Foodies of NE — Winter 2013
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The Essence of Fruit and Sunshine
Written By Jodie Lynn Boduch • Photography By Scott Erb and Donna Dufault

Imagine growing up in an orange grove in California with fruit surrounding your home. There, sunshine is a gift both lavish and welcoming. Fruit abounds in the kitchen, and your mother makes jam often – and has ever since you can remember.

Could there be a more fitting back story for an artisan jam-maker?

Bonnie Shershow of Bonnie's Jams, based in Cambridge, MA, began making jam in part because she noticed a considerable taste difference between the jams she remembered from her childhood and the jams offered in grocery stores. She found commercial jams to be overly sweet and lacking in true fruitiness.

Making jam also proved to be a bonding experience with her (now-grown) children. She wanted them to appreciate the flavors she'd enjoyed in her own childhood. The whole process was something fun to do as a family, from gathering grapes near their home in Brookline, MA to being in the kitchen together. Bonnie found that, both for them and for her, there was something calming, peaceful, and satisfying about stirring and the "rather magical" moment of transformation when jam goes from liquid to gelatinous.

The flavor, too, becomes magical. To recapture the taste of sunshine-imbued fruit (farm stand and farmers' markets fruits are best), the formula is simple: employ lemon and sugar. Bonnie's Jams use half the sugar of commercial jams.

That's right – half. Her jams average 7-8 grams of sugar versus 15 grams in commercial jams.

Another secret: no pectin. This method decreases the amount of water and brings out the intensity of the flavor, the essence of the fruit. This technique allows Bonnie to make jam "the way it used to taste." One of her hobbies is to collect old cookbooks. She's observed time and again that in pre-WWII cookbooks, pectin is never mentioned as an ingredient.

Bonnie's Jams, beautifully labeled with the renowned typography of Louise Fili, come in Apricot Orange, Black & Blue, Peach Ginger, Raspberry Lime Rickey, Red Pepper Jelly, and Strawberry Rhubarb, with both Strawberry and Raspberry available as well. The latter two are often made in jam-making classes, which Bonnie teaches at a number of specialty stores and kitchens throughout New England and New York. It's fun to see people realize how easy it is, she says, adding that they're often surprised to learn the jars don't need to be boiled, given that the jam is cooked at a high enough temperature.

Two other Bonnie's Jams products as delicious as the jams are Red Pepper Jelly (which is made differently than the jams and uses citrus pectin) and Nuts & Honey (which is a Tuscaninspired treat that also goes well with blue cheese).

Because the fruit itself is the prominent flavor profile and not distilled, Bonnie's Jams are excellent for use in cooking and baking (we've included a recipe and other ideas).

What a wonderful way to remember the summer flavors in winter.

Bonnie's Jams:

Apricot Orange or Peach Ginger jam glaze:

1/2 cup of Peach Ginger or Apricot Orange jam
1/4 cup good olive oil a sprig or two of fresh Thyme
1 Tablespoon of soy sauce
Heat all of this in a small pan and then brush on chicken, pork, or fish and roast.

Other ideas for cooking and baking with jam:

• Make a dip for cold shrimp (hot mustard with Apricot Orange jam, about half and half)
• Serve with your favorite cheese (works with Nuts & Honey, too!)
• Spoon some on top a soft goat cheese spread on a cracker
• Mix with whipped cream and mound on angel food cake
• Mix into Greek yogurt
• Spread on hot French toast, pancakes, or scone
• Mix a tablespoon into a martini
• Fill a thumbprint cookie
• Mix some Apricot Orange or Peach Ginger into simple rice
• Add some chili to the Peach Ginger and serve with shrimp
• Spoon on ice cream
• Serve Black & Blue with roast pork
• Slather ribs with Apricot Orange
• Roast chicken wings with Red Pepper Jelly
• Mix a little into quinoa with some scallions & nuts