Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade
is an encyclopedic tome that Saunders (with photographs by Sara Remington) created to answer one of two questions she always gets asked as proprietor of a jam company: “How do you like to eat your jam?” (The other question is “What is the difference between jam and marmalade?,” and if you don’t know the answer, she has it and more in her first book, the James Beard-nominated The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook
Jam is commonly used in cooking to flavor meat, or, in the case of apricot jam specifically, as the glaze for a fruit tart. But as this book shows, those uses are barely scratching the surface.
Turns out that adding marmalade to cake batter can not only add an acidic note, but can improve its texture. When used right, jam can brighten up your favorite cocktail. Or, as Saunders notes, “In cooking, jam’s role is frequently to enhance the primary ingredients; in the seafood paella, for example, a small amount of nectarine jam accentuates the natural sweetness of the tomato, carrots and onions.” Who knew.
The book is divided by meal, beginning with breakfast. Some recipes are for items that act as vehicles for jam, like muffins and crepes, and plenty have jam in them, such as banana-fig cake, which uses fig jam rather than the whole fruit as one would expect.
One of the most fun things about this book is guessing which type of jam might be used in any given recipe. For instance, Yellow Split Pea and Spinach Soup as well as Tempeh with Mushrooms and Baby Bok Choy rely on Greengage Jam (a type of plum) for a flavor boost, while Creamed Spinach & Leeks With Cheddar calls for a bit of apple butter.
Within the “Evening” section, there is a subsection dedicated to Thanksgiving. Brussels Sprouts with Kumquats and Smoked Salt, for example, or Onions with Marmalade & Rosemary will no doubt liven up the Thanksgiving meal, while a touch of orange marmalade can enhance your basic pecan pie.
The recipes for most of these jams are included, but if one doesn’t want to make her own, luckily
Blue Chair jams are found in easily throughout the Bay Area.
The dessert section includes several recipes for jam-enhanced ice creams like Black Sesame Fig, but perhaps most exciting to this reader was the inclusion of a page devoted to cheese and jam pairings. Saunders teamed up with Cowgirl Creamery to put together a list of nine types of cheeses and which jams or marmalades to eat with it.
Ask Rachel Saunders, and she’ll tell you there’s a whole lot more to do with jam than using it as a topping for toast.