A highlight of my summer was going to the quaint village of Niedermorschwihr, in Alsace, France, to meet my jam-making idol, Christine Ferber, at her little shop, Au Relais des Trois Epis. In addition to her regular line of jams, Ferber also creates flavours for the likes of Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon and Pierre Herme. She makes her preserves according to the season, using strawberries and apricots in the spring and summer, plums in the autumn, and bananas, pineapples and other tropical fruit in the winter. In Hong Kong, Christine Ferber preserves are sold at the Four Seasons hotel in Central, and Boulangerie Bistronomique in Kennedy Town.

I also make jams, marmalades and other preserves throughout the year, but because so much fruit in Hong Kong is imported, I buy whatever there's a lot of and is reasonably priced (and therefore in season in whichever country it was grown). I only make strawberry jam in the late spring/early summer, when an 800-gram box of the fruit costs HK$68. Why would I want to make strawberry jam now, when the fruit isn't nearly as flavourful, yet costs more than double the price I paid a few months ago? The same thing with cherries and blueberries: I "jammed" them in the summer, but it's now time to turn to winter fruits such as kumquats, bananas, apples, Seville oranges and quinces.

When it comes to making preserves, you need to balance price with yield. Unless you have prolific fruit-bearing trees in your garden, home-made preserves aren't going to work out much cheaper than the commercial stuff. There's little point buying Japanese melons at HK$400 each just to make a few jars, for example. Having said that, the quality of home-made preserves is usually much higher, because you're putting a lot more fruit in each jar; most commercial jams and jellies rely on large amounts of pectin to thicken the fruit and sugar mixture, rather than concentrating the flavours through evaporation.

Certain fruits have a high yield when made into jam; others, such as berries, are low-yield - that is, you start off with a lot of fruit and end up with a fairly small amount of jam. The reason is that these fruits contain a lot of water, and this needs to be cooked off before the jam is thick enough to set.

The banana-chocolate and the cranberry-orange jams on the previous page yield a fairly large amount of jam for the amount of ingredients: the former because the bananas have a relatively low moisture content, and, in fact, you need to add water to get the sugar to dissolve. With the cranberry-orange jam, it's because cranberries have a high pectin content so the ingredients don't need to cook long before the mixture sets.


Truc tryk): noun, masculine, trick, gimmick, device. A French word for a chef's secret.