Over the past few months, I’ve thought a lot about fear.
Dealing with health issues tends to do that to a person. (Especially if the person is a gifted worrier like me.) Some of this pondering happened inside of MRI machines and some in the kitchen while I prepared dinner.
And you know what? It was the kitchen fear that surprised me most. I possess enough self-awareness to know that illness and death (and waiting for test results) scare me. Making jam, on the other hand? I didn’t see that one coming.
Well, I guess I did. For years, the desire to make jam and pickles lived inside me. Yet lessons from the ServSafe class I took while at culinary school overshadowed that desire. Botulism! Yeast! Incorrect pH levels! Ack!The fear raged on even after reading a lot about canning and learning all about safe and healthy ways can. Not even taking the From Scratch Club’s waterbath canning class assuaged my fears. It was bad.
Last week, while cutting up sweet onions for dinner, I wondered why I let fear stop me from trying to make jam. Then it hit me. In a whoosh, I realized that I was afraid of messing up. What if my berries didn’t turn to jam? What if my pickles were gross? What if I wasted all those precious ingredients?
Once I named it, the fear vanished. I took a deep breathe, laughed at myself a little, and then reminded myself that it’s ok to be a beginner. It’s ok to try things, mess them up, and then try again. How on earth did I forget this?
But I did forget, I think we all do. As I looked at my fear, I reminded myself why I cook in the first place. I cook because food tastes good and because it’s fun to think about, shop for, and prepare. From start to finish, it’s a pleasurable experience for me. (ahem. Except for the dishes.)
That’s why I’m so grateful for the From Scratch Club community. Because here knowledge isn’t used as a weapon. When I signed up for Christina’s canning class, she didn’t laugh– at either my deep desire to make jam or my complete inability to do so. Nope. She just started a pot of boiling water and showed the class how to do it. The same held true the other day on Twitter. I bravely mentioned my desire to make jam along with my fears. In 140 characters, From Scratch Club members cheered me on.
To me, those conversations were a lived experience of the mission of From Scratch Club, “...inspiring people to jump back into the kitchen, their gardens and food communities as a daily way of life regardless of income, space & time.” After living with fear of making jam(!) for years, I’m thrilled to jump into the kitchen to make a batch of jam. Whether it works or not, it’s a success for me.
JAM CRUMB BARS
To celebrate my new-old desire to make jam, I created this recipe for gluten-free jam bars. Soon, I look forward using my own jam in the bars.
Here are some thing to keep in mind before making these tender bars:
Be sure to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until no large pieces of butter remain. This is key to the crust holding together and not being too tender.
You can add ground nuts to the recipe. Simply replace 3/4 cup of the brown rice flour with nut flour.
Any jam or thick fruit preserve works well. Jelly, on the other hand, does not.
If you like a really crumbly topping, don’t press the topping into the jam. This makes for tasty, albeit messy, bars.
For an over-the-top treat, warm the bars slightly and serve with a scoop of ice cream. (regular or dairy-free.)
RECIPE: GLUTEN-FREE JAM BARS
- 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) brown rice flour (or sorghum flour)
- 1 cup gluten-free oats
- 1 cup (7 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 3/4 cup jam (I used a combination of raspberry and blueberry. Any jam or thick fruit preserve works well.)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Set pan aside.
2. In large bowl, combine brown rice flour, oats, dark brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, rub butter into dry ingredients until no large pieces of butter remain. Mixture should hold together when squeezed.
3. Spread half the mixture into prepared pan. Using your hand, press down until a crust forms. Spread jam over crust. Sprinkle remaining crumbs evenly over the jam. Again, using your hand, press down on crumbs. Be a little gentler this time or the jam will ooze through the crumb topping.
4. Bake until the top is golden brown and the jam bubbles, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack. Cool in pan and then cut into bars.
Makes two dozen bars.