11 July 2020

Weekend Cooking: The Sqirl Jam Book by Jessica Koslow

Review of The Sqirl Jam Book by Jessica KoslowOne word says summer to me, and that word is fruit. I have long loved to preserve the summer bounty so we can enjoy a little sunshine in the colder months.

Thanks to Abrams Books and the Abrams Dinner Party, my stock of jam, chutney, curd, and more is going to be better than it's ever been. I was so excited to receive a copy of The Sqirl Jam cookbook by Jessica Koslow, and it arrived just in time to help me make the best of the summer harvest.

So what's this cookbook all about? It's a step-by-step easy (I mean it) guide to making all kinds of fruit preserves. Most of the recipes are for jams, but you'll also find chutneys, jellies, butters, marmalades, and curds.

The Sqirl Jam Book starts out, as you might expect, with detailed information about tools, ingredients, general cooking advice, and a illustrated guide to canning. Before you balk at the idea of canning, let me reassure you. I always just freeze my fruit preserves and have never, ever had an issue with texture, flavor, or quality. So though I've already cooked from The Sqirl Jam Book, I haven't followed Koslow's canning instructions. I poured my jam into clean jars and popped them in the freezer.

The cookbook includes gorgeous photographs and several bonus recipes for using your jam. I plan to make the Brown Butter Blondies, with their swirls of jam, sometime soon. Koslow also includes a few features, in which we are introduced to fruit farmers and other jam producers.

I love the organization of The Sqirl Jam Book, which is basically seasonal. We start with berries and then move on to stone fruit, to apples and pears, to  cranberries and grapes, and finally to citrus. I plan to make one or two jams each fruit season this year.

Review of The Sqirl Jam Book by Jessica KoslowThe recipes range from Classic Strawberry Jam (recipe to follow) to more unusual fruit, like passion fruit-apple jelly. Some have booze, such as the Bourbon Cranberry Jam, others include herbs, like Blueberry Jam with Tarragon. The instructions are chatty and easy to follow and many include variations. For example, you can tweak the strawberry jam recipe by adding jalapeno or, if heat isn't your thing, rose geranium.

The very best thing about The Sqirl Jam Book, in my opinion, is that Koslow provides formulas. So, if you want to make a small batch (which is my style), you can weigh your fruit and then follow the formula for determining the amount of sugar needed and the other ingredients. So smart and so useful. Seriously, Koslow makes it really easy for small families or for those who don't have a lot of room for storage.

You might say to yourself, But I don't really eat that much toast or peanut butter sandwiches. Why do I need to make jam? First, I like the idea of controlling the amount of sugar in my jams. As Koslow points out, one of the purposes of sugar is to help preserve the jam, making it more stable and slowing down the appearance of mold. If you make the recipes as is, you'll be consuming much less sugar than store-bought versions.

And, while her recipes do indeed call for less sugar than most, I cut the sugar by close to half of what was called for in all three recipes I made. The results were outstanding!

Second, we use jams for more than just toast. We stir it into oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese. We use it as a pancake or waffle topping. I bake with jams and use them to glaze ham. And my husband uses them for ice cream toppings. They also make lovely gifts.

Recommendation: If you're at all inclined to preserve the best of the season's fruits, then I wholeheartedly recommend that you pick up a copy of Jessica Koslow's The Sqirl Jam Book. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Note: In the following recipe, I've deleted some of the side comments and alternate methods and have not included the detailed instructions for canning (which is presented in the beginning of the cookbook).
Classic Strawberry Jam

Makes 8 half-pint jars
  • 2,275 g (5 pounds) strawberries
  • 1,200 g (6 cups) sugar
  • 40 g (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) lemon juice
  • lemon rinds
Review of The Sqirl Jam Book by Jessica KoslowTrim the strawberries and cut them in half lengthwise. You should have 2,000 g trimmed strawberries. If you have more or less, use the following formula:

Grams of trimmed strawberries x 0.60 = grams of sugar
Grams of trimmed strawberries x 0.02 = grams of lemon juice

But the berries in a food processor and pulse until pureed. Pour the strawberries into a large bowl and stir in the sugar and lemon juice (don't throw away the rinds).

Let the fruit sit for at least 30 minutes. It's even better if you can let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Transfer the strawberry mixture to your jamming pot. Put the lemon rinds in a cheese cloth sachet tied with kitchen string. Cook over high heat, continuously stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot so the sugars don't burn. Skim off any scum that forms on the top of the surface. Turn off the heat if necessary to remove the scum, then turn it back up. You won't be able to get all of it; that's okay.

Continue cooking and skimming until the jam is clear and the bubbles are smaller, 20 to 30 minutes. The temperature should reach about 216F (102C). Start to test for doneness sooner than later. Use tongs to remove the rind bag and squeeze out all the liquid inside. You really want to squeeze all the pectin from the lemon rinds into the pot because strawberries have only a small amount of natural pectin.

Spoon a little of the jam onto a frozen saucer. put the plate back in the freezer for 1 minute, then slide a finger through the jam. It's done when it parts and you see a strip of clean saucer. If it doesn't pass the test, continue cooking for another minute or so and test again.

Note: Recipe used with permission. All rights remain with the original copyright holder. The photos are my own.
Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


rhapsodyinbooks 7/11/20, 6:16 AM  

How did I not know about booze jams? Sounds like a cookbook I need!

gluten Free A_Z Blog 7/11/20, 7:11 AM  

I think making our own jam and jelly's is a lost art. Maybe during these times when I think we are all becoming more conscious of being grateful to get food when we can, perhaps more people will want to make their own when they have lots of fruit. Sounds like a good book to me. Thanks Beth for the review.

Tina 7/11/20, 8:13 AM  

I didn't know all those facts about jam making. Especially the part about the sugar. I use jam as toppings for the same things you mentioned besides toast. Love it in oatmeal.

Mae Travels 7/11/20, 8:42 AM  

Even using it for topping as well as for sandwiches, we just don't eat enough jam and preserves to make our own. You do make it sound easier than its reputation makes it out to be.

be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Jackie McGuinness 7/11/20, 10:08 AM  

I've made jam using my bread maker! I do freeze a lot of fruit to make 1 ingredient ice cream but you are inspiring me to make some jams. I too reduce the amount of sugar in recipes. I also recently bought coconut sugar as a replacement for refined brown sugar.

Vicki 7/11/20, 1:39 PM  

We don't eat enough jam/jelly/preserves to make my own but if we did I would give this a try.

Marg 7/12/20, 5:32 AM  

I have made simple jams and curds a few times, but never to bottle and preserve. These sound delicious

Les in Oregon 7/12/20, 2:33 PM  

Other than once with my mom many, many years ago, I have never made jam. I need this cookbook!

Laurie C 7/12/20, 6:50 PM  

It's good to know about the freezing and that cutting the sugar doesn't mess up the consistency!

Debra Eliotseats 7/13/20, 9:21 AM  

I have been in such a funk this summer I haven't canned hardly anything and I am the jam queen (usually). My go to preserving books are the Ball book and Blue Chair Jam (which is great if not a bit involved). Thanks for this new recommendation, Beth!

Carol 7/13/20, 11:45 AM  

Canning always seems so hard. I do love jams though.

Adrian 7/13/20, 12:44 PM  
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