Monday, October 26, 2009

Jam for Frances

First and most importantly, my apologies for not having posted for several days.  Life has been a little busy, but things should be back to normal now.  So, on with the show!

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, is one of my all-time favorite books.  For the uninformed, this is the story of Frances, a young badger, who only ever wants to eat bread and jam.  Her mother makes her a lovely soft-boiled egg, but she doesn't like the way it's wobbles on the spoon.  Or the way sunny-side-up-eggs look at her.  Or how sunny-side-down eggs "just lie on their stomachs and wait."  (This book is the reason that I never remember that sunny-side-down eggs are actually called "over easy.")

Frances may not eat eggs, or string beans, or veal cutlets, or anything else, but she will eat and enjoy some bread and jam, and sing about how happy it makes her, too.  At least, at first.  As the book progresses, and her parents only ever give her bread and jam, she realizes that she would like the option of eating other foods, and learns that she does enjoy things like spaghetti and even hard boiled eggs. 

But before we get to the food-tolerance lesson part of things, she is a jam-loving, jump-roping badger.  And this jam is for her.

Jam for Frances
2 cups of sugar
1 large lemon
1 1/2 pints of strawberries
1 small package of blackberries (about a cup)

1.Put a small plate in the freezer for later.  Take the zest off the lemon and put it in a saucepan.  Be careful to only get the yellow zest and leave behind the white pith.  If you can, use a zester or a grater, as large chunks of zest will not be tasty in the end product.
2. Juice the lemon into the pot, and pull out all the seeds.  This should leave you with a hollow-ish, naked lemon.  Note: it doesn't really matter which order you juice or zest in the end product, but I juiced first and the lemon was slimy and the rind had a lot of give, so it made zesting difficult.
3. Add the sugar to the pot with the lemon juice and zest, and cook over very low heat for about ten minutes, or until all the sugar has dissolved into a syrup.  It will look, at first, like there is not enough liquid, but it will be ok.  Stir often; it will help.
4. While the sugar and lemon is cooking, cut the tops off the strawberries and cut them in halves (large berries can be quartered).  After the ten minutes are up, stir in the strawberries and blackberries.
5. Cook the berry mix over low heat for about 20 to 25 minutes; the berries will have given up a lot of their juice, and the mixture should be slowly bubbling.  Keep the berry mix cooking until a few drops on a very cold plate (the one from the freezer) gel right away.
6. Put into canning jars right away, and either seal in a warm-water bath or put in the fridge and enjoy.  It makes about two cups of jam.

This is a soft-set jam with no added pectin.  I like pectin-added jams and jellies, which are firmer, like the ones you buy in the store, but I wanted a totally natural jam for Frances, like her mother might make for her.  The I adapted this one from an Ina Garten recipe that I found on the Food Network website.  And if I may toot my own horn for a moment... holy crap, it's really good.

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