First impressions: Wow. This is a BIG book, weighing in at 372 pages. It's a hard cover, with a nice matte textured dust jacket and a sturdy sewn binding that helps the pages to stay flat when opened. The book is divided into three main sections, with bibliography, sources and an index in the end.
There's a very extensive introduction section that tells the story of Blue Chair Fruit and offers excellent definitions of the words 'jam', 'jelly' and 'marmalade.' Also very interesting is a section on fruit which covers such topics as seasonality, ripeness, sweetness and sourness/bitterness, texture, and perfume.
Finally there's several pages on preserving itself, with an emphasis on process and equipment. What really makes this shine are Sara Remington's photographs that show the several stages a pot of jam goes through as it cooks down. This is done for both low-sugar and high-sugar jams as well as marmalades. Another bonus is Ms. Saunders method for testing doneness, which involves placing several spoons in the freezer and using them to cool off a small amount of jam to check for firmness and texture.
Great Tip: Don't mess with large vats of boiling water to preserve your jams, jellies and marmalades! Simple heat the jars and lids in a 250 oven for 30 minutes, remove, fill and cap, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Voilà!
Recipes for right now: Elderberry-Orange Marmalade, Pear Jam with Rosemary & Pine, Citron Shred, Cranberry-Orange Marmalade, Italian Prune & Cardamom Conserve
Recommended? Oh yes! This book is in my top five for holiday gift giving this year. I can see pairing it with a set of pretty canning jars or, if your pockets are deep enough, one of the gorgeous all-copper kettles Ms. Saunders recommends for jam cooking. But I'm definitely, greedily keeping a copy for myself. I know this is just the push I need to experiment with marmalades this winter ... and strawberry-kumquat jam this spring ... oh, and it's for sure going to be a better summer for Bleinheim apricots next year ... but meanwhile, that Quince and Candied Ginger Jam recipe cannot be ignored much longer!
• Buy the book: The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders, $22.15 (Amazon)
(Images: Dana Velden)