Banana Jam

February  9, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

When you hear jam, you probably imagine all the berries—strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries—and other sunny friends, like figs and peaches. Eventually, as pool days make way for school days, apple jellies and pear preserves start bubbling on stoves. Come winter, there’s less to do. Orange marmalade, sure—but have you ever made orange marmalade? Talk about a ton of work. What about a jam that feels right for winter, but doesn’t consider itself a weekend project? You know, a low-key jam.

I never thought to turn bananas into jam, probably because they’re turned into just about everything else. Like bread. Or fritters. Or cake. Or pudding. Or cookies. Or ice cream. Or milkshakes. Or daiquiris! Turns out, jam is just about the easiest thing you can do with overripe bananas. I scrolled by the idea on Instagram, casually mentioned alongside chocolatey peanut butter.

What the what? I followed the trail to Stagg Jam & Marmalade:

"Literally jam-packed with ripe bananas and real vanilla bean. Vanilla bean brings a mellowness to round out the boldness of sweet bananas to create this simple but super addictive jam. Peanut butter hasn’t seen something this fabulous since chocolate."

Sold! Now, let’s recreate it at home. I bopped around websites and flipped through some cookbooks, and one thing became clear: People want me to commit to this jam more than I want to commit. (Do I have jam commitment issues? Is this a thing? A bad thing?) In 1986, Florence Fabricant published a recipe in the New York Times that tells you to make a big batch of simple syrup, then cook bananas in that for up to 45 minutes. This aligned with other banana recipes I found. It also goes against all jam theory I’ve been taught: Cook the fruit for as little time as it takes to release pectin and thicken; this way, its natural brightness is preserved and the sugar doesn’t start to caramelize, a flavor that would overpower everything else.

In this recipe, I drew upon that let-it-be mentality: Peel bananas and roughly break them up so they fit into a pot. Add white and brown sugar and mash until the sugar turns syrupy. Set over medium-low heat and add a splash of water, lime juice, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until a spoon starts to leave a trail in the pan. Remove from the heat and stir in dark rum and vanilla extract. Done.

This jam wants, very much, to be stirred into oatmeal. Or dolloped on honey-drizzled yogurt. Or slathered on peanut butter– or tahini-smothered toast. Or spread on—wait for it—banana bread. Or is that just too bananas? —Emma Laperruque

  • Makes 3 cups
  • 6 large bananas (22 to 24 ounces, post-peeling), broken in half
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In This Recipe
  1. Combine the bananas and sugars in a medium pot. Mash with a fork until the fruit is chunky and the sugar syrupy. Set over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Add the lime juice, water, and salt. Continue to cook at a steady simmer—stirring occasionally—for about 10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum and vanilla.
  2. Spoon the hot jam into jars. I just seal with a lid and keep in the fridge—but sterilize if you'd like.

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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.