Blue Chair Jam cookbook - a keeper?

2ajsmamaJanuary 1, 2011

I haven't read each recipe in detail, just skimmed since I got this for Xmas. There are a few recipes I might try (couple of different blueberry and strawberry jams). But since here in CT I don't have access to fresh figs, guava, bergamot, citrus etc. that the author has in CA, I won't be making any jam during 9-10 months of the year that she does.

Most of the recipes don't seem to be out of the ordinary (at least not the ones I want to try), though she adds sugar at 2 different points in the process in a couple, has some good tips for picking fruit and watching bubbles before doing a spoon test (similar to saucer test).

I have limited room on my bookshelf - got Ball Complete and Small Batch as gifts too. Is the Blue Chair book a keeper or should I return it?

(I also wouldn't follow her instructions for "sterilizing" and "processing" jars in the oven.)

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If you can return it to the store may as well take the cash or store credit and pick a book you like.

I have not seen the book but you are obviously not jumping up and down with joy over the book. Different books for different people.

You can do book searches below and get low prices usually but not always. Shipping has gone up too much recently.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fetch Book Finder

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 11:34PM
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Not that I would follow her recipes for fig jam anyway, even if we had figs. Early Girl Tomato Jam and marmelade sound interesting, but I'm not sure about how much lemon juice (and she specifies fresh, I'd use bottled). There are other *approved* (tested) tomato jam recipes out there, I'd rather use one of those.

I also wanted to try Melon Jam, she says use Crenshaw or other orange melon, we've grown cantaloupes in the past (not last year), but again the pH worries me. Sugar isn't acidic, so isn't there a problem using a fruit that's pH 5-6 no matter how much sugar, if the acid isn't right? I don't remember if that recipe used pectin (most of the ones in this book don't), but if there is enough pectin and acid in proportion to the sugar to get it to gel, would the pH be OK, or is it anybody's guess. I normally wouldn't worry about botulism from a jam, but in this case...

If I decide to try any of these recipes I'll post them here first, but I was hoping someone else had (read) this book and could tell me first, are the recipes (except for the fig which I won't try) all safe, second, are they anything special, or should I stick to my Joy of Jams, Ball, Small Batch, and maybe trade this book for Ferber's if I want "artisan"?

I hate to disappoint my sister, she was very excited to give me this book, but I'd rather stick with tried and true for safety's sake (though I do have to try berries and balsamic combo, I won't worry about vinegar or herbs/spices).

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 8:55AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It wouldn't be a keeper for me. I don't have it (Carol does as she mentions it in the post about baking bread in a jar) and based on the negative reviews I have read about it on other forums I wouldn't buy it.

It has a couple of negative reviews on for advocating unsafe methods like oven canning and on other forums folks have pointed out unsafe levels of acid in some recipes and overly complex recipes that are "not worth the work involved".

It appears to be one of those love it or hate it books that is used at your own risk.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 9:24AM
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A lot of the cookbooks I have, I don't cook out of them, but I use them for inspiration. For instance, I have Mes Confitures - I've never cooked a recipe out of it, but I've found it very inspiring - I've tried some of her techniques and have adapted a lot of her flavor combinations.

So with Blue Chair Jam - does it inspire you to try some new flavor combinations - is it something you'd often look at for inspiration - even if you ignore her processing techniques?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 9:56AM
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I only found 1 negative review on Amazon, about the processing methods, which I wouldn't use anyway. I didn't see any about unsafe acid levels, which is another thing I was worried about. So I think that I will return this book (find out where Sis ordered it), stick to tested recipes. Thanks Dave.

As far as inspiration, yes, I found a few "inspiring" recipes (mentioned above) so may make some notes to try these flavors (and maybe tips like adding sugar, fruit, lemon juice in stages) with approved recipes as a base. But I don't think I'd be referring to this book "often" - many of the ingredients aren't locally available (at least not fresh or inexpensively), and some combos would require use of frozen or imported fruit since here, even if I could find local pluots for example, they would not be ripe at the same time as strawberries. Even the herbs (unless I start a windowsill herb garden) would probably be a little later than strawberries and blueberries.

But since I haven't made/tasted any of these combos, I don't know if they're even any good. Does anybody know whether the Strawberry Black Pepper, or Blueberry Mint, are any good? I'd also half the recipes - she uses a huge (copper) preserving pan, if I'm trying a new flavor combo I think I would do 4-6 half pints max til I saw if anyone liked it.

Maybe Mes would be better? I know Ferber doesn't use "USDA approved" processes, and I think some of her methods require days (not too much hands-on time, just macerating?), but are the pH levels a concern if you follow her recipes/proportions (using bottled lemon juice instead of fresh)?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 12:03PM
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Blue Chair Jams are wildly popular at the exclusive and expensive gourmet food shops that carry them here in the Bay Area - despite their price tag of $12 a jar. I have this cookbook, and Jacobs made the mandarin orange, meter lemon and lavender marmalade, and it is heavenly. I would have tried more, but bought it too late in the season to try any others that interested me.

Without trying to sound insulting, this forum has a lot of good information. Yet, it seems out of touch. Anything not out of the Ball Book or extensions is invariably met with "well, I wouldn't so that", "that's too much work", "go ahead, if you want to die of botulism". Since Rachel's methods are used for the jams she sells, I wonder why we hundreds of people across Northern California aren't dead - or even how she managed to get a permit to prepare and sell with these unholy processing methods.

This book and some of the others like it are meant to appeal to those attracted to the local, organic and sustainable movement - it's audience isn't necessarily one that would be happy recombining and recanning already canned products, or serving their family soggy green beans that had been pressure canned (we'd rather forego them altogether).

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 5:53PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

For someone not trying to be insulting you're quite successful.

I haven't looked carefully at the book yet (due to the holidays) so I can't speak to the methods she uses. As far as oven canning is concerned, as jam is not a high-risk product anyway, I suppose it would pass muster for safety.

The issues with oven-canning a full-sugar product (as opposed to other products normally BWB, which may be more risk-prone) have to do more with shelf life and jar loss.

1) Due to irregular temperatures in ovens and a reduced heat-penetration compared to boiling water bath, there would be a slightly higher risk of loss of product due to mold. How high or how slight I do not know.

2) The jars are not designed for oven heat and jars which have sustained previous damage may break.

Again, though, those are "inconveniences" and quality issues, as strictly speaking it's not necessary to seal full-sugar preserves anyway.

Regarding sugar not being acidic, that is true. But sugar is hydroscopic, which means it attracts and holds water (witness sugar forming hard chunks in a canister). Therefore, sugar does contribute to safety by binding the water which spoilage mechanisms require to proliferate.

Everyone has different preferences. I love Mes Confitures and a cursory look tells me I'll similarly enjoy the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, but if you don't like it or it doesn't work for you, don't keep it.

One thing about books, there are always more out there.

I detest food snobbery. A locavore or slow foodist is not an inherently superior human being.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 7:50PM
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Since you just registered today, I wonder how much you've read on this forum. Yes, there is a lot of good information (and good people trying to help newbies). That's why I asked. This isn't a place for food faddists, but I don't think everybody here is a fuddy-duddy who likes "soggy green beans" (with bacon fat? Added after opening of course) either.

I asked about recipe safety because there are some borderline/low acid fruits (melons, figs, tomatoes) in the recipes. Believe it or not botulism is a concern. I asked about the sugar/acid ratio b/c even though the sugar binds the water, I don't know if it will help keep botulinum toxins from forming.

FYI, I *am* a (non-certified) organic farmer - though on such a small scale so far we've only fed our own family (I am taking a course for beginning women farmers administered by the Northeast Organic Farmering Association and funded by a USDA grant). We hope to expand in the next few years.

I am *not* someone with a "sophisticated" palate, my extended family certainly aren't, so I'm not sure some of these recipes would be worthwhile for me to make, or justify keeping the book. While we might really enjoy some of the citrus recipes, we don't grow citrus up here in the frozen (well, thawing since this AM's rain) North, and I'm just too cheap (Yankee) to buy boatloads of citrus (or other fruits which grow well in CA and are featured in the book) to preserve. I use what I grow first, and what I can buy from other local farms (preferably PYO) second. I do buy sugar, etc. from the grocery store, but would not buy the main ingredient for a preserved food from a grocery - not only due to cost, but also I believe that the quality of frozen/canned foods available at the grocery is superior to what I could make with their "fresh" produce, since it was a lot fresher when it was processed than what I'd be buying. I also wouldn't reprocess bulk canned food into smaller containers b/c the quality would suffer and with electricity 18 cents/kWh here it's just cheaper to buy smaller cans!

I wouldn't use the processing methods in the book because I want a longer shelf life for my jams - I find some of the shelf lives given in the recipes questionable with oven processing. I think that the people who are paying $12/jar for Blue Chair Jam probably aren't letting it sit around long enough to get moldy. And I don't know how the company got permits to sell their products if they don't follow USDA guidelines for processing - but I don't know CA laws.

I hate to disappoint my sister (who lives in No. CA and was excited to give me this book), but I just don't know if it's worth me keeping it for what produce I choose to work with and the palates I am trying to please. No offense, if someone is lucky enough to live in zone 9 and have access to all this great fresh fruit (and flowers - rose geraniums figure in a great many recipes), then they may find this book a "keeper" - certainly worth it to make their own rather than buy 3-4 jars of the company's jam! But I don't think it's for me.

My sister's family likes the plain ole stuff I make just fine - she has to keep her DH away from the wild blackberry preserves I sent their DD, and she had hidden the maple apple butter so I gave each of them their own jar at Xmas. No report yet on what her ILs thought of the Paradise Jelly (though they liked the maple-vanilla apple butter) - she said too much traditional Japanese food this w/e, no one has opened the jelly.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 8:53PM
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Carol - you can detest food snobbery all you want, but that's exactly what this forum is about. If you're not armed with a [preservative laden] pouch of sure jel in one hand and a bottle of lemon juice in the other, Dave and all the others on here will pounce on your differing views. It seems that for some, disgreement is insulting.

You, however proved my point. Every single post devolves to a litany of the reasons why someone is doing something wrong. You don't even have the book but couldn't help yourself. This book, in particular has some adventurous combinations. No one said you had to follow the way she processes them - so use a BWB if you don't agree.

While you do get some new visitors asking questions and there, there is a reason why this forum ends up being just the same small group of people talking to themselves. And that's a shame.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 8:57PM
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You sure don't read very carefully - Carol *does* own the book, but said she hasn't gotten a chance to take a good look at it. She even said that oven processing jam isn't particularly risky (as far as toxins, there is a chance of breakage but she said that's an "inconvenience").

So here Carol was supporting you, and you're attacking her! If you'd been lurking, you'd know that Carol is one of the most well-spoken, civil "gurus" on this forum. She goes out of her way to be open-minded,even-handed, and tactful.

Enjoy your book. Come back when you have something useful and civil to post. I wish I'd stopped reading after your first paragraph. I was just looking for an opinion from people who had tried the recipes (or combos), given my geographically-imposed restrictions on fresh fruit and other ingredients like green almonds. You could have been helpful (even if you hadn't made, but only tasted one of the berry jams) but instead you just had to get on a soap box. You may not be a food snob, but you're coming across as one - and a militant one to boot.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 9:47PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

ryvonne - is quality and safety of no concern? The safety concerns often raised here by us don't originate with us. They come directly from NCHFP/USDA/FDA and the scientific testing done in their testing labs. We don't just "make them up" to irritate folks.

And while it is true that any safety issues with most but not all jams and jellies is minimal when compared to other foods, many new-to-canning folks easily draw erronous conclusions or take things too literally -

"If it's ok to can my jam in the oven then I should be able to can anything in the oven."

"If I don't need to add lemon juice to my organic blackberry and rose petal jam then I don't need to add it to my fig jam either."


Not to mention that the giant commercial autoclave ovens she likely has to use to seal her commercial jams aren't quite the same as my 20 year old GE and her custom made single use jars aren't the same as my 20 year old 20x used Kerr jars.

It would have been easy for her, in the book, to simply advocate the standard approved processing guidelines. Even a footnote would be of benefit.

However the simple solution, if the recipes in the book are appealing to you, is just make and freeze them. That way there is no concerns with processing methods and/or safe acidity levels. You could even use the fresh lemon juice instead of canned.


PS: anyone know the pH of rose geraniums? ;)

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 10:21PM
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Dave - since you don't have the book, I have to point out that each recipe does say "process according to manufacturer's instructions" (though it doesn't explain what that means - 10 min in BWB? 5 min if half an hour in the oven really did sterilize the jars?). The thing is, it also says "or as directed on page 42" which says to put jars and lids (?) in a 250 oven for 30 minutes, then fill them - and if they're too hot and the jam bubbles when you pour it in, let them cool off a tiny bit before filling the rest of the way (1/4" headspace) and capping, then put back in the oven for 15 minutes "or so" to "sterilize" and seal.

She doesn't use 2-piece lids so I wonder what the sealing compound is, I thought it shouldn't even get to 212 much less 250.

Those rose geraniums are cute - don't know how they taste (or look after cooking), but even if they bloom at the same time as strawberries are ripe here, I don't know where I'd find organic (unsprayed, food-grade) geraniums around here, and at 10 "heads" per batch, that might get kind of pricey. I can see why some of her jams would be $2/ounce.

You're probably right about the ovens - she must have to make these in a commercial kitchen, though she may develop the recipes in the cute retro-style kitchen pictured in the book.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 10:53PM
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This whole posting is a waste of time.
If you want to go back in time and use methods of food preservation that are unsafe - go and do so. Just don't feed it to anyone you love or care about.
Dave and Linda Lou, knowing better, are not going to advocate anything that has been proven to be hazardous. Carol is a strong voice but being Canadian, she always speaks with reason and thought in her responses (not that the other two don't). Annie is too busy to post much on this forum any longer, but I believe (fingers crossed on my memory) that her mother in law was sicken with home canned food.
I guess the big main question is: With
an endless number of approved and safe recipes available, why would anyone in their right mind want to go "off the grid" and takes risks where there is no reason to do so?
Use proven and approved recipes until you are smart enough to rewrite the books and make up your own recipes. Whether you use fresh lemon juice or bottled juice will make little difference in most recipes flavor (lemon curd might be an exception). All of us who have been at this for awhile use the bottled lemon juice as fresh lemon juice can vary in its ph whereas bottle lemon juice is manufactured to a certain ph. If we are using fresh lemon juice, it is added as a flavoring and NOT as an ingredient insuring safety (such as tomatoes).
Well, that is my 2 cents worth. Good luck on safe canning. Jams and jellies pose little risk beyond mold and spoilage. If you have tons of blueberries, process them properly, or in your oven, your microwave, solar oven, dishwasher, or on the engine of you personal automobile. When you get into BWB processing green beans or venison, then you are just playing an unnecessary game of "Russian Roulette". If you want to do either one, you can find recipes on the internet that will tell you how to do it - and if they are written by someone, they must be "OK".
Jim in So Calif

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 3:53AM
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busylizzy(z5 PA)

Must I clean the copper pots to be Artisan?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 12:03PM
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Excuse me, but several of us on here are certified food preservers and there are several who teach food preservation. Most are smart enough to realize the risk in not properly preserving food, be it by canning, freezing or drying, is not worth taking the word of everyone who writes a book. Most are also up to date on the acceptable, safe preserving methods and requirements. I know readinglady, digdirt and many, many others do keep up to date. I, too, have many preserving, pickling, freezing and drying books, but if they don't recommend the currently approved methods, I will either find a similar recipe that does or that can be adapted to get the same results. The Ball Corp. and the extensions do keep up to date on the current safety standards, not all others do.

I, like most others on this forum, am not out of touch, nor an old fogey. I simply have enough care and concern for myself, my family and my friends to do all possible to protect their health and wellbeing concerning the food I prepare for them. Oh yes, I know a good number of the people on here don't even use commercial pectin, but I guess they and those recipes are invisible.

By the way, this is not a small group of people talking to themselves. The number of new members every year is astounding and come here to get the advise from the ones who do know how to do things correctly. I have also seen the people who have been on here for a long time admitting that they aren't particularly sure on an answer to a question and they will get in touch with the proper authorities to answer the question then will share the info with everyone else.

Ajsmama, if the book had been given to me, I personally would keep it. I haven't seen it, but I'm sure there are a lot of recipes in there that you could adapt and use safe methods to prepare. And if my sister had given it to me, I would notate that on one of the front pages with the date. Rarely does my sister give me anything and when she does, I treasure it.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 3:08PM
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bcskye - I don't use commercial pectin either (not that I don't have any in the house, it's just that I haven't made anything that really needed it yet - though the next time I make Pepper Lime Jelly I may need to, even though LindaZ doesn't call for it). We like our jams and preserves a bit runny, so homemade apple pectin was fine for the 1 batch of strawberry preserves I did (with frozen strawberries since we missed the season this year).

My sister surprised me with the book - we usually decide each year whether we're going to exchange gifts or not. She decided late to fly out on Xmas Eve (her DD insisted), so when I heard she was coming threw together some hand-knitted stockings with 4oz jar of apple butter (have to see if she got it past TSA or packed in checked luggage), an Irish coffee cup and a small bottle of Bailey's for each her and her DH. Then after she gave me the book she was making apple pie at my parents' so I brought over a new fluted ceramic pie plate I had bought for her (but hadn't wrapped since I didn't know we were exchanging) - I hope that made it back to CA in 1 piece.

I think I'll email her later this week and offer her the book (since she has more of the ingredients available), just caveat some of the recipes and tell her how to BWB. She has already asked for maple apple butter recipe, and commented that my (soggy, slicing cukes, no Pickle Crisp) dills were *way* better than storebought. Maybe we'll get a new canner on the forum!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 3:31PM
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Ajsmama, I have to admit that I usually use Pomona's pectin when making preserves since my DH and I plus many friends are diabetic. When I started preserving back in the 60's, I used no commercial pectin at all. I do have Ball's commercial pectin in order to enter jars of preserves in the county fair this year. For certain prizes, they require you use their pectin, jars, rings and lids.

It would be great if you could introduce your sister into the great act of canning. Do you think she would really enjoy it? It is a lot of work, but it is so satisfying to look at and eat the finish product knowing that you did it yourself, what's in it and what isn't in it. And the flavors are so much better than what you pay for in the stores. My sister had borrowed my mother's 21 qt. canner and did a lot of canning at one, time. At some point after mother passed, my sister gave me the canner and all her jars. That added to my smaller canner and all my jars. Summer before last she wound up by herself again on a limited budget so I bought her a new smaller canner and started giving her jars. She won't can anymore. Such a waste. So in the meantime, I am going to be teaching her grandchildren how to can before too long. I have no children and these two young ones, a boy and a girl, are interested in learning so I'll teach them.

In the meantime, I'd still reconsider getting rid of the Blue Chair Jam cookbook and maybe getting your sister the Ball Blue Book to start her out and a small album with copies of your favorite canning recipes. She'll love it.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 4:00PM
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Oh, I have the BBB (got it on clearance this year), but then I got the Ball Complete from my mom for Xmas. I imagine all the recipes from BBB are in the Complete? I also have the Ball Discovery kit, I needed a rack and later I got a cake rack, then a perforated disk, both of which just barely fit in my 16-qt BWB. I really only use the Discovery basket when making small (3-4 half pints or 3 pints) batches. I was thinking I'd give her the basket when I gave her the (Blue Chair) book. I'll slip in the BBB too (or do you mean instead?).

It's too $$$ to ship jars CT to CA, and she was cooing over the "cute" 4oz ones so I'll let her just keep those and the halfpints I've already sent her (instead of returning them for refills when she comes back next summer), I don't think she'll need pints, don't think she'll be putting up a lot. Though I have lots of pints if she wants to take some back next summer (she can even take some of my quarts if she wants to start doing tomatoes and pickles, but I don't know how large a pot she has).

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 7:30PM
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I made the Paradise Marmalade recipe. It was a little fiddly, but tasty. I'm awash in citrus right now, so I'm going to try a few more. It's a very pretty book.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 7:15PM
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What is wrong with her fig recipes? Did they lack lemon juice (can't recall at the moment)?
I am relatively new to canning and a cookbook addict, so I finally gave in because I like the recipes. If you can't get good citrus, I'd pass on it, as that is a main emphasis. Good organic citrus in winter is my non-local weakness, so I am keeping it. I also like many of the other recipe combinations. I am passing on the oven method, but I see no problem with the recipes otherwise.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 12:03PM
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I just received it (Christmas present to myself) and haven't had time to read more than the marmalade section. She uses a technqiue I've never seen described before and as my particular interest is in the art of jam making, I am enjoying reading about it. This is despite the fact that I think it's overly fiddly. I also think that she does a great job of describing how to cook things, and how to evaluate set. She has loads of photos and I think this, more than anything, would be helpful to someone new to canning.

Also, when she does the jars, she washes them in soapy water, puts them on a cookie sheet at 250, and keeps them in there for 1/2 an hour, along with the lids. I'm not sure why she even bothers to then put the full jars back into the oven for a period of time. This part is unecessary for a number of reasons Carol has outlined in great detail a number of times.

In terms of her method, I would share the following: When I began my jam business (in Alberta), I moved to one piece lids. I spoke with the Provincial Test Kitchen about using these lids because you can't easily assess seal as you can with a two piece lid. They provided me with detailed instructions but then said "basically, hot lid, hot jam, hot lid and you are ok". I have become better at eyeballing sealness, and I just about never have a lid failure. I had them all the time with two piece lids even when I BWB them. (did I just stray off on a tangent?) BTW Carol, I want to thank you for your sage advice about the relative non-dangers of not BWBing jams and jellies. It has done a lot to put my mind at ease.

Just so no one thinks they are negligent with this advice, they also provide BWB times adjusted for altitude for foods with a high pH.


I should note that I buy cookbooks to read them. If I get inspiration great.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 5:14PM
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I think ryvonne needs an organic, locally grown bran muffin. ;-)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 10:23PM
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girlbug2(z9/10, Sunset zone 24)

From what everybody has said about this cookbook so far, it sounds like exactly the sort of thing I could use. If I understand correctly, the recipes have directions for BWB included, right? So as long as I use the BWB directions, it sounds safe enough to me.

Regarding the controversy raised about bottled vs. fresh lemon juice: is there some sort of "rule of thumb" guide for which types of lemons are considered acidic enough to use in recipes? Or perhaps this topic deserves a thread of its own.. But I do have access to fresh lemons almost year round, and it seems such a shame not to use them.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 11:22AM
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No, the book does not have instructions (even an explanation for this "alternative" included somewhere in the book would have been nice). But there are plenty of sites out there explaining how to BWB jams and jellies (5 minutes if jars are sterile, 10 if just clean and hot). The problem is in her use of low-acid/borderline acid ingredients (figs, tomatoes, melons), no reference to whether her recipes have been tested, use of fresh (unknown acidity) lemon juice in those recipes.

Not being a food scientist, I have no way of knowing whether the lemon juice she adds to her Early Girl Jam (2.25 oz per 9lbs of tomatoes) or her Adriatic Fig Jam (6 oz per 5.5 lbs of figs) is enough. Maybe the marmelades (with lots of lemons) are OK. But I'd say the Melon Jam that sounded so yummy also sounds risky to me ("scant" 6 oz of lemon juice to over 5lbs of melon).

Furthermore, there is no mention in the book of acidity of various fruits as it relates to botulism risk. It seems she considers the addition of lemon juice as a factor to offset the sweetness of some fruit and "brighten" the flavor, not as a safety measure. Since she devotes a couple of paragraphs on page 23 to acidity without mentioning its role in food safety and canning, I wonder if she is even aware of it, and if she has had her recipes tested?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 11:42AM
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ajsmama - since there's a lot of talk of books on here I'm going to throw another one into the mix. I found it at my folk's town library over the holidays. I didn't investigate all the methods, but you might find it inspiring and it's by a New England author, not a West Coast one... I'm just saying different coasts for different folks.. hee hee!

Never forget if anytime anyone is ever not sure about buying a book, your local public library is a wonderful place to look. Even if they don't have the book, they'll usually be able to find it somewhere!

Here is a link that might be useful: Well Preserved - a Jam-making Hymnal

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 1:36PM
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: ) I had to join because this thread just made me smile. It's amazing to me how upset folks can get over a comment made via an internet post that in and of itself is not offensive.

I have the Blue Chair Jam Book and all the others mentioned here and more. It seems to me that the poster who first asked the question was looking for information on the safety of the method. The answer is simply, 'no.' Use the recipes if they strike your fancy with the WBW. What's unfortunate about many of the boutique books out today is they don't speak to the beginner. And all beginners don't know what they don't know.

My advice is simple. If you're new to preserving, have a keen interest in really learning about it find a class where you live and take it. Spend a day - maybe two - with a food preservationist, learn the basics and ask questions. No sense 'guessing. If you want to make jam for a lark one afternoon and pick up a jam book having never done it, then that's not something I would recommend. At this point, if I were new to preserving I would be totally confused about what steps to take to make some of recipes in my new book.

In terms of keeping the book or not: If there's an ingredient issue then that's a different story. If the ingredients aren't available due to the season but will be at some point in the year --Great! something to look forward to. If it's a matter of preferring to grow your own due to cost/preference and it's just not what you grow, then terrific - return the book or exchange it for one that makes more sense for your particular situation. Farmers markets are also great ways to find your produce as many here surely know.

I am a professionally trained chef - relatively new to the preserving processes (just over a year now) and have an OK garden here in Southern California. I do not grow most of what I preserve in terms of fruit so I do buy from the local farmers market. I'm a cookbook fanatic because they are an invaluable resource for sparking the imagination.

If nothing less, the Blue Chair Jam book is a terrific source for ideas. In the end though, it's always best to stick to approved methods of preserving and forget the guess work.

And btw...the mes confitures book is terrific. Although I don't use her method, I have made some of her recipes and they've been pretty darn good though time consuming and certainly not a book for beginners.

Safe preserving to all.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 10:54AM
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"It seems to me that the poster who first asked the question was looking for information on the safety of the method. "

No, I didn't have questions on the safety of the "method", it was on the ingredients (acidity). Also just didn't know if it was "worth" the shelf space given that I don't have access to all the different kinds of fresh fruit the author does in CA. Even if I don't grow it, I don't think I could find (or would want to pay for) exotic ingredients like bergamot at a farmer's market, and I just don't like using fruit from the grocery store in processing, though we buy it for "fresh" eating in a pinch just b/c we don't grow citrus here (my kids love clementines but they're too expensive to boil down for marmalade, if my family would even eat it).

After all that discussion, I'm ashamed to admit that the book is sitting on my dining room table gathering dust - I never returned it.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 3:10PM
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cinsay(z5 OH)

Several thoughts come to mind reading this thread.

I think I'll borrow the book from the library - it sounds like a good way to get motivated and gain inspiration.

That being said, my family only likes strawberry jam :-)

The comment wondering about the pH of rose geranium made me giggle out loud. And continue to giggle in my mind (tee hee!).

The reason I come to this site and basically trust no others is because of Dave, Carol, Linda Lou and Annie. And I've been at this (and reading this site) for going on ten years now. Wow, could it be that long? I am a cautious person to begin with and would be very upset with myself if I ever (Ever!!!) gave someone any type of food poisoning from it. I don't mess with Botulism. It is not a pleasant way to go. That said, using only the appoved recipes I still stress. Please keep on providing advice. I don't know what I'd do without other very cautious people to discuss these issues with.

Now there are food snobs and there are food snobs. I may be one sort of food snob but I'm ok with that. I cook and others like my family and friends eat it. We're all happy - can't ask for much more than that. To each his own. I respect that others have different priorities and different palates. I like to hear your opinions. Who knows, my opinions and priorities may change because of some insight I was provided by reading your posts.

Peace ;-)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 10:57PM
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I just made the brown turkey fig jam with fennel and sherry and it is truly delicious. The fennel and sherry add something very special. I made it yesterday and the first jar is already gone. First, we ate it on biscuits with butter and then later, for a snack, I had it with Valdeon blue cheese. This is my first time making jam and I am hooked and will make more recipes from this gorgeous book. Next will be rhubarb and strawberry jam.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 7:08PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I'll have to take a look at that fig preserve with fennel and sherry, though I have to admit I'm so in love with fig-vanilla bean I've not been inclined to explore alternatives.

I haven't visited this thread for some time. I tend to say my piece and move on, but I did chuckle at Carol is a strong voice but being Canadian, she always speaks with reason and thought in her responses . . ..

I'm not Canadian, though my mother did grow up in Willow Bunch, Saskatchewan. So I guess if I speak with reason and thought, I must be an aberration, LOL.

There's a plethora of jam and preserving books out there. It's always fun to peruse a new book for different ideas, though I think now particularly it's buyer beware. Everyone with a book to promote is jumping on the canning bandwagon and it's getting more and more difficult to assess legitimacy. I have to say, though, that in the world of canning, generally jams and preserves are darned low-risk.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 9:07PM
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I was wondering about rose geraniums and bergamot. Bergamot is wild bee balm, a member of the mint family. That should be very easy to grow almost anywhere, including New England. Not sure about rose geraniums but aren't they pretty easy to grow most places, as well.
Seem like easy additions to the butterfly/ flower/ herb garden for almost anyone, not really exotic ingredients.
Citrus is a little more difficult, but of course most groceries do have a year. Round selection, if you're willing to pay.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 1:09PM
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I'm in the UK and just found this forum after searching for any potential insight into what amount of water specifically to use to make up Rachels Lemon & Pink Grapefruit Marmalade (as this is not specified...and so I could be out by a mile and put the whole expensive recipe in jeopardy).

I read with interest many of the comments from folk worried about how best to process their cooked jam. Here in the UK our system is far more simplistic and more commonly done with a one piece lid where (and as akin to irenecalgary) we pour the hot jam into hot jars before sealing with hot lids and immediately inverting them for 10 mins before placing back upright whilst they cool off. In the case of strawberry jam and marmalades etc we would allow the mix to cool dlightly such that the fruit does not rise to the surface in the jar

This is effectively the way our Grandmothers have always made jams (outside of those who still opt for an even simpler wax disc system covered in cloth in place of a lid) and we consider this as perfectly safe.

If on the offchance a jar is discovered to contain a covering of white mold (rare to middling) on opening then its chucked out..simple as.

If I was taught an entirely different way then i'd no doubt be more likely to fly that flag. For the record, I quite fancy the idea of canning certain foodstuffs containing meat and vegetables but we can't buy a Pressure Canner without importing one as canning is not so much practised in the UK. Again, horses for courses.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 7:04AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Yes our friends in the UK and others often point out to us in the states that we put too much work into processing our jams and jellies.

But since extensive NCHFP lab testing has proven the seal from inversion to be much weaker, more prone to failure, and the vacuum inside the jar to be minimal, inversion methods like other types of open kettle canning are strongly discouraged here. Most of us much prefer to fully process them.

To each his own of course but it is still well worth reviewing the NCHFP research publications before making the decision.


Here is a link that might be useful: National Center for Home Food Preservation

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 5:46PM
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Welcome! With marmalade it really doesn't matter how much water you use since you are going to cook it for so long. You cook it until you have cooked it down to the right concentration to make it gel so starting with too much water just means boiling for longer. For other fruit you want to minimize cooking just to keep the flavor fresher, but with marmalade you want to avoid overly chewy and undercooked peel. On the other hand, I sometimes produce citrus syrup, so I may not be the best source of advice.

I thought my last batch of blood orange marmalade was horribly bitter when I tasted it after jarring it up, but after letting it sit in the cupboard dor a couple of months it mellowed to perfection. The orange peel floating in the purple jelly was great too.

Living in Southern California it's amusing to think of citrus as an expensive ingredient. For us it's more like zucchini. You dump grocery bags of it on any sucker you can find.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 10:50PM
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Re bitter marlalade, I found that my seville batch was particularly bitter but like you, on leaving for a few months it improved as did the 'set' too, bizarely enough.

I hear you the boiling till it sets but my thinking is that as this marmalade was quite a complex 3 x day staged process that already entailed the lemon slices and grapefruit peel being cooked prior to adding the sugar I want to to preserve some of that substance without boiling it into oblivion. I'm adding the sugar tomorrow so will let you know how it turns out :)

Re the citrus 'growing on trees' so to speak...maybe we should do a summer house swap...the raspberries around these parts are second to are the blackcurrants :)

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 7:55PM
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Sounds good to me! I think that you will enjoy a Gold Nugget tangerine warm from the tree!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 1:05AM
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