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Well Yes, Actually, I Believe I Have Lost It.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? I mean, in addition to the simple fact that it’s Christmas and my house smells like a mixture of pine and brown sugar, I also have a good excuse to go to the mall, I get to skip the gym because I’m hungover, and of course I get to eat cookies for breakfast.

But, in the midst of all the holiday programs, dinners, and other merriment, I really miss cooking. I’ve been doing a fair amount of baking (cookies being almost as essential to Christmas as wine), but baking is not the same as cooking. Standing at a stove stirring something in a pot makes me feel sane, healthy, grounded, and productive, but sifting flour, searching for tiny measuring spoons (1/8 teaspoon, really?!) and hauling out heavy stand mixers just wears me out.

The other night I really felt like I needed to do some cooking. And, it just so happens that I also needed a fair amount of hostess gifts. I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping because of the to-do lists running through my head, so, after coming home from “A Christmas Carol,” putting the traumatized children to bed, and changing into sweats, I got out a large pot and made banana jam. Lots of it.

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I love condiments of all kinds, but banana jam might be my favorite, and I don’t especially love bananas. I first discovered it when my husband brought back a jar of Marie Sharp’s Banana Jam from Belize. I loved it and have never seen it in stores here. Once I even ordered a case online. But now that I’ve figured out how to make my own, I can have this luscious, slightly tart spread whenever I want — and give it freely to my lucky friends and relatives. Making it is easy and fun — simply squeeze some limes, peel a pile of bananas, stir, and mash.

This isn’t really “preserves” (i.e. no vacuum seal), so it’s perishable and needs to be kept in the refrigerator. But promise you’ll be scraping the bottom of the jar before it goes bad. Banana jam is delicious on just about anything: toast and English muffins of course, baguettes, pancakes, turkey sandwiches, baked Brie…plus it’s great stirred into curries and sauces like a chutney. So, if you find yourself with some spare time and need to relax during the holiday mayhem, just throw on an apron and make some banana jam. Hey, call me crazy but it works for me.

Homemade Banana Jam
(I multiplied everything in this recipe by eight, and it made a dozen 8-oz. jars of jam; this recipe makes about one jar.)

Ingredients (all quantities are pleasantly approximate)

  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (or 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup regular sugar)
  • juice of 2 limes (about 1/3 cup)
  • 3 peeled overripe bananas

Combine lime juice and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat (don’t let it scorch); add a small amount of water (1/4 cup or less) if needed to make a syrup. Slice the bananas and add to pot. Simmer the mixture for about an hour, stirring frequently and occasionally smashing the bananas with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. Once it starts to thicken, remove from heat. It will thicken more as it cools. Put in jars or Pyrex or whatever.

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This post has 6 comments

  • Kent Watson says:

    What a great idea Bevin. I have never tried Banana jam but I will now. I have lots of ripe bananas in the freezer and my only choice to use them is to make banana bread (which I adore).

    I just put a loaf of bread in the oven and the house smells great. If you are interested, you might want to give this bread recipe a try. It comes from a cookbook that Tom Brokaw’s wife wrote on Montana cooking. You might have to figure out how to adjust it due to your elevation.

    Sweetgrass Country Bread

    1 envelope (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
    3 tablespoons tepid water
    2 ½ cups bread flour
    3 tablespoons course cornmeal
    3 tablespoons rolled oats
    3 tablespoons wheat bran
    3 tablespoons brown sugar
    1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
    about 1 cup water
    1/3 cup buttermilk
    6 tablespoons sunflower seeds, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
    1 ½ tablespoons honey

    Butter a 12 – by – 5 inch bread loaf pan.

    Proof the yeast: In a small bowl combine the yeast with the tepid water. The mixture will bubble when active.

    In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, oats, wheat bran, brown sugar, and salt. Add the yeast mixture. In a medium bowl, combine ½ cup water, buttermilk, honey and the 6 tablespoons sunflower seeds. Add the wet ingredients. Using a dough hook mix on medium (add more water if needed) until elastic and shiny, 5 to 10 minutes.

    Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is well worked, about 10 minutes. The dough should not tear when you smear it with the heel of your hand going forward on the board. If it flakes or crumbles, add water 1 tablespoon at a time.

    Generously butter a large bowl and place the dough in it, rolling it around to butter the ball. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm draft free place until it doubles in size, about an hour.

    Punch down the dough and knead it again on the lightly floured board a few minutes. Shape the dough into a loaf, folding two long sides of the bread toward each other, making a seam. Place the loaf, seam side down, in the prepared pan. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds, pressing them into the top. Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise in a warm draft free place until the bread comes above the top of the pan, about 2 hours.

    Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray or brush the top of the loaf with cold water, bake until the top is nice and brown and the bread sounds hollow when you rap it with your knuckles, about 45 minutes.

  • chriss bond says:

    Thanks for tha jam, I love it!

  • Barb says:

    You are a hilariously genius writer, cook, reluctant baker and yuletide-arian (I just made that up!).

    Love this solution – the way you think and articulate how you think.

    Merry, happy everything!

  • Anonymous says:

    I, too, went to Belize and tasted many tropical jams but none as memorable as banana jam. It is incredible & now I know how to make it! Thank you, I was desperate!

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