Using Jam Beyond the Jar With Blue Chair Fruit

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We’ve been long-time fans of crafting cocktails out of everyday jams, but Rachel Saunders, creative mastermind behind Blue Chair Fruit, exceeds even our wildest imaginations of how transformative a spoonful of preserved fruit can really be in her newest cookbook, Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade. The book features 150 recipes, ranging from paella to pastries, divided by time of day, and guaranteed to challenge your notions of what you can cook with a jar of jam. Plus, it makes the perfect gift for those you know who love to preserve. Rachel joined us to talk more about the book, jam-making, and her recipe for Strawberry Sangria. Happy Summer!   

Tell us about Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade and what inspired you to write this particular cookbook?  

This cookbook is a natural extension of my first book, The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, which had several photos suggesting ideas for how to serve jam. My first book was solely focused on how to make the preserves themselves; it is the bible of modern preserving. This new book is a complete departure from that; I wanted to do something different and bring my adventurous palate to new types of dishes. There is no other book on the subject of how to use jams and marmalades in cooking. One of the biggest challenges when writing a cookbook is how to do something genuinely innovative, something that has not been done a million times before. This new book has over 150 recipes for dishes that incorporate jam!

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What’s the most unique or unusual way you’ve used jam in savory dishes?

It is surprising what jam can do to a dish; it not only sweetens, but also adds viscosity and fruitiness, thus accentuating the base flavors of the dish. Some of the most unusual ideas in the book include using a small amount of jam in paella to bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and tie the flavors together; using apricot jam in a Middle Eastern-style soup with lamb; and pairing kumquat marmalade with Brussels sprouts and smoked salt. I had a lot of fun with these recipes!

What jam is the most versatile to use in cooking? A pantry staple, if you will.

There are several that I allude to in the book, but I think tomato jam is perhaps the most all-purpose. I include it in several dessert recipes as well as savory recipes, including an apple-pumpkin pie and a linzer torte. It goes with everything!

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What’s the first recipe you’d like us to tackle in the cookbook – something that will hook us in?

That is difficult. I love the Brussels Sprout recipe I alluded to above. Each recipe is dear to me! I love the Fruited Irish Brown Bread because I think it showcases my palate; it has several spices in it and marmalade in the dough. And the ice creams and desserts are lovely; I’m crazy about the Golden Raspberry-Kumquat Ice Cream and the Fig-Black Sesame Ice Cream. I made the Chocolate-Stuffed Dates for Chefs Week PDX up in Portland this February and several chefs told me it was their favorite out of 28 dishes prepared by 28 different chefs! I think that was because I was using a wintry fruitcake-y palate that not many chefs often use; the flavors really stood out.

What motivates you to do what you do in the kitchen? 

A drive for mastery of technique, a love of ingredients, and a desire to express myself through food.

Who’s your jam-making guru/idol (if there is such a thing!)?

I don’t have one; when I started, I was largely driven by the fact that no one was doing anything at all similar to what I wanted to do. They still aren’t! I am 100% self-taught.

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What do you eat when no one is looking? A guilty pleasure of sorts.

That’s tough; I am very disciplined and I virtually never snack. I do have a weakness for yogurt pretzels from the bulk section, but I probably only succumb to that about once a year!

Please share a little jamming tip to inspire a home cook.

The most important thing to remember is that making something with three ingredients is a huge accomplishment. Fruit, sugar, and lemon juice – that’s all you need to make something transcendent! People often feel that they have to get really fancy right away, when in fact the goal should be mastery over the basics. Nothing is better than a great plain boysenberry jam.

What’s your go-to food gift? If it’s jam, what flavor?!

I’m a huge fruitcake person, so at the holidays, it’s definitely fruitcake. And as far as jam, it depends on the person. My current favorite is a fantastic jam we made last year: Black Fig with Blackberry & Pine. It is a knockout!

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Strawberry Sangria

Think of this as summer’s answer to Swedish Glogg. Recipes for sangria abound, but including strawberry jam in the mix adds viscosity and extra depth of flavor. Macerating fresh strawberries in red wine is an old Italian trick that I borrowed for this recipe, and it works wonders. To accentuate the berry flavor even more, I added a little Marsala in addition to the brandy. Fewer drinks could be more tempting on a warm July night—or better suited to a crowd. – Rachel

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 orange, seeded and sliced crosswise into thin wheels
  • 1 lemon, seeded and sliced crosswise into thin wheels
  • 1/4 cup strained freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Scant 1/4 cup strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups high-quality strawberry jam
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup sweet Marsala
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle medium-bodied red wine
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, thickly sliced

Directions:

  1. Place the orange and lemon slices in a large pitcher or small punch bowl. Add the orange and lemon juices and mash gently with a muddler or wooden spoon, taking care not to damage the pieces of fruit; you just want to bruise them enough for them to release their flavor. Add the jam and muddle a little more, then add the brandy, Marsala, red wine, and 1/2 cup water and stir very well. Stir in the strawberries. Cover the sangria with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours. Then chill the sangria until cold.
  2. To serve, ladle the sangria into chilled glasses, making sure to include some strawberry slices in each serving.
All photos courtesy of Sara Remington, except for photo of cookbook courtesy of Andrews McMeel Publishing. Recipe courtesy of Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade, by Rachel Saunders/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.

Eat Boutique was an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista – an author, business guide and alignment seeker. After hosting retail markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie now supports entrepreneurs as they create values-based businesses through We Are Magic StudioFollow Maggie Battista on Instagram.

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