Book Review: Foggydale Farm: Jam Sessions, by Lynda Hallinan

Available from booksellers nationwide.cv_foggydale_farm

One of my new year’s resolutions is to teach myself some new recipes. I don’t do much of the cooking at home – it’s my husband who makes all of our meals and also the chutney and lemon curd at Christmas. I’m the gardener though, and over the last few years I’ve planted a wild raspberry, strawberry, and rhubarb patch.

My attempt at growing produce is nothing compared to gardening legend Lynda Hallinan’s Foggydale Farm. Set in the Hunua Ranges, south-east of Auckland, she lives there with her family and ‘four cats, two dogs, two kunekune pigs (Apple Sauce and Plum Chutney), eight free-range (evil garden vandalising) chooks, a small clutch of (wild-eyed) Limousin cattle and three dozen sheep.’ While I cannot relate to the scale of Hallinan’s holding, I do relate to her desire to value making ‘not only from the standpoint of economics, but for pure pleasure.’

Foggydale Farm: Jam Sessions certainly fits with the thrifty homegrown, homemade movement and its vintage aesthetic, but Hallinan is no new-comer (and really, neither is the movement). The recipes in this book have grown out of Hallinan’s rural childhood and a farming family who made jam. After making a glut of damson jam one summer, Hallinan decided to set herself the challenge of making a different flavour of jam each week. The ‘Jam Sessions’ were born, as was the book.

The book is a luscious combination of full-page photographs by Sally Tagg, watercolour illustrations by Lindsay Eller, and Hallinan’s easy-going and engaging writing. There is a section dedicated to each season and the produce that can be harvested and made into jams and jellies during that time of the year. Recipes include ‘Rose Petal Jelly,’ ‘Blueberry & Fresh Bay Curd,’ and ‘Pumpkin Honey’; the condiments section has ‘Smoky Bacon and Bourbon Jam’ as well as more classic herb and nut butters. This is more than a collection of recipes, though; about half the book is information about produce and techniques, woven throughout Hallinan’s anecdotes. Hallinan also includes a ‘Back to basics’ section for those new to jam and jelly making, which is where I’ll be starting.

Hallinan notes that jam is somewhat unfashionable at the moment because of its high sugar content, but points out that sugar is needed to make a proper jam with no compromise to colour and flavour. I tend to agree, and as she states ‘no one ever eats an entire jar of jam in one sitting … And, as with all things, when you’ve made it yourself, at least you know what you’re eating.’ While Hallinan states ‘jam making requires no fancy gear’ she then follows with a long list of essentials that include implements such as a ‘candy thermometer.’ There’s something exciting about the newness of the process, the discovery, and then – I hope – the mastery. It’s like a return to childhood.

Foggydale Farm: Jam Sessions is a beautifully produced and styled book. I feel as though making these jams will make my world a little more beautiful and definitely more delicious. The book takes the reader into Hallinan’s kitchen, and I can feel her love for family and produce. That said, she is careful to balance the romanticism with the hard work of making. Foggydale Farm: Jam Sessions is a practical, funny, and warm collection of recipes that celebrates the rural housewives who used home-made jam to feed their families during lean times, and Hallinan’s continuation of that tradition.

Reviewed by Sarah Jane Barnett

Foggydale Farm: Jam Sessions
by Lynda Hallinan
Published by Foggydale Farm Press
ISBN  9780473336547

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