Copyright 2020 Melanie Spiller. All rights reserved.
MelanieSpiller and Coloratura Consulting
I love my bread machine. No, really. I’ve made bread pretty much every week since I bought it, spending seventy-five cents per loaf rather than three dollars plus AND I can completely control what goes into it (okay, I’m not grinding the flour myself, but other than that…) so I know that it’s not just homemade but it’s actually healthy and nutritious.But I also love that my bread machine has a wide variety of settings including a knead-only dough cycle (great for making free-form loaves like focaccia, pizza dough, and homemade pasta), sourdough and whole wheat settings (for different crust types and crispiness), and, wonder of wonders, a jam setting.Yesterday, intending to make fig jam but finding a great price on apricots (no, this did not stop me from getting rather a lot of figs), I used the jam setting for the first time. Talk about easy, even on a hot day! You cut up the fruit, drop some pectin (I found a nice fruit-based one) on it and let it think about stuff for ten minutes, then throw rather a lot of sugar/honey/agave at it and turn the machine on. The machine heats quietly for about 15 minutes, which starts melting the sugar and encouraging the pectin to do its thing. Then it starts to stir. Every three or four seconds for about an hour, the little stirring device gives a whirl, and then there’s a quiet cool-down of another 15 minutes. The apricot stickiness is a glorious color, and after another 15 minutes cooling down away from the machine, the jam is ready to be put into an ordinary jar. No sterilizing, no tragic glopping on the counter (because the container is square, it has those nice corners to facilitate pouring), and a pint of so of fabulous summer-fruit jam is ready for consumption. Okay, I’ll admit it. I’d made a loaf of wheat bread earlier in the same day that had a little orange zest in it, and I was pretty eager to see how these marvels went together. Still hot from the machine, the jam was delicious. Three hours later when it was room temperature, it was happy-dance worthy. In the morning with peanut butter…I don’t actually have the words, it was that good.I immediately began plotting to make fig jam. All I needed was some more pectin from the grocery store.So I went for a walk to the grocery store, thinking about the magic of pectin and sugar and fruit, which is already sweet, and a little heat. You just sprinkle a little on, let it sit for a bit, add sweetness, and agitate for a while. More sitting makes it astonishing.It struck me how like a koan making jam this way was. You receive/hear the koan and think about it for a bit. After a while, it begins to change, both in meaning and in context. Then you actively agitate it and see what happens to it. Then you sit with it again. The longer you sit with it, the more precious and amazing it becomes, even if you come back to it after it’s had some time to cool. All this for the magic of a bread machine that cost about $50.