Monday, June 22, 2015

A Father's Day post- a tale of about friends, family, jams & marmalades and memories

This is a bit of an offbeat post ... esp considering I blog so infrequently these days! I was sitting at my dining table yesterday a bit wistful about Dad no longer being around and staring fondly at my collection of Jams ... yes you read that right my Jam collection. Some people are into wine and have a wine collection, others do cigars, me I do Jams.

It comes from the fact that - 
1. I have a sweet tooth and so did my Dad!
2. My mum and my gran made some kickass jams (and my sister pulls no punches in this contest), 
3. I was fed two eggs with jam and bread for brekker almost everyday in my early years
4. I went to boarding school in Panchganai (home of Mapro, Madhuban, VXL, Century, Manama and sundry Jam factories)
5. I love Jam
6. I now have a lot of friends who make jam and others who buy jam and send it to me!

PS there's also a lot of interest in small batch and artisanal jam making these days.

So now that thats clear let me tell you about my family and friends (a few bloggers and a few non-bloggers) whom 'I be Jammin wid' these last few years and who have contributed to my collection.

My tryst with Blogger Jammin started thanks to my wife Rhea who took to blogging way before me. It was her friends who became my friends and today I am proud to say that some of them are very very dear friends not just online but offline too. Top of the list is my friend (and sister from another mother) Saee who runs a really aesthetic blog and youtube channel. She cooks from the heart and her Jams and Marmalades are a a sheer delight, she knows just what I like and her Thick-cut Oxford style Orang Marmalade is concentrated Summer sunshine packed in glass bottles.

Here's a pic of brekker with her amazing marmalade

And this is how it darkens and softens with age ..

She Also makes the awesome Gooseberry and Ginger Jam seen in the pic below.

The other great Jammer that I have met thanks to blogging is my friend Harini, she's a Custom's Officer by day and a Vegan blogger and chutney and jam maker by night. She makes one of the most awesome ... correction the most awesome... non-commercial strawberry (SB) jam I have ever eaten. She should call it 'Essence of Strawberries'. I've eaten many a commercial wholefruit SB jam that doesnt even come close. I usually mature her Jam in a dark cupboard for a year and it darkens and ages and the taste concentrates so beautifully that I can smell the cold winter fog of Panchgani as I eat it.

SB jam requires two other honourable mentions the first is technically commercial ... my old schoolfriend Mehernosh runs one of Mumbai's finest bakeries and his confectionery is second to none Every year for the last two years he's been making SB jam and I must say its lipsmackingly good.

The second is a 'newer' friend Garima who lives in Nasik and is shifting to Mumbai as I write this. last year she made her first SB Jam and after much begging and wheedling she sent me a bottle ... needless to say it was fantastic.

Here's a pic of Mehernosh's SB Jam

Here's a pic of warm buttered toast slathered with Garima's SB jam

Saee also makes some really gorgeous SB jam but the Berry Jam from her kitchen that truly blew me away was an experimental Raspberry-Strawberry Jam she made two years ago. This jam was so special that I have never before or after eaten any mixed-berry jam with such complex yet perfectly synched flavours.

The below brekker pic is the only evidence of that heavenly Raspberry-Strawberry Jam

Many other's have contributed in the most amazing ways to fuel my ongoing passion for collecting and eating Jam. On the top of the list is my multi-talented wife (blogger, copywriter, content writer, copyeditor, ceramic artist and phenomenal cook) and her Bacon and Whiskey Jam is a jam which has no parallel! Another stellar one is the most intriguingly complex marmalade I have ever eaten. It came via Calcuttan friend and blogger Kaniska. Its a Lime marmalade and is tart, bitter and and so unlike anything one would find in India ... it reminds me of the original WITS Extra Bitter Grapefruit but without the heaviness.

Here's the Bacon Whiskey Jam by Rhea

Since I've started eating these homemade beauties most of the very ordinary high sugar jams have quite paled with some exceptions like the Noble Mixfruit (available only in 1 and 5kg sizes when I was a kid) and the Druk's Orange Marmalade (purely for the nostalgia it evokes). Interestingly Rhea's friend Amita from Pune sent down an amazing commercial Alphonso Mango Jam last year and the Banana Jam that we picked up from Cochin last year was also truly sublime.

Here are two pics the top one with Amita's Mango Jam and the lower one of the Banana Jam from Cochin

Most handcrafted (small batch) Jams and Marmalades fall into two categories. Those that can be stored without refrigeration and those that need to be refrigerated. The ones that don't, improve greatly, if allowed to sit quietly and mature slowly, preferably in a dark and dry cupboard. The one's that need refrigeration (usually low sugar and/or extremely macerated fruit without enough pectin) also mature in the fridge much to Rhea's dismay. She doesn't eat jam and an entire shelf in the fridge consists of my bottles ... eeeps!

Amazing jams roll in from the strangest places. Here's a picture of the exotic hand made Peach and Saffron Jam my friend Niv sent me all the way from the US of A! I matured it for 16 months it was sublime!

Many of my friends have seen this craze of mine (I usually have 30 odd Jams in storage) and have added to my collection and greatly enriched my palate and expanded my repertoire. My sister Freny has taken over where mum left off and her Fig and Rum Jam is absolutely amazing and her Apricot Jam (that she tried out for the first time this year) has left me yearning for apricot season!

My friends Lester and Dia need to be mentioned here for lugging exotic jams all the way from USA (some of which were collected elsewhere on their travels) just to add some variety to my otherwise mostly Indian collection. My friend Imtiaz needs an honourable mention for introducing me to Red Wine Jelly, something I wouldnt have believed till I ate it. Thank you Imtiaz!

To add more variety my crazy friend Appu from UK sent me a Red Chilli Jam, weirdly nice, along with some excellent whiskey marmalades.

I definitely need to thank my friend Tabrez (who has the most amazing shop in Crawford Market) for keeping really odd and exotic jams and jellies for me - especially notable was the Rose's Lime Jelly, not only was it tart and sweet with the occaisional bitter (thin) strip of peel but the bottle was so pretty that R forgave me the purchase!

Two final mentions without which I would be doing this post an injustice. Firstly, my dear friend Rushina (blogger/writer/author and Food Professional) was one of the first peoiple to send me Jams along with Chutneys, Pastes and Preserves more often savoury than sweet. All of which have been done full justice to and Shireen Sequeira a FB friend who was the first person I met through social media but never met in person who sent me some jam ... it was a Fig Jam and it came with a small bottle of homemade wine for company. She has a beautiful blog with some really awesome recipes.

Here's a pic of brekker with Rushina's Sakharamba ... had it with toast, bacon bit scrambled eggs and goats cheese!

That's Shireen's Fig Jam in the pic below.

This amazing journey through preserved fruit started thanks really to my parents and my maternal gran. She was a big one for pickles and chutneys and murabbas (Indian Jams) and she made these things seasonally. My mother picked up where she left off and made even more varieties. I still rmember a chutney/jam made up of cubed watermelon rind (the white bit only) and whenever we had a large catering order for Hawaiian Salad (which was served in hollow pineapple shells) she turned the insides of the semi ripe pinapples into the finest Pineapple Jam I have ever eaten. Her Apple Jam with Cinnamon and Raisins (sometimes the raisins were pre-soaked in rum) was a treat for the senses. She also made some mad murabbas of raw and  semi-ripe mangoes and I still have, in the bottom of a bottle, the final spoonful of a Murabba made from the last batch of Mangoes she lived to see growing behind our house in Lonavala. She'd planted that tree. Mum also made a Fig and Rum Jam and it was something I have never seen anyone else make before, my sister Freny is very ably carrying on this tradition.

My dad though was the man who really introduced me to marmalade thanks to his being a shippy and having a very open mind and a palate that was often so gourmet it wasn't funny! He liked his toast with butter, Jam/Marmalade and clotted cream and I emulated his every move as a child. At first I didnt really care for marmalade but it grew on me bit by bit. One of the finest marmalades he ever made me taste was a beautiful Orange Marmalade made with Isle of Arran whiskey, he bought it as much for the marmalade as the beautiful porcelain jar that it came in. My mum kept that jar for years after we had licked every iota of marmalade from it. He also routinely brought down Jam with him from his sojourns across the seas and this made my mum regularly stock up with the same brands if she saw them in Mumbai ... one of my fondest brand memories is of the Australian Jam makers IXL. Their Plum Jams were legendary. Dad ate Jam/Marmalade with almost every breakfast and some of his combos are best left unmentioned. Needless to say brekker never seems really complete for me with some of the stuff on the table.

IXL Plum Jam. This one's from the web though ...

Dad was one of the few people I shared my Jams with after Mum left us. It was something that that we bonded over and we often remenisced about how mum would have liked this one or that one. She was big on Bhuira's Dark Cherry Jams and so am I. It's the only 'company' made Jam that I will buy without thinking twice about. Dad liked their marmalades and we often took over a bottle or two to Lonavala for him. Now that he's gone I have to often remember not to buy that extra bottle. Luckily for me my siblings, Freny and Daraius, and their brats have all been added to the jam and marmalade loving fold (thanks mainly to dad) and I can still look forward to sharing a unique, one off, small batch, jam with them.

Here's dad with the youngest jammer in the family.

So long Dad and thanks for all the Jam.