwich or if you were REALLY daring inside a filled cookie. After reading this book you will have a whole new attitude toward the humble jam jar filled with sugary goodness.
The recipes contained in this book are NOT those that you find on your breakfast table every morning. These recipes are a bold, new, electrifying look jam and how it is used. With recipe titles such as Raspberry Rye Whiskey Jam, Thai Me Up Jam, and Spiced Beer Jelly, this book is not for the faint of heart.
I found myself spending a lot of time reading each recipe and trying to figure out what the combination of flavors would produced once mixed all together. This book does a lovely job for each recipe describing not only the pre-recipe prep, special equipment, and recipe directions but since the book includes some rather “outside the box” types of recipes, the author has included a “Tips” section with most recipes that discusses good pairings with food and drink.
One of the things I found most refreshing was the encouragement by the author for the reader to experiment with their own by trying different ingredients than those in each recipe. The section called Make It Your Own at the end of each chapter explores some variations on the recipes to try.
The pictures while lovely were not always helpful to the reader since they were often pictures of the ingredients rather than the finished product or the process involved. I also found the chapter about the author to be a bit long and wordy. I would have preferred the same information in about ½ the pages.
Included in this book is a Parings chapter that gives some interesting ideas of what to do with these new intense flavors. The Spiced Beer Jelly for example is used in a Beer Jelly Glazed Duck recipe.
The book, over all, is a lovely trip to the inventing room of the artesian jam maker. I would encourage anyone who has ever made jam to pick up a copy of this book and take a walk on the wild side of your kitchen. I wouldn’t recommend this perhaps for the person who has never made jam. The instructions are well written for a novice to follow but I would worry the intense flavors introduced in this book might be a bit overwhelming for a new jam maker.
I Eat NYC Hot Pepper Jelly
Makes about five 8-ounce jars
1 3/4 pounds peppers, mix of hot and sweet (to equal 6 cups sliced)
3 cups sugar (1 ½ pounds)
6 cups organic apple cider vinegar
For the Gelling:
See Chapter 3 for more information on pectin and calcium water
6 teaspoons calcium water
4 teaspoons pectin
- food processor
For the peppers:
Use gloves—these are hot peppers and they’ll burn your skin! Slice the peppers open and remove the seeds. Place in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Alternately, you can finely dice the peppers by hand, but it will take a while.
Measure the peppers into a 6- to 8-quart nonreactive pot and add the proper amount of calcium water into the pan; stir well.
For the Jars and Lids:
Wash and rinse the jars; put them into a big stockpot; cover the jars with water and bring to a boil; turn off the heat. Let stand in hot water until you are ready to fill.
Bring the lids and rings to a boil; turn off the heat. Let stand in hot water until you are ready to screw them onto the jars.
Place a few metal spoons in the freezer for testing the consistency and gel of your jam later. You can also place them in a cup of ice water, if you prefer.
For the Sugar and Pectin:
Measure the sugar into a separate bowl or measuring cup and thoroughly mix the proper amount of pectin powder into the sugar—using a fork helps to distribute the pectin into the sugar. Set the sugar aside.
Add the vinegar to the peppers. Bring the fruit to a boil over medium-high heat. If it starts to foam, skim the foam off the top and discard the foam.
Pour the pectin-sugar mixture into the boiling jam slowly and carefully, stirring as you add. Stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve the pectin.
Return the jam to a boil and remove from the heat. Skim off any and all foam that has formed on the top.
Pectin gels completely when thoroughly cool, so don’t worry if your jam looks loose while still hot. To test, place a teaspoon of the hot jam onto one of the prepped frozen spoons; let it cool to room temperature (about 30 seconds) on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency desired, then the jam is ready. If not nix in a little more pectin (1 ½ teaspoon into ¼ cup of sugar) and bring it to a boil again for 1 minute.
See pages 29-30 for in-depth instructions on filling and processing the jars.
For this recipe, process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Pairs well with fresh ricotta cheese (see recipe on page 206) or with Valdeon and truffle salami; tastes great as a glaze or as an accompaniment to roast chicken or pork, and on grilled cheese with sharp cheddar and sliced garlic (see recipe on page 213); delicious as a classic midwestern treat on Triscuits with cream cheese. See Make It Your Own on pages 82-83 for unique flavor combinations and ingredients you can use to customize your own flavor.