After the reading the depressing account captured by Karen LeBillon the other day, I really needed to read something more inspiring and uplifting. On days like that, I turn to something that I know will make me feel happy so yesterday I pulled out my well-loved copy of, “Joie de Vivre”, by Robert Arbor. Arbor is a French export who came to America with his new wife and, after attending the French Culinary Institute in New York, opened a couple of restaurants there. It was important to him to maintain his zeal and appreciation for a simple life so he introduced those ideals through his restaurants. After seeing how much his patrons enjoyed those simple things, he decided to share them in a beautifully written book. In a stark contrast to Le Billon’s book, Robert Arbor does a fantastic job of making the French approach to life and food enticing. I have no personal experience with France so I have to rely on authors to paint a portrait for me and I must confess, Arbor’s paintbrush illustrates ideals that are incredibly appealing.
Feeling heady with inspiration just a few pages in, I decided last night to start the morning off with a simple breakfast of a baguette, tea, and homemade jam. Not jam in the congealed sense of something like Smucker’s but this jam is something Arbor refers to as “Instant Gratification”. It has a runnier consistency than the jam purchased at the store and only keeps for about a week but it is truly delicious! I had to adapt his recipe a bit in order to utilize the fruits I had on hand and because of that I made a couple of discoveries. First off, Arbor’s recipe is simple. One pint of fruit (your choice), one cup of sugar, and enough water to come halfway up the fruit in the pan. You basically combine all these ingredients in a saucepan, bring it to a boil then let it simmer for 10 or so minutes. Honestly, it tasted delicious in the pan and, if I’d had a slice of pound cake this “jam” would have been spooned over the top of a slice. Divine! Anyway, I didn’t have fresh fruit on hand but I did have a bag of frozen mixed berries that I had thawed in the refrigerator. It was nearly a pint of fruit so, I took that, all the juice that developed from thawing it out, and a cup of sugar and added that to a saucepan.
I brought it all to a boil then turned the heat down to a simmer. While it was simmering, I tasted it to see if it needed anything else. Oh have mercy, it just tasted amazing! No more sugar needed at all! After about 10 minutes I placed it into a container and then moved it to the fridge so it would be waiting for me this morning.
In the morning, the beautiful La Brea Bakery baguette that I had purchased the day before was just begging to be paired with my scrumptious homemade jam. The oven quickly heated up, allowing me to toast my baguette sections in record time. My mouth was watering in anticipation. I pulled the baguette from the oven, the hot and crusty loaf was so ready for butter and jam! I spooned the jam on top of the bread and dug right in. Yum!!
As good as my rendition of this jam was, I did have a couple of thoughts about it. First of all, the texture of the thawed fruit left something to be desired. In this case, fresh fruit is definitely more appropriate because it will still have some bite to it after the cooking process. Second, although the runniness of the jam was fine, I did wonder what it would have been like to add some ground instant tapioca to it. I’m going to try making this again using fresh fruit and some tapioca to see how it turns out. This version is still quite good!! The fruit is just extremely soft but, it worked out just fine on the toasted bread. I also thought some lemon zest or lemon juice added might be nice and add a touch of brightness to it, too. Maybe even a 1/4 tsp of almond extract? Do you have a favorite fruit that you think would work well in a recipe like this? I’m imagining a peach version during the summer months when fresh peaches are plentiful!!
Here is the recipe, adapted from “Joie de Vivre” by Robert Arbor:
one pint of fresh fruit (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apricots, or a mix of some of these)
water (enough to come halfway up the fruit in the pan)
one cup sugar
Add the fruit, water, and sugar to a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. It should keep in the refrigerator for a week, if it doesn’t all get eaten before that!
Please have a wonderful weekend and try to find some joie de vivre in your world while you’re at it!