Jam Course August 2011

August 2011.  I fly to Chicago, go to see the Chagall Windows at the Art Institute, have dinner with my favourite Chicagoans, Paula and Toph, site see, and then, on Monday morning, I rise at 0600h and go to my Jam making course.
A good first day.  12 people in the class 5 of whom worked in health care at some point.  One person who asks a million questions and most of them over and over because every class seems to require that action.  We had lectures this morning and then cooked all afternoon.  Broken into teams of two, one half the class made 5 recipes and one half did the other five.  My partner and I made Dill Pickles, Candied Ginger, tart dough for a mincemeat tart tomorrow, and the mincemeat and apricot jam. Some of which were prep work for things we will make this week sometime.  We really had to move.  They were just a little disorganized but everyone got done in time so no big deal.   My partner, who took the serious 6 month course which was graded is a neat freak.  She says that the course did that to her – that one was graded on a clean work station.  So she had the bottle of disinfectant out every 10 minutes.  She is a worrier with not much sense of haha but is an 11 year liver transplant survivor so I suppose one can forgive her level of earnestness.
Cooking is a great equalizer.  A Master’s Degree or a physician’s license isn’t much good when you are filling jars.  One of the docs, who is a retired genito-urinary surgeon says that she finds it all meditative.  Which is what I get from making jam – I call it my working meditation.  Steady, careful with measured movement.  Enjoying the zen of the day – in and out, up and down, stir and chop.  The callus on my middle finger from stirring – the mark of the jam maker.  I did learn today that when my chocolates get bloom on them (yes, I make chocolates too) it means that I got the chocolate too hot when I melted it.
After class, I was going to hop a cab but decided that I would head in the direction of the hotel as long as my ankle held out (osteoarthritis – severe I’m told).  It was a glorious summer day.  And I wanted to explore a bit – see if there were any hidden gems between there and here.  But no.  Just retail and beggars.
I need a nap then I might go out and explore a bit more.  Sit in the park perhaps and watch the world go by.
P.S.  I did not get one spot or splatter on my white chef’s coat.  This is an achievement for me.  Usually I’m all Miss Piggy cooks.
The rest of the week speeds by in a splattering of information, a stirring up of questions, and a satisfaction of competency.  We make all kinds of things – some well, some badly.  The last day, I cannot bear to cook one more damned thing.  I halfheartedly stir the home-made ketchup with the addition of honey, lavender and what I think are far too many spices that I am to turn into BBQ sauce. I was too lazy and I guess rebellious to chop the onion that was required so tossed it.  Sneakily of course.  I look at my partner who says “I don’t want any” and I think, well niether do I.  I make perfectly good BBQ sauce at home and my already overweight suitcase cannot take ONE MORE JAR.  I stop stirring and slink to a sink in another room, far from the eagle eyes of our instructo to dump it out.  My classmate/physician to the left discuss the wisdom of putting lavendar in BBQ sauce.  We agree this is a stupid idea.  Later, a dish is put out for us to taste.  Ever game, we try it.  We look at each other and have to bashfully admit that we like it.  Teach me to have a closed mind.
We eat some scones which are really just a vehicle to get the freshly made lemon cream into our mouths, trade jars with each other.  I give away most of my jars because again, I can’t take 40 jars of product with me.  And then it’s over.  We disperse to waiting cabs, family members, the subway.  And it’s over.  I learned a lot.  I got some sublime recipes.  And I had a great time.  I will say one thing – any nice fantasies I was harbouring about ever doing a 6 month course at a real cooking school are tossed.  I could never take that discipline.  I will not be told what socks to wear or be chastised for talking when Chef is talking.  It actually makes me laugh – I’m too far gone.  But again, it was a great course.  And a wonderful experience.  Jam rules.

When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Marmalade

About two years ago, I started to hear about the world famous but seldom seen Meyer Lemon.  Mostly, my source was the Harvest Forum at iVillage*.   I heard from my local fruit monger that Superstore sometimes carried them but I didn’t have any sense of when they were in season or what they looked like.  Then, I went to Texas to visit my BFF.  I am teaching her to do small batch jam making.  She had Meyer Lemons in her fridge so we made a small amount of marmalade winging the recipe.  I don’t normally recommend this but by now, after 1000 jars of marmalade plus or minus, I have some sense of what the basic drill is.  In any case, those Meyer Lemons made great marmalade.


Flash forward to my visit to the Dentist (four small cavities – time to start brushing between tastings).  My dentist laughingly says she should underwrite my jam business because it so clearly drives business to her.  But I digress.  She had seen Meyer Lemons at Superstore and made curd.  Making curd is out of the question for me because I can’t stop eating it.  But again I digress.  I whipped over to Superstore to be told they had Meyer Lemons a week ago.  I was dejected so had to buy myself a chocolate croissant.  A week later, my dentist came through for me again – Meyer Lemons had been spotted at Costco.  I leapt into the Mazda and headed for the store, thinking, if they don’t have them, I’ll get customer service to call around and see if there are any left at the other stores (always contingency planning am I).   Long story short, a cornucopia of plenty greeted me.  I put numerous boxes in my cart and then answered questions from other customers about what the hell those were and what the hell one did with them.  Interestingly, these Meyers were not quite the same as those in Texas – they were larger and orange in colour.

I got home, adjusted the recipe my recipe for the volume of each clamshell of lemons and got busy slicing.  Damn things are full of seeds but luckily, I had learned how to “supreme” citrus so I cut the core out of each half lemon which removed most of the seeds with it.  I only cut myself 4 times.  The recipe called for soaking the peel overnight, then boiling for 30 minutes before adding the sugar (if boiled in sugar solution, peel will not soften).  The next morning, I leapt out of bed, turned on the stove, and added the sugar.   I was well on my way to achieving a merry boil when I realized I should have boiled the peel first in the soaking water.  Oh well!!  There was nothing to do now but forge ahead.  After all, one cannot retrieve sugar molecules once they are in solution unless one has lab equipment.  Luckily, Meyers have a very soft skin and the marmalade turned out well.  It was thick with loads of peel which I know my customers love.  I now firmly believe that, like apricots, the divine purpose of Meyer Lemons is to give their little lives to Marmalade.  Holy schneikies – it’s good.

*Drops voice* I would say it’s my new favourite but I’m afraid the other marmalades will hear me.  ssshhhhh!!!!!


*Harvest Forum is a discussion board of all things canning.  It has been around for a long time and is a valuable source of the kind of information you never find in books.  Many of the people who post there and answer questions are expert canners – some teach canning in University extension classes.  I highly recommend this site for new canners as well as experienced ones.  I learn something almost every time I go there.


Mes Confitures

My good friend and a huge supporter of Jam Goddess is in Paris.  He told me that he would try to find some of Christine Ferber’s Jam for me.  I sent him the name and a place where I think it’s sold.  Hallelujah!!  This morning I received the following text message from Paris “Found it”.  I’m so excited.  Ready the bread Raoul.