The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook (Volume 1) Hardcover – September 21, 2010
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"[The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook] is a complete and exquisite guide to making jam and marmalade at home. In addition to sharing 100+ recipes, Saunders walks you step-by-step through the process with in-depth explanations as well as photos of the various steps so you see exactly what each phase looks like." --Epicurious, September 23, 2010
"Rachel Saunders, author of The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, is quite possibly the high priestess of jam making. Her book - a comprehensive, year-round guide to jellies, jams, conserves, preserves, and marmalades - belongs in the kitchen of anyone interested in keeping their pantry stocked with delicious and unique fruit preserves. And Rachel's instructions are so thorough and clear, even beginners are assured success." --The Splendid Table's "Weeknight Kitchen" newsletter
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I was initially put off by all the full-page photographs of the author looking fey in her jammy wonderland--Rachel with vintage accessories, Rachel wandering through a misty orchard, Rachel caressing airbrushed fruit--I would have preferred, say, a photograph detailing how to skin a green almond. It's a gorgeous book and I wondered if its target audience was the folks who like to lie in bed and look at the pictures in cookbooks, but actually eat takeout much of the time.
My first recipe (strawberry-Meyer lemon marmalade) was a qualified success. The recipe specified covering lemon slices in a "medium" saucepan with one inch of water, but I think I used too large a pan, and ended up with too much water to cook off. I also couldn't get the hang of Rachel's method of testing when the jam is done, which involves putting a specific number of spoons in the freezer, and checking the texture of the jam as it sets up on a cold spoon. I omitted the rose geranium cuttings (there's a limit to the produce I can come up, even in the Bay Area). It was a very good marmalade, but a little tight in texture, as I'd overcooked it a bit.
For my second recipe (strawberry-kiwi jam), I went back to my tried-and-true method of testing the jam on a saucer in the fridge. Rachel's description of when the jam is done was spot-on. The jam was so delicious, I found myself repeatedly going to the fridge to eat a spoonful.
I've made kiwi marmalade before, but it was nothing like this. And I've made fig jam, but it was nothing like Rachel's. Now I've got the recipes for success. And now that I'm convinced Rachel's a goddess, I'm no longer irritated by the cookbook's adulatory images. In fact, I might frame one and put it up on my kitchen wall.
Are her produce lists esoteric? Yes, indeed. And she doesn't hesitate to call for esoteric and expensive liquors, as well: does your local liquor store even carry St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and would you be wiling to fork over $30 for a bottle to perfect your White Nectarine Jam with Elderflower and Green Almonds? There are ingredients in the book I've never even heard of, despite living in an affluent, food-obsessed area (what IS "pine cone bud syrup," anyway?) You can certainly adapt her methods to whatever produce is available in your area, and your jams will be infinitely superior to the pectin-stiffened ones in the Cooperative Extension recipe pamphlets, but you might still find the preciousness of some of the book overall to be off-putting.
Top international reviews
The photos take most of it, they are nice, in good colors, but probably rather useless in that quantity and size.
The letters are printed in gray on shiny paper that makes reading difficult.
There is not enough content for the size and price of the book - but you may discover some ideas in the recipes.
I found the technical side rather short and weak.