Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly said Bonnie's Jams are sold at Zabar's in New York. They are sold at Eli Zabar stores: Eli's Manhattan and Eli's Vinegar Factory.

Winter, the Perfect Time for a Jam Session

Bonnie Shershow, ace jam maker.
Bonnie Shershow, ace jam maker. (By Donna Paul)
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By Bonnie S. Benwick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When the snow's blowing sideways, Bonnie Shershow looks out the window and thinks of . . . marmalade.

Of course, that's not unusual for the Cambridge, Mass., entrepreneur, whose line of Bonnie's Jams is sold at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge and Boston and at Zabar's in New York.

"Most people who like to play around in the kitchen, as I do, think of making jam in the summer. Doing it in winter is much better," she says. "It's the time for citrus."

Even after a decade of meeting small-batch quotas (operating in Formaggio's pastry kitchens on Sundays), Shershow still delights in shut-in days at home, where she can experiment. She boils great pots of fruit, often developing savory recipes that incorporate some of her most popular flavors: blackberry-blueberry, raspberry-lime, and figs with almonds, lemon rind and port.

Canning does not have to be a daunting process, she says, nor is it high science. "Fruit, water, sugar. You cook it."

Shershow will go only so far as to describe herself as "over 50"; as pictured at http://www.bonniesjams.com, she looks like a woman made happy by the presence of fresh food. She grew up with the berries and stone fruit of her family's orchard in Southern California. Shershow uses a lot of summer fruit from her local Massachusetts farmers, but in winter, she heads to a wholesale produce center in Chelsea for thin-skinned Valencia oranges and Meyer lemons.

"I know it sounds crazy, but I was on a beach in Mexico over Christmas and thought, 'Wouldn't Meyer lemons go well with oranges?' " Crazy good, yes. And made even better thanks to Shershow's willingness to riff in the kitchen.

Shershow couldn't find Valencias upon her return home, but she did pick up Cara Cara oranges, a seedless pink-fleshed variety with a slightly thicker rind. "I ended up loving them," she says. The oranges skew toward the lemony spectrum, while the Meyer lemons have orange notes.

Fruit, water, sugar. She cooked the combo for about 40 minutes, until the citrus's pectin had naturally thickened the mix.

The result was a marmalade the color of warm sunshine, slightly tangy and not too sweet, with softly bitter bits of rind. It begs for greater purpose than a gloss on toast, so Shershow has thought of other ways to deploy it:

· Spread it on rich pastry dough, top with latticed strips of the same dough and bake like a crostata.

· Mix it with a little soy sauce and olive oil to use as a glaze on pork, chicken or duck.

· Stir it into yogurt.

· Serve it with soft goat cheese as an hors d'oeuvre, or mix with a little chopped fresh jalapeño pepper and then fold it into soft goat cheese.

· Use it as a filling for thumbprint cookies.

· Mix a tablespoon or two with unsweetened whipped cream to use as a topping for angel food cake or pound cake.

The prices her products go for at Zabar's -- $14.95 for an 8.75-ounce jar, vs. $9.95 in her neighborhood -- seem to embarrass Shershow, so she's happy to provide the accompanying marmalade recipe as well as one for a roasted-fish main dish that uses the mixture to build a Sicilian-inspired sauce with fennel, olives and tomatoes.

They're both easy to make, as advertised. "No mystery," she says.

Bonnie's Jams can be ordered online through http://www.formaggiokitchen.com.


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