Turning Summer into Butter

Fruit Butters: Peach and Lemongrass, Blueberry and Lavender 

Each season has its fruit temptations, from the jewel-like citrus of winter to the tart rhubarb and tender strawberries of spring; fall mitigates the oncoming darkness with its copious cranberries, apples and pears. In no season, though, do we seem to feel as acute a need to preserve these fleeting offerings of the land as in summer, when we race to can, bottle and jar all the juicy-ripe apricots and peaches, the bulbous black and red berries, and the sweet-tart cherries and plums we can lay our hands on. I’m not quite sure what it is about summer’s produce in particular that inspires such behavior (though my vote goes to the fact that these fruits are simply the year’s most delicious), but preserving fruits is so iconic of summer that it struck me as nearly criminal to realize that as much as I’ve pondered, planned and romanticized the idea, I had never actually done it myself.

Then again, it’s not hard to see why. In an age where fruit is flown in from all corners of the globe whatever the season and high-quality preserves on the shelf are a dime a dozen, it certainly isn’t necessary – at least, as long as you don’t live on a farm and have truckloads of ripe fruit which would go to waste otherwise. And then there’s the cost, which for someone relying on markets is no trivial matter. But I also admit to having a certain amount of trepidation where the preserving process itself is concerned, which seems to me just this side of alchemy: carefully-controlled temperatures, specific sugar-fruit-pectin ratios, precise boiling times to achieve the proper consistency… Or maybe it just has to do with my fear of the sealing-in-jars part which if done improperly can result in anything from unsightly mold to quite deadly bacteria. In any case, like preparing live lobsters and making perfect puff pastry, fruit-preserving was filed away with all those things I always planned to conquer someday. Which is why I was as surprised as anyone to find myself last week churning out two batches of fragrant fruit butter.

Fruit butter is, as far as I know, a uniquely North American product, and one which unlike other New World exports (e.g. pickled jalapeños, peanut butter and Fluff®) has never made it onto foreign shelves. To be fair, it’s probably not different enough from other types of jams, compotes and conserves to warrant international attention, but I personally like to think of it as occupying its own special little niche in the fruit-preserve taxonomy. So what exactly is it? It is not, as you may be surmising if you’ve never come across it before, a mixture of fruit and dairy fat. It is simply sweetened, pureed fruit – any fruit, in fact, although apple butter is by far the most common and the most traditional. Invented by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who arrived on American shores in the eighteenth century, apple butter was originally used as a method for preserving the fall harvest (it has excellent keeping qualities due to its low water content) and was made by boiling apples with cider until they reduced to an intense, caramelly puree. I don’t know whether spices were present in this proto-butter or not, but these days just about every jar of apple butter has them, usually cinnamon, cloves and other rich, wintry aromatics. Apart from that, the most telltale signs that you are dealing with a butter and not a jam or conserve are that it is considerably less sweet, while the flavor is more intense and the texture thicker, smoother and more substantial.

Although I have always been a fan of the original, what got me thinking outside the spiced-apple box was in fact a gift sent to me from Montreal by the lovely AJ and Michelle of one of my favorite blogs, an endless banquet. Among the mouthwatering treasures they sent was a delicate, hand-labeled jar of Michelle’s pear-vanilla-bourbon butter, an ingenious concoction she has been selling to great acclaim at local Montreal markets. I was so smitten with this silky, not-too-sweet yet robust marriage of flavors (and not living close enough to Montreal to get a regular fix from Michelle’s supplies) that I started thinking about how I could play with this idea myself, combining fruit purees and aromatics in unexpected ways, and before I knew it I was simmering, straining, and jarring the results. And wouldn’t you know it, after all my years of hesitation, I couldn’t believe how little effort is actually required to capture these fleeting tastes of summer, how flexible the recipes are, and how endless the possibilities. Not to mention how spectacular the results. The only part I haven’t figured out is how to make sure these delicious butters survive more than a week or two in my cupboard, since in none of the recipes I consulted do they tell you how to preserve your self-restraint.

p.s. I’d love to know: What do you preserve and how?

Peach and Lemongrass Butter

There is something so rustic and honest about fruit butters, and excellent results can be had without any need to fret over temperatures, ratios and weights, as just about any puree that is sweetened to your liking and cooked until thick enough to mound on a spoon will fit the bill. Of course I would encourage you to can yourself a jar or three, but even if you’re not ready to take the canning leap, these recipes make small batches which will survive happily in a closed container in your fridge for a few weeks. But if you want to learn more about canning, this is a good place to start. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, fruit butters are excellent spread thickly on toast, swirled into yogurt and used just about anywhere you’d use jam.
Yield: Both of these recipes will yield about 3 cups of butter; the recipes can easily be increased for larger quantities.

about 2 lbs (1 kg) ripe, fragrant white or yellow peaches
1 cup (200g) sugar, or to taste
4 fat stalks lemongrass, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Blanch the peaches by submerging them (in batches, if necessary) for 1 minute and then transferring them to a bowl of ice water. When cool, peel, pit and slice them. Combine them with the sugar in a large bowl, and let macerate at room temperature for a couple of hours, during which time the peaches should give up a lot of juice. Strain the peaches, reserving the juice. Place the juice, the sliced lemongrass and 1 cup water in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and let simmer until you have a thick, fragrant syrup, about 30 minutes. Strain the syrup, discarding the lemongrass. Return the syrup to the pot and stir in the peaches. Simmer over medium-low heat until the peaches are completely soft, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree, either in a blender or with an immersion (stick) blender. Return to the pot and stir in the lemon juice. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until the puree thickens to the consistency of applesauce, about half an hour. Taste the mixture and add more sugar or lemon juice as desired. Remove from the heat and transfer to a closed container (or, if you’re comfortable with canning, fill into jars and process in your normal way). If not canning, refrigerate immediately and consume within a couple of weeks.

Blueberry and Lavender Butter

a generous 1 lb (500g) blueberries
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup (200g) sugar, or to taste
2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender
3 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste

Combine the blueberries, apple, and sugar in a large bowl, coarsely crushing some of the blueberries, and let macerate at room temperature for a couple of hours. The blueberries should give up a lot of juice. Transfer to a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil over medium-high. Turn down the heat and let simmer until the fruits are completely soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree, either in a blender or with an immersion (stick) blender. Return to the pot and stir in the lavender and lemon juice. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until the puree thickens to the consistency of applesauce, about half an hour (the exact time will depend on the water content of your blueberries). Taste the mixture and add more sugar or lemon juice as desired. Remove from the heat, force the mixture through a sieve while still hot, and transfer to a closed container (or, if you’re comfortable with canning, fill into jars and process in your normal way). If not canning, refrigerate immediately and consume within a couple of weeks.


Soup Days of Summer

Pumpkin, Coconut and Rum Soup 


Several years ago, when I was studying Russian in college (a skill that has since vanished into the winds of time, I should add), I came across an interesting cultural tidbit. My Russian teacher, an effusive and slightly eccentric woman from St Petersburg who had a penchant for excess eye makeup and short leather skirts, told us that Russians have an unusual philosophy about food that went completely against the grain of anything and everything I had heard before. She claimed that in Russia the prevailing wisdom is that one should consume foods that echo the temperature outside, since this is far less of a shock to the body’s vital systems. "So consume plenty of hot tea in summer and ice cream in winter," she told us, "and you’ll be healthy and robust until you’re a hundred."

Unfortunately, she didn’t come across as the most credible source on Russian folk wisdom, and I doubt anyone took her much more seriously than I did. Hot things in summer? Cold things in winter? This seemed like the ravings of a lunatic, particularly as my burgeoning culinary interest had exposed me to plenty of sources – cookbooks, magazines and television programs, chiefly – that advocated filling the summer table with ice-cold gazpachos, fresh tomato salads and endless pitchers of frosty drinks to beat the heat, while saving the promotion of hot and hearty dishes for the colder months. How on earth could the Russians think otherwise? Judging by the abysmally low position of Russian cuisine on the global preference scale, I decided to forget this piece of ‘wisdom’ as quickly as I could. And I did, until ten years later when we went to Jamaica.

You might recall how I mentioned in passing that Jamaicans love soup. I think, however, that I failed to stress just how much they love it. I would go so far as to say that soup to Jamaicans is like bread is to the French; in other words, they can’t imagine a meal without it, and treat it not as a luxury or an afterthought, but as a staple. Indeed, on many restaurant menus in Jamaica, we were surprised to find soup listed not with the other appetizers but as a separate course, presumably to assuage any fears that you might be expected to forego your soup should another appetizer look tempting as well. In fancier restaurants these soup offerings could be anything, but were usually sophisticated, smooth and delicate – lobster bisque, puree of this-or-that, and of course the ubiquitous creamy pumpkin – while at humbler places it was pure belly-filler: pepperpot with pork and callaloo, red pea and potato, beef with dumplings. And of course, all of it was hot.

Well, naturally we assumed that no person in his or her right mind would want to eat hot soup in this merciless tropical climate, which is why we spent our first few days deliberately steering clear of that section of the menu. When it became clear that we were seriously handicapping ourselves with our soup avoidance (and there was nary a chilled soup in sight across the entire country, it seemed), I decided I would have to give in – at least once – and ignore my better climatic instincts, since after all, I was there to sample as much Jamaican food as possible. So one night, with some trepidation, I ordered and began to consume a bowl of very delicious but very hot soup – I can’t remember exactly what sort – and before long the most remarkable realization came over me. In spite of all that steaming liquid in my belly, I actually felt cooler!

In an instant I realized why Jamaicans love soup so much, and why Russians drink hot tea in the summer. I don’t know enough about biology to tell you why it works, but it does. Perhaps it all has to do with the temperature of the air suddenly being lower than the temperature in the stomach, or perhaps it is just the result of an explosion in sweat production that causes a skin-cooling surge in moisture evaporation, but whatever the reason for this miracle, I was thrilled to have discovered it, and never lost an opportunity to eat soup in Jamaica again. Which was a good thing too, since a few sweltering nights later, when we were staying at Marblue, Axel offered us a hot soup that turned out to be one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten: silky-sweet pumpkin enriched with the creamy richness of coconut and the haunting perfume of rum, everything set into sharp relief against a backbone of scotch bonnet. It was a soup for the history books – not to mention the permanent recipe file – whose secrets Axel was thankfully willing to share, and which I’ve been enjoying almost continuously for the last few weeks. And luckily, it is every bit as delicious in the altogether more benign warmth of a Scottish summer as it was in the sweltering heat of the tropics.

Before I give myself over completely to the belief that my Russian teacher knew what she was talking about, however, I have one more test to run. I’ll give you a hint: it involves copious amounts of ice cream, and should commence in about five months. Then again, I just may start a little early on this one, since really, just because we embrace new philosophies doesn’t mean we have to completely abandon our old ones.

Pumpkin, Coconut and Rum Soup

Source: adapted from Axel Wichterich at the Marblue Domicil in Treasure Beach, Jamaica
Yield: serves 6-8
Notes: Axel’s secret ‘trick’ with this soup is to let it age for several hours (or even overnight) before serving it, and I have to agree that this really improves the flavor. If you don’t have time for this, rest assured that it will still taste great (just try to save some leftovers so you can see what I mean). My colleagues were pretty blown away when I brought some of the soup in to work last week, although my friend Dharshi, upon hearing the ingredient list, did say "so it’s kind of like a hot pumpkin colada." Pumpkin, coconut, rum – she may have a point there…

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 bunch scallions/spring onions (about 10), white and pale green parts only, sliced
about 2 lbs (1 kg) pumpkin flesh, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes (you can substitute any flavorful winter squash such as butternut, kabocha, hubbard, etc)
2 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 scotch bonnet pepper, *carefully* stemmed and chopped (wear something on your hands!), or a few dashes scotch bonnet/habanero hot sauce (optional)
5-6 cups (about 1.5l) chicken or vegetable stock
1 can (14oz/400ml) coconut milk
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar (optional, you might find your squash makes the soup sweet enough)
1/3 cup (80ml) dark rum, or more to taste
additional sliced scallions or chives, for garnish

In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Stir in the garlic and scallions and cook for another minute or two until softened. Add the cubed pumpkin, the carrots, scotch bonnet pepper, stock and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for about 35-40 minutes, or until the vegetables are completely soft and the liquid has reduced slightly. Remove from the heat and puree, either in a blender (in batches, and with the lid clamped down tight), or with an immersion (stick) blender. Return to the pot, stir in the sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and the rum. Cove
r and set aside for several hours or overnight (in which case, refrigerate).

Just before serving, reheat the soup to boiling and let boil vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Serve hot with a garnish of thinly-sliced scallions or chives.

Anatomy of a Jerk

Jerk Pork and Festival (recipes follow) 

Even if we hadn’t just spent a week enjoying the low-key life in Treasure Beach, we would have been wary of Montego Bay. The internet is full of warnings: "beware – hasslers and pickpockets everywhere!" "don’t go downtown by yourself!" "don’t even think of leaving your hotel after dark!". The hotels don’t really help the impression either, most of them building foot-thick perimeter walls and hiring armed guards to stand sentry at the gates; many of them also offer all-inclusive plans to make it easy to never even leave the grounds. The guidebooks offer warnings too, telling you to avoid many areas of town and giving tips on how to cope with the army of persistent touts. But let’s be frank here: even though we spent the majority of our time in the company of an experienced local guide (this being home turf for Everton), I’m sure we would have come to the same conclusion without him. Indeed, it didn’t take us long to realize that this is all just a lot of scare-mongering; Montego Bay is as safe, and as fascinating, as just about anywhere we’ve ever been.  

Montego Bay has no shortage of both world-class resort beaches (left)
and colorful local beaches (right)

We were however, as it turned out, booked into one of the most fortress-like hotels around. The Half Moon is a 400-acre resort set on the beach a few miles east of downtown – it competes with one or two others for the title of most exclusive resort in Jamaica, and regularly hosts visiting heads of state (including Queen Elizabeth, who always stays there when she’s on state business in Jamaica, we were told). We were very nearly treated like royalty ourselves, given VIP status and a spectacular suite fronting onto a private beach; cleaners and butlers and doormen seemed to come by in a constant parade wanting to perform one service or another. Still, as nice as it was to have a bathroom the size of our apartment back home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that everything here was too surreal; in fact, too long spent in the safe, hermetic confines of such uber-luxury left me itchy to get out and experience the dirt, traffic and noise of ‘real’ Jamaica again. Not to mention that most of the food at this palace of splendor was really pretty mediocre. Breakfast, for example, was almost worth skipping, as despite nearly fifty different choices on the buffet table only two or three were even remotely Jamaican; on the one day ackee and saltfish was offered during our stay it was bland and disappointing (but at least I had my hot sauce!).  

A stall at the Montego Bay weekend food market offers every kind of tropical fruit
under the sun.

All of this did make me feel sorry for the people who would let this be their only taste of Jamaica. We, on the other hand, didn’t stop tasting. One day we had a tour of the Appleton Rum estate where we were treated to a delicious Jamaican lunch before being presented with an open bar and 21 different bottles of rum to sample. Another day we visited the Montego Bay food market, a crowded, colourful microcosm of Caribbean life, where plump Jamaican grandmothers coaxed us over to inspect buckets of squirming crayfish while wiry young men tried to make us deals on enormous jackfruit and melons; we munched on mangoes and soursops that vendors obligingly sliced up for us, apparently pleased to see some rare tourist faces among all the local ones. And at night we wined and dined in some of Montego Bay’s fanciest restaurants: The Houseboat Grill on Boque Lagoon, The Sugar Mill on the Half Moon’s golf course, Nikkita’s on the Hip Strip. At these places we feasted on innovative and imaginative Jamaican fusion food like Black River shrimp on callaloo mashed potato with curried ackee sauce; jerked crab parcels with salmon caviar and papaya-ginger remoulade; baked ahi tuna on banana tempura with spring vegetables and sweet-sour mango sauce; and fillet mignon with scotch bonnet béarnaise. Most of it was very good – excellent even; nonetheless, we couldn’t stop comparing everything we ate to the one meal we just couldn’t get out of our heads: our first taste of authentic jerk.

(left) Our suite at Half Moon; (right) The rum aging room at Appleton Estate 

Jerk was probably what we had most been looking forward to on our Jamaican odyssey. After all, we originally put in a request for Port Antonio because of its proximity to Boston Beach, the birthplace of jerk. The term ‘jerk’ actually describes a type of barbecue that originated with Maroons, a group of escaped slaves who set up a community in the remote hills of Cockpit country in the 17th century. The etymology of the word itself supposedly refers to the way the meat was jerked about and poked with a stick as it cooked, though there are some sources that claim the root is the Spanish word ‘charqui’, which incidentally is where our term ‘jerky’ originated. Traditional jerking requires a fire of young pimento wood (from the tree that bears the allspice berry), a large dugout pit or oil-barrel barbecue for slow, moist cooking, and a fiery marinade based on the hellishly hot scotch bonnet pepper. Although jerk makers vary their recipes (and guard their exact ingredient lists like the treasures they are), the same basic trinity of allspice, scallions and thyme forms the foundation of all of them. And while whole pigs are the traditional meat to jerk, chicken, fish, shrimp and lobster are now just as popular.

(left) Goats are a common sight in Jamaica as many rural families raise their own
for food; (right) Sea grapes grow in abundance near beaches and are used
to make preserves 

Everyone in Montego Bay told us that the gold standard in jerk is set by Scotchies, a rough thatched hut just off the main road west of the airport. To find the place you just have to follow the plume of smoke, leading like a rainbow to a pot of gold, which in this case consists of large slabs of pork shoulder, spatchcocked chickens and slippery whole snapper. Everything here is jerked to Scotchies closely-guarded recipe (I know this since I begged and pleaded for the recipe to no avail!), smouldering on aromatic pimento branches for up to four hours before being weighed, chopped up and wrapped in a foil packet to be enjoyed at one of their shaded wooden tables. We decided to try a bit of everything on the grill and ordered some festivals to accompany it (those slightly sweet cornmeal fritters we had developed an intense passion for at
Little Ochie’s), passing up on the roasted breadfruit and sweet potatoes that formed the only other menu options. We helped ourselves to extra cups of jerk sauce, too, just to have the full experience.

(left) The menu at Scotchies; (right) Festivals frying 

That jerk did not disappoint, but it did give us quite a shock. Despite thinking that we’d pretty well acclimatized ourselves to the level of heat in Jamaican food, Scotchies put us right back in our place. This was the hottest thing I had ever eaten. Luckily, it was also one of the most delicious – the smoky, succulent meat (the pork was our favorite), fiery sauce and sweet, crunchy festivals were nearly addictive together, and we discovered that as long as we kept our mouths busy, we barely felt the pain. That is, until there was nothing more to eat! But even in the midst of all the agony, I felt vindicated – out of three cups of jerk sauce on our table, mine, Manuel’s and our partner-in-jerk-crime Everton’s, mine was the only one to be emptied. I had beaten a Jamaican at his own game! Once I’d recovered enough to talk, I had only one question: "when can we come back?"

‘Daddy Lou’, as he is affectionately called by staff and customers, is the pit master at
Scotchies and guardian of the secret sauce recipe. 

Come back we did on our last afternoon in Jamaica, just hours before our flight, and again we filled our bellies to bursting with as much of that heavenly manna as we could, the fire still snaking from our throats to our stomachs long after the last bone had been picked clean. It was a good thing, too, because when Air Jamaica delayed our flight again, and finally deposited us without apology in London so late that we’d missed our connection to Edinburgh and had no other affordable option than to rent a car and drive the seven hours home, we needed a nice last memory to cling to – something to remind us that despite the discomfort, hardship and frustration of getting there and back, Jamaica itself had been so worth every minute of it.


Jamaican Jerk Pork

Serves: 6-8 
Source: Adapted from Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen (see below)
Notes: This recipe is the closest I have been able to come to Scotchies jerk. Part of the problem, I know, is that I don’t have a fire of pimento wood to smoke the meat over – in fact, I don’t even have a barbecue at all! If you do, you can certainly adapt this recipe for barbecue cooking; keep the heat low and the grill covered, positioning the coals so that they are not directly underneath the meat to prevent flare-ups, and throwing on some soaked wood chips at periodic intervals for extra flavor. You can also do the first 3 hours in the oven and finish the meat off on the grill to get it crispy and slightly smoky. Also, please adjust the number of scotch bonnets to suit your own taste – while one is probably mild enough for children, three will start to challenge most non-thrill-seeking adults, and from there the sky’s the limit. I do suggest you err on the side of caution, at least the first time you make this – they pack quite a punch…

for marinade:
5-6 lbs (2.5-3kg) boneless pork shoulder (the fattier the better)
5 bunches scallions/spring onions, white and 2 inches green, chopped
1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup (60ml) ground allspice
2 tablespoons freshly-ground black pepper
1-6 scotch bonnet chilies, stems removed
1 1/2 tablespoons salt

for sauce:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons distilled vinegar
additional salt 

Place the pork in a large bowl or non-reactive pan that is just big enough to accommodate it (or a big heavy-duty plastic bag, if you like). Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender or food processor and process to a thick paste, adding water as needed to get it moving. Remove 2/3 of this paste and smear it all over the meat, rubbing it into all the crevices. Cover the meat and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for 24 hours. Refrigerate the remaining 1/3 of the marinade.

Preheat the oven to 325F/160C, or prepare your barbecue (see note above).  Lay the meat out in a roasting pan fat side up, reserving any excess marinade for basting. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 3 hours, or until the pork is tender, basting occasionally with pan juices and any reserved marinade. Remove the foil, raise the heat to 400F/200C and continue roasting for another 30 minutes, or until the outside of the pork is sizzling and charred in places. Remove to a large cutting board and chop into large bite-sized pieces for serving (you can remove most of the fat at this point if you like). Arrange the pieces on a platter for serving, with the festival and sauce on the side.

While the meat is roasting, make the sauce: combine the leftover spice paste in a saucepan with the sugar, vinegar, and enough water to make a thin sauce. Bring to a boil and let cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, just until the raw taste of onions and garlic has mellowed. The sauce should be of thin drizzling consistency, particularly if you’ve made it incendiary, so add more water if necessary. Taste for salt, adding more if necessary, and let cool completely.


Yield: about 20 

2 cups (250g) flour
2 cups (250g) coarse cornmeal
1/4 cup (60g) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten
about 1 cup (250ml) water
vegetable oil, for deep frying 

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Make a well in the center and add the eggs; with your hands, knead in enough water to make a dough that is moist but firm. Be careful not to over-mix or the festivals will be tough. In a large, heavy pot pour the oil to a depth of three inches and heat to 370F/180C. Form cigar shapes by pinching off pieces of dough about the size of a golf ball, dipping them in flour and rolling them into logs between your palms – make them a little thinner in the middle than the ends because they will puff up most here. Carefully add each one to the oil and fry until puffed and golden (try not to overcook or they’ll get very hard). Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Eat as soon as possible.

Want to learn more about Jamaican food? I recommend:

Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen by Lucinda Quinn
This small book has gorgeous photography and a good selection of some of the most common Jamaican dishes. While not as exhaustive as the others, the recipes are excellent.

The Food of Jamaica by John DeMers
his book has a bit more depth and provides a nice balance between comprehensiveness and informativeness, with an illustrated section on Jamaican produce and plenty of detailed information on food culture, history and traditional dishes.

The Real Taste of Jamaica by Enid Donaldson
A real ‘home cooking’ kind of book – if my grandmother were Jamaican, she would have put together a cookbook like this one. Comprehensive and authentic, if not exactly stylish. 

Eat Caribbean by Virginia Burke
This beautiful volume covers more than just Jamaica, but as the author comes from here it is represented heavily. I have mixed feelings about some of the recipes which seem to have been over-simplified, but there are definitely enough in here to provide some real gems. Besides, this is just pure food porn.

and last but not least…

The Marblue Cookbook by Axel Wichterich (not yet published)
Axel is currently working on a cookbook with food writer Judy Bastyra and photographer Cookie Kinkaid (both of whom contributed to Eat Caribbean, above). No publication date is yet scheduled, but it’ll definitely be worth getting ahold of when it is, so keep checking!


All photos in this post copyright ©2006 Manuel Meyer.