Cookbook: Jam Session

July 11, 2018


Today, let’s talk about a new preserving cookbook. Called Jam Session (can you believe that no one had yet used this name for a canning book?), it is written by chef, author, and restaurateur Joyce Goldstein. Joyce has been an active preserver for more than fifty years and this book sings with her experience and expertise.

The first thing you notice about this book upon opening it is its beauty. The photography is well-lit, balanced, and does a fantastic job of letting the texture and quality of the produce be the star. The recipes are organized in a way that is usable and readable. And the recipes are appealing, varied, and run a range that includes both classics and inventions that are unique to Joyce.

The book is organized by season and within each quarter of the year, the recipes are then ordered by kind of fruit. I like the organizational structure, but do question the fact specific months have been included as subheads under the seasons. One of the things I’ve learned in my years as a preserving writer is that by the time we see strawberries in Philadelphia, the Florida season has been over for months. Why add something that makes the book feel exclusive rather than inclusive?

That said, there are a huge number of recipes I’ve marked in this book that I am interested in trying (or, at least, borrowing concepts from). In addition the preserves pictured in this post, I want to make the Apricot Ginger Jam (how is it possible that I’ve not combined those two before?), the Raspberry Rose Jam, and the Whole Spiced Figs in Tea Syrup.

Now, for a couple hesitations about this book. Joyce only uses homemade apple pectin when recipes need help setting up. Her reason is that commercial pectins can impart a bitter flavor. I struggle with this reasoning because requiring homemade pectin will surely create an insurmountable stumbling block for a number of home cooks and the recipes included in this book all appear to include ample sugar to combat any potential bitterness.

My other hesitation about this book is in the processing instructions. Current guidelines require that jars are processed at a full, rolling boil. This book instructs the user to process at an active simmer. While this might not seem like much of a difference, I worry that a difference of 10 to 15 degrees could be enough to put some jars at risk of spoilage.

I don’t mean to be overly critical. Truly, there is much to love about this book. It’s gorgeous, the recipes are appealing, and it makes me itch to hop up and head for the kitchen. Perhaps it will find a place on your shelf!

Disclosure: I received my copy of Jam Session as a free review unit from the publisher. No payment was provided for this post and all opinions expressed her are entirely my own.

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8 thoughts on "Cookbook: Jam Session"

  • Hi; thanks for this, but I will stick to the books that I know to be safe (Ball Blue Book, Bernardin, etc)…this puts me right off with the “simmering”…that doesn’t seem safe to me and contrary to what all the Government canning websites recommend, plus the idea of having to make pectin in addition to all the other work involved in canning seems almost silly to me! I have never noticed a bitter taste from commercial pectin and I’ve been using it for 45 years!! I don’t worry so much about spoilage but I do worry about botulism! So thanks, but no…

  • I love this book. Faund so many new recipes for myself and peach / lime salsa is absolutily my favorite!

  • I always wonder when you have to process and when the jars will ‘self-seal’? For example, I’ve always made raspberry jam and put hot jam into hot jars with hot lids and rings and never water bath processed them. Should I be?

    1. Best practice is always to process. Jars that seal on their own have a higher rate of spoilage and shorter shelf life. I process every preserve I make.

  • reading your reviews on this book, do you think if the recipes are followed but using the rolling boil to process, it would be a safer method??

  • I love the recipes in her book and have made several of them – the spicing is amazing and sophisticated – the fig chutney and jams and the raspberry rose jam are to die for. Her instructions for canning seem overly complicated – if you know how to can, just do what you usually do – no “active simmer”, no cookie sheets necessary! That being said, she has several recipes for canning pumpkin or squash preserves, jams, and butter in a water bath which is speficially NOT considered safe by the NCFP because of acidity and viscosity concerns.I also wonder about her eggplant recipes. – is just adding citric acid sufficient for safety? Those recipes sound amazing but should only be refrigerated in my view.

    1. I totally agree with you on both the canning process and the acidification fronts! I don’t think it’s sufficient to just add citric acid to the eggplant!