Q: Why jam? Why not pie?
A: When you make dinner, you go to market, fix it, and then people eat it and it’s gone. With jam you can delay eating it in various segments….there is something about that that I really like. You have this whole mess of beautiful material, you mix them together, and you toss them. Then you put it all into a neat little package and you can seal it and keep it for the longest time.
Q: When did you begin to appreciate fruit?
A: I was born in Orange County, California. When I was growing up, there were lots of orange trees around since we lived in an orange grove. I grew up eating the most delicious fruit that had been ripened on the tree. This experience is different from east coast grocery fruit.
Q: How is it working with east coast fruit?
A: It’s a challenge but we do have great berries during the summer. I try to use as many local farms as I can.
I make citrus in the winter….Last Christmas, I was lying on a beach in Mexico and thinking about Meyer lemons and wondering what I could mix with them and thought of oranges, Valencia oranges…. My citrus dealer is in Chelsea and I asked him for Valencia oranges. He only had Cara Cara oranges and they turned out to have a lemony taste. Meyer lemon has a bit of an orange taste and the two make a great continuum.
Q: What accounts for your jam’s intense flavor? Any secrets you are willing to share?
A: Not such a secret—anyone can make jam. But I will say pectin stretches fruit. It keeps a lot of water in the fruit and it gels fruit immediately. It’s a much less expensive way to make the jam; it has less intense flavor. Supermarket jam can never have that flavor: I use 100% fruit to the jar.
Q: Do you have a fantasy jam project?
A: Of course! What I’d like to do eventually is take fruit from different parts of the country and use local produce. I would then make the jam right there, in nearby kitchens. In California, I could use boysenberries, citrus, mulberries, lingonberries, and chokeberries…fruits that aren’t necessarily available on the commercial market.
I’d love to spend time in the Deep South because growing season in Alabama, for example, is a lot longer than ours.
Q: I always like to ask this question for our readers….do you have any pairings that you recommend?
A: Oh yes…and sometimes my customers give me new ideas. Someone told me that they used peach ginger jam as a wedding cake filling. Another great idea is filling a muffin with black and blue jam and then covering the filling with more dough. I also love putting a dab of jam on top of mini cheesecakes.
As for savory options, apricot orange can be used as a glaze for chicken. I also use the cara cara lemon jam for roasting fish. This idea came from a Sicilian dish that uses oranges, fresh fennel, and olives; I simply replaced the oranges with jam. See recipe HERE.
Q: Finally, do you have a favorite jam?
A: Whatever jam I am making at the time, I love. I think of jam as fruit with just a little sugar added to bring out the natural flavor.
To learn more about Bonnie and her jams, visit www.bonniesjams.com