Jamming with Blue Chair’s Rachel Saunders

Rachel makes 50,000 jars of jam a year.

50,000 jars and 80 different flavors are produced in her Blue Chair Fruit Company kitchen located in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood.

All this jam, with all these flavors, done by two people.

{impressive}

Rachel is the author of the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. A body of work that celebrates her 10 years of dedication to mastering jams and marmalade.  She doesn’t dabble is sauces or syrups.  She is a purist. Jams only.

It’s crazy interesting to be taught by somebody with such focus and dedication.

I have total admiration for Ms. Rachel Saunders.

Rachel gave us the basic primer on jam making. Eye opening for me, since I was of the mindset “how hard can it be, you just boil fruit and sugar?”  Oh how misguided I was.

And after making some jam recently that resembled fruit leather, it was time to get it together.

Rachel cooked us delicious strawberry jam in her beautiful copper jam pot.

She took us through what to look for in a jam; flavor, texture, sweetness and balance.

And discussed the four essential components of jam; fruit, sugar, pectin and acid.

We learned why Rachel has a preference for white sugar vs. evaporated cane juice sugar and other sweeteners. White cain sugar has the most transparent taste that doesn’t impart its own flavor or color onto the fruit.  Rachel’s jams are all about glorifying the fruit.

We talked about the preparation of the raw fruit, the more fleshy fruit, like strawberries, benefit from maceration in sugar over several days to develop a deeper flavor for the jam.

Blue Chair_Jam_Cookbook

We discovered sugar ratio guidelines:

{1/3 pound of sugar to 1 pound fruit} would be considered a low sugar jam

{1 pound sugar to 1 pound fruit} would be considered a high sugar jam

And there are many recipes that work within the low and high range.

The pan choice is also very important. Since jam can go from being undercooked to overcooked in less than a minute.  At this point I realized how ridiculous my “what’s so hard about making jam?” theory was. {embarrassing}

Copper is the best. Base of pot is very slick and helps you know what is going on with your jam as you glide your spoon through the bottom.  Copper is a responsive metal; conduction is excellent, heats up and cools down super fast. And since jam is sensitive to overcooking, this is a key distinction.  A Le Creuset cast iron pot for example, holds onto heat for some time and the jam will continue to cook much longer than needed.

A jam pot also has a unique design feature, it’s sloped sides encourages rapid moisture evaporation vs. the traditional pot with straight sides.

These are just a few of the insights in a two-hour class given by Rachel.  She has online cooking classes and her eye candy cookbook, with over 120 recipes to ensure jam success. Can’t wait to get started on it.

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  1. [...] are also incredibly important.  My friend, Danielle at Sonoma Girl, wrote a compelling piece on learning to make jam with elegant texture and incredible flavor.  Her secret?  A copper jamming pot.  Now I am [...]

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