When you live in the tropics bananas probably grow right outside your door. Stalks of bananas can weigh 20-40 pounds depending upon the variety which can be fingerling size to plantain size. Green bananas can be cooked in coconut milk for a starchy side dish. Over ripe bananas in the plantain class, called hopa (hoe-pa), are stewed with coconut milk, called vai-siaini (vie-see-eye-nee) and served as a hot drink. Bananas are also used in more traditional breads, muffins, pancakes, and eaten out of hand.
Never to let food go to waste, I made lots of jam from bananas that were at their peak in firm ripeness. My first batches were rather dismal. The bananas disinegrated in the long cook method and the resulting color was a muddy brown. Adding pectin to shorten the cooking time required too much sugar making the jam overly sweet and obliterating the banana flavor.
I found a recipe in Down-Island Caribbean Cookery, 1991, by Virginie and Geoge Elbert. The recipe begins with a vanilla bean and a heavy sugar syrup and 20-25 minutes of cooking with the bananas. I still wasn’t happy with the resulting jam so I tweaked the method to shorten the cooking time and ended up with a pale yellow, chunky banana jam. Try this recipe for breakfast or spread it on a pbj sandwich.
- 6 firm ripe bananas, sliced 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick ( 3-3/4 cups)
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1 cup water
- 3 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1 tsp banana extract
- Place bananas in a bowl, pour lime juice over and toss to coat.
- In a stainless steel pot, boil sugar and water until sugar dissolves.
- Add vanilla bean and continue boilng until syrup coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes
- Add banana and lime mixture. When it once again comes to a boil, reduce heat to a lively simmer. Stir occasionally so the bananas will not sink to the bottom. Skim off any foam that rises to the top.
- Check for jellying stage by dropping a 1/2 tsp of jam onto a cold saucer and refrigerate for a minute. Or use a candy thermometer and this handy altitude table.
- If the jam has jellied, remove pot from heat, remove vanilla bean, and stir in banana extract.
- Ladle jam into hot sterilized jars up to 1/4 inch from rim. Seal immediately.
- Process in a Boiling Water Bath for 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
- Check that lids have sealed. Store in cool dark pantry for 1 week to ripen before using. Refrigerate after opening.