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Cooking has always been somewhat therapeutic for me. It’s literally science you can eat! The rules are absolute: If “X” substance is applied to “Y” with the given constraints, then a pineapple upside-down cake will be your chemical reaction.
I’ve spent most of my life in the kitchen with my grandmother, by the grill with my father, or even behind the bar with my mom (hopefully she won’t read this) learning how to bake, broil and brew happiness. A good scientist, no matter their discipline, diligently works to improve — and, more generally, preserve — the amount of joy in the world.
I can’t think of a better time than now for more joy.
An expert scientist often wishes to challenge the very tenets that outline the field, and that’s certainly true in the culinary arts. Solid entrées become “deconstructed,” food waste at parties are reduced with the advent of tapas and the amuse-bouche, and bottomless brunches are given time limits so more people can get a chance to eat (although I’m not sure that last one has truly aided my personal joy).
I, along with my stepmom, recently attempted one of the oldest culinary science techniques with an added modern twist: making jam. Jam dates back to at least the 16th century, when Greek farmers used honey to preserve quinces. Sweet, portable and non-perishable, different types of jams exist in many cultures and are often a cultural relic of families who have emigrated from other places.
Jams are usually known for their sweetness, so I wanted to know how adding a little spice would affect the jam. That’s why in this recipe, we used a little Sriracha garlic-chili sauce.
Within my family, jam isn’t the most traditional thing we make — but cooking is the traditional way we enjoy our time together. As I spend more time in the kitchen with my family, I realize the preservation comes from the memories made, which resurface with every reiteration of the dish.
There are so many things to do with jam beyond the basic PB&J. My family used the jam described below to make Oreo cream cheese cupcakes with guava-peach centers. If you’d rather go a more classic route, you can’t go wrong by adding jam to a classic charcuterie board.
3 medium peaches
5 ripe guavas
½ fresh lime juice
2 cups sugar
3 cups water
1 small measuring cup
1 large measuring cup
1 potato peeler
1 ring of measuring spoons
Bringing water to a slow boil, submerge your jars and lids, allowing them to sanitize while you prepare your ingredients.
Use a knife to begin peeling your peaches and guavas. You will then cut the guavas and lime in half. For this recipe you’ll only need half of the lime, so be sure to save that other half for your next recipe!
Next, use a spoon to gently scoop out any seeds from your guava. (This is totally optional, but I find it more flavorful without any seeds.) Then use your knife to remove the peach pit.
Place all of your fruit in a pot and turn your stove on to begin the cooking process. I’d say a medium heat is fine, but it varies by stove.
Add 3 cups of water and two cups of sugar to the pot. Then, take the potato peeler and squeeze the juice from the lime out into the pot. (If you want to cheat with a store-bought bottle of lime juice — no judgment — this should be about 1 tbsp. lime juice.)
As you bring the water to a boil, the natural pectin in the fruit will begin to release, causing the mixture to congeal. At this time, you can take your now-sanitized jars out of the other pot and set them aside for later.
You should allow your mixture to brew for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Make sure that you do actually stir, though, and don’t disrupt the process by trying to sneak in taste-tests. (I see you.)
After an hour your mixture should be ready, and while it’s still hot you want to add the garlic-chili sauce. Start with 1 tbsp., but if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to add at least 2 tbsp. to really get that flavor.
Watch the whole process in the video above.
If you liked this recipe, you might want to learn these four ways to make guacamole.
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