Monday, January 23, 2012

Bananas Foster Jam

I've never had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans, but to me it is without doubt the world's most fascinating city. I've loved the whole idea of Louisiana for years, since my first taste of jambalaya when I was about 7, and for a solid two years I was all about the Ya-Ya movie and book series (which I highly recommend you read!), decorated my bedroom in Mardi Gras beads that my grandparents brought back from the real NOLA shindig, and begged my parents to book us into the Orlando location of the House of Blues restaurant for dinner when we went to see The Mouse. Though I only made it to HoB once (and now can't have my beloved andouille jambalaya lest I get sick), every time I go to Disney World I still have to buy at least 3 bottles of Bayou Heat hot sauce (although in retrospect I should have bought about 12 the last time, I'm out :-( ).  I can't wait until the day I can finally walk around the French Quarter, check out what real Cajun and Creole music is like live, and totally immerse myself in the insanely rich culture, art and (of course) food! It would be a total win in my book to hit the city at the peak of it's celebration activity, the infamous Mardi Gras, but in all honesty just being there would be the experience of a lifetime.

Along with the jambalaya, gumbo, po-boys, muffulettas and etoufee, NOLA has a sweet side to share with it's visitors too. Beignets, pecan pie and King Cake are commonly thought of, as is the infamous Bananas Foster. A Brennan's specialty (according to NOLA Online the restaurant serves over 35,000 pounds of bananas yearly with this dessert), the flaming, sliced bananas are legendary and really, it's hard to argue with a bowl of ice cream topped with a combination of buttery, soft fruit, caramelized sugar and rum!

It was in the spirit of this NOLA hallmark sweet that I came up with this banana and raisin "jam". With hardly any sugar and no fat to speak of, it's a more "breakfast friendly" way to get your fix! Given that it's really only designed as a "store in the fridge" type of spread, I scaled back one of the jam recipes I found in my mom's cookbook Caribbean Cuisine and switched up the flavours a little bit, cooking the sugar into a slightly thicker, more caramelized syrup than called for originally, adding a packet of caramel flavoured stevia and raisins for a bit of extra oomph, and both doubling the rum and adding it with the vanilla off the heat. Because I had it on hand, I added a tiny dribble of butter flavouring to the vanilla and rum, which instantly made me visualize the fruit sizzling in a Louisiana pan as the chef goes to light off the rum. If you don't have either the stevia or the extract, no worries - it will be plenty caramelized as it is, and if you really need that butter element you can stir in a half teaspoon of the creamy stuff (or it's equally delicious substitute) at the end before adding the rum and extracts.

Have you ever been to NOLA or had Bananas Foster? What did you think?

Bananas Foster Jam
Makes about 1 cup, 8 2-tbsp servings
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 packet caramel flavoured stevia, i.e. Krisda (optional, but boosts the caramel flavour!)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup water
3 medium, very ripe bananas
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Pinch salt
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp butter flavouring (optional)
  1. Combine brown sugar, stevia, raisins and water in a small pot and bring to a simmer.
  2. Cook, without stirring (swirl the pan to mix), until sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to thicken a bit, about 7 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mash bananas with lime juice and salt. Stir the bananas into the syrup.
  4. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 25-30 minutes. You want it to be very thick and caramel-scented.
  5. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum, vanilla and butter flavouring if using.
  6. Cool 15-20 minutes before transferring into a jar and chilling.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 87.2
Total Fat: 0.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 3.9 mg
Total Carbs: 24.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 0.6 g

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