Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sensational Banana Jam

I know, I had mentioned, a while back, many posts ago, the awesomely wondrous cooking skills of my mother- in- law, I have failed in showing through with just a one. Not intentional, especially in the wake of my desperately wanting this next recipe of hers, one that I'd dreamt visions of on several occasions and desired to replicate. A bit of slack on my part, possibly. Is there an answer to why I've never asked and why it's never been revealed? Not really.

Unless, maybe I cite the ground which is probably the greatest to blame for the nonexistence of MIL (mother-in-law) recipe entries on BMFK, thus far . Chief reason, no doubt, is that "local news" sourcing takes precedence over anything else.

Allow me to explain. With weekly overseas phone calls made to our native land, predominantly JZ's home, conversations are driven mainly by the "what's happening" conundrum. Being so far away, we direly need a full discourse of the " Did you hear ...?" spiel. And Amma (transl: Mom) is dutifully set on letting us in, reeling our attention to extensive family bulletins- weddings, birthdays, deaths, engagements, who's moved, who's not and so on and on and on.

Don't get me wrong, Amma's plentiful segue, is in exact proportion to our interest and probe. We know the truthfulness of our source and so we run with it. That's when recipe queries and the like tend to sit on the sideline and the phone on the weekends is used for Multiple Hour Update Central.

Not only is Amma socially, one up on everything and everyone that's happening within a 100 mile radius and beyond, she bears the hands that have mastered the art of every national, local, regional and possibly cross cultural cuisine. Yes people, she Knows Food and it is recognized throughout our busy town that awesomeness flows from her never tiresome hands.

And when she does talk food, I listen and I do it with intent. Like yesterday when my memory took note to decisively ask, she unburdened an outline of her sensational banana jam. A simple sketch to which I typed and filled in blanks, finally bringing me to the state of Perpetual Glee. I attained the Gold.

First task was to procure Main Ingredient, baby bananas similar to the Indian variety used for the jam. With a visit to local Rancho Mercado, my"Nino" bananas lay in plenteous display, liberally occupying a major section of the Rancho fresh fruit aisles. I grabbed some of the abundance and took off.


Not much was needed after that, except for the stockpile of sugar you should have on hand, because yes, jam is sweet and yes, it needs sugar. You see, sugar is crucial here. Where it not only sweetens the jam, but gives it a shellac type gel-y sheen, all the while naturally preserving it's contents. Triple duty and all good. Sugar bashers, shame on you!

Peeling these little squirts took close to 25 minutes. An additional hour and more of dicing, stirring, boiling, straining, squeezing, more stirring had my clear yellow, almost uglyish liquid settling into the final stage of bejewelled beauty, a rich garnet hue working its way into my banana mash medley.

Effortless and timesaving, this is not, with quite a substantial amount of minutes spent stirring sap in front of a heated stove top. Though, thankfully, the weather here has come down to a much comfortable level, and my presence in front of the range for an almost sixty minutes did not seem like I had secured front row seats in a human broiler.

The posse of spices and the dash of rind also strive to make banana jam better than best.

Once finished, you will turn out the semi warm mixture into pre-sterlized glass containers, ready and waiting for a cascading fall of beauteous jam ribbons.

Not only is banana jam the Ultimate Bread Spread, you can multipurpose it to dress up pancakes and also serve it up as ridiculously insane ice cream topper.

Friends, you are fortunate indeed with this one in your possession. From a chef par excellence being the source behind it, consider yourself special and know that priceless treasure is now within the power of your hands.

(Recipe adapted from my mother in law, Babykutty Zachariah)

Ingredients:
  • 8-10 c sliced, ripe baby bananas
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 c water (or enough to brim over the slices)
  • 3 c sugar
  • 1 medium cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 whole cloves
  • ½ tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp lemon rind
Directions:
  • In a deep set saucepan set over medium high heat, bring to a boil the bananas, lemon juice and water.
  • Lower heat to medium and let simmer for 10 minutes until bananas have become very soft and break to the touch.
  • Allow to cool a bit and then strain onto a mesh sieve or cheese cloth set over a bowl to catch the juices. Use your hands to push through and extract all the liquid from the bananas.
  • Pour the extracted liquid into the same saucepan used to boil the bananas. Add sugar and let boil on high heat.
You have arrived when the extract of those unattractive remains of banana pulp turns into a glossy plum syrup. 
  • Switching heat to medium high, let the contents simmer, while stirring occasionally.
  • After about 15 minutes, add the spices and rind.
  • Keep simmering, stirring in between, until the mixture reduces to half and comes to syrupy, one thread consistency (where a single brittle thread of jam syrup can be pulled unbroken between the fingers) about 40-50 minutes simmer time.
Notes:

Before canning you can spoon out the cinnamon stick and cloves, though I left them in, since the flavor intensifies while it sits.

When checking for a single thread consistency, make sure a bit of jam is cooled on a spoon before your touch it.

This could probably work with the regular tall variety bananas too. If you have those overripe bananas occupying space in your kitchen, slice and jam 'em. All in all, it is a righteously good way to preserve fruit.
This batch filled two 500 ml. jars.  Spread onto slices of  homemade bread made for an absolutely glorious afterschool snack for my two schoolgoers.
It is so great to have these jars sitting on my kitchen counter. The intense aromas during jam cooking took us straight through Nostalgia Lane to the familiar flavor notes of Amma's kitchen in Kottayam. Thank you more than much, Babykutty Zachariah!

******
"When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions. She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: "There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!" Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise." Proverbs 31:26-31 (NLT)

10 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks so much Julie- yes, it was super cool indeed!

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  2. I wish I had a bunch of bananas now.. feel like making it... nice homemade jam :)

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  3. Yummy!!! How many grams are 8/10c baby bananas? 3 or 4 "normal" bananas?

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    1. Thank you! I know that I used around 4-6 lbs (ballpark figure) of baby bananas and 1 lb= 500 grams, which is approximately around 4-5 large bananas, so just use that as a rough estimate to start. Usually, the more bananas, the more jam yield. A most accurate measure is, of course, the kitchen scale. I hope that helped. Have fun in your jamming session :))

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  4. How do you get this rich red colour? Mine turns out brown every single time! :(

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    1. This was actually my second time. The first was not so great a red. I think the time it's left to simmer (quite an expanse of time) and also the type of bananas are both key in getting that hue just right. Hope that helps in getting you some ruby red color next time :)) Thanks.

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  5. when you say 8-10 c what does the c denote, sorry only used to grams or litres etc, also are baby bananas same as sugar bananas you get here in Australia?

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    1. Suzz, I used around 10 cups total of sliced small bananas. I'm sorry if "c" confused- it is the equivalent of an 8 oz cup.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!