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Archive for the ‘Kitchen Gifts’ Category

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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