I’ve been immersed in jam cookbooks lately. Here are brief reviews of three.

Blue Ribbon Preserves
You can see where Blue Ribbon Preserves would be a conceit. As in, here is how to make preserves that are worthy of a blue ribbon, although, of course, you will not actually be entering them in a jam competition to win a blue ribbon.

There could be a cookbook out there with that conceit. But this is not it. This book is actually a guide on how to make jams that will — when you actually enter a jam competition — win a blue ribbon. There are long passages on exhibition rules, tips on how to label your jars, and an exploration of the Danish and American systems of scoring.

But there are also many, many good recipes and a lot of solid information on how to improve your jams. I can recommend this cookbook as a good supplement to the standby, the Ball Book.

Also, while author Linda J. Amendt is passionate about her jams and preserves, she does not appear to be insane. You will see why this is important in a moment.

The Jamlady Cookbook
Jamlady is crazy. How do we know that Jamlady is crazy? Jamlady refers to herself in the third person throughout The Jamlady Cookbook. Jamlady’s full name is Beverly Ellen Schoonmaker Alfeld. So you can see why she does not refer to herself as Beverly Ellen Schoonmaker Alfeld in each recipe. But still.

Here are but a few examples of what I am talking about. (Notice my deft use of the first person.)

Jamlady has included this rhubarb-nutmeg recipe to illustrate rhubarb jam made with powdered pectin.


Jamlady has not fully investigated chestnut jams or chestnuts preserved in alcohol, as she cannot can chestnut jam in a RWB so that it can be sold at market and she has no liquor license to sell alcoholic products at market.

An RWB, for those of you unfamiliar with Jamlady’s terminology, is a rolling water bath. It is what many of us would call boiling water. And again: Jamlady, for those of you unfamiliar with Jamlady’s terminology, is Beverly Ellen Schoonmaker Alfeld.

Earlier, I stated that Jamlady is crazy. I need to revisit that. She may not be — she is probably not! — crazy. She’s probably a very nice lady. (Jamlady, call me.) This book has so much good information and so many interesting recipes that I almost want to recommend it.

But it is extremely disconcerting to read a recipe — let alone an entire book — in which the writer refers to herself in the third person.

It’s enough to make you lose your mind.

Take it from Fruit Slinger.

Mes Confitures
Though ordinarily I might hesitate to recommend a cookbook that I cannot pronounce, I enthusiastically recommend Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures. This is the book from which the strawberry-raspberry preserves with balsamic vinegar and black pepper were taken, and it’s the book that inspired the black raspberry and wild strawberry with chocolate preserves that I made the other day.

This is probably not the first jam cookbook that you want to own, but it is a devastatingly beautiful and inspirational work.

If you’re getting at all serious about jam making or want something to which to aspire, you want this book on your shelf.

Daniel Shumski works for an orchard and also writes Fruit Slinger , a seasonal blog about fruit and farmers markets. Follow him on Twitter.