You might say Rachel Saunders was in a jam when she decided to write her latest book.
She wanted to make seasonal jams, but she couldn't find enough instructional materials to guide her, so she decided to write her own, The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook.
She brought it to Bookshop Santa Cruz Wednesday along with some samples of her best work.
Saunders, who lives in Oakland but uses a lot of Santa Cruz produce in her work, started the Blue Chair Fruit Company, which creates artisan jams and marmalades.
“Jam isn’t something you eat, it is an idea,” she told the Bookshop audience. “Jams are a way of connecting with my surroundings. They are a marriage of the earth and the aesthetic.”
Saunders grew up in a small town in New York before moving to the Bay Area and, inspired by the fresh local cuisine, began making jam.
“I was blown away by the produce here” said Saunders, who buys fruit from several Santa Cruz venders including Dirty Girl Produce and Sea Level Farm. Saunder’s book features only jam recipes that use Northern California grown fruits.
She gleefully prepared a strawberry jam for the crowd, urging them to come close to see the frothy, ruby red mixture brewing in her French copper cauldron, explaining how she mixed the strawberries and sugar together to get the perfect mix of for her jelly.
Unfortunately, the audience didn’t get to try the fresh jam because it had too much sugar in. But everyone still got to sample some prepared jam as the Saunders sighed books.
“We are a small team of people, so we all have to wear a few different hats,” said Kate Shaughnessy, who works at Blue Chair. “I’ve only just starting making jams, but I love how they change, anticipating the new seasons and fruits is always fun.”
Saunders did a lot of lab work before her concoctions were edible.
“I pieced together what I know from a lot of different areas,” she said, with her dog Larry, a pug-Jack Russell mix, in her lap.
“Mostly through trial and error. There are very few people that have gone through the amount of trouble I have learning to make jam, because it is extremely hard.”
Blue Chair Jams are available at heath food stores throughout the bay area and the cookbook is a available at