Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
I have a love hate relationship with bananas. Most of the time, I love them. They’re nutritious enough that I feel pretty virtuous when I eat them, but sweet enough that they almost seem like a treat (particularly if they are frozen or schmeared with a bit of peanut butter.) They’re relatively high in fiber and relatively low in calories. They’re easy to grab on the go, and they pair nicely with some of my favorite breakfast foods (oatmeal in particular). This time of year, when most fruits are not in season, bananas are a great go-to food for times when I’m striving to get my daily dose of fruits and veggies.
The downside? Well in short, bananas need babysitting. If they’re too green, they lack sweetness and are hard to peel. Left unattended, they gradually turn into brown-speckled mush. I have a lot going on in my life, so banana management tends to fall off of my to-do list pretty easily, and it’s not at all uncommon for me to have a bunch of bananas that are simply too ripe to eat in their natural state. I hate to waste food, so I generally do one of two things: freeze the bananas to use in smoothies, or whip up a batch of banana bread.
Recently, however, I found that I had a veritable backlog of frozen bananas (I love a smoothie as much as anyone, but there are limits to my freezer space and the bananas were taking up more than their fair share of real estate.) Banana bread certainly isn’t the most “naughty” treat out there, but it’s not exactly calorie conscious either, so I decided to skip that option too. In a last ditch attempt to save my bananas from the compost pile, I went in search of an alternative and found this little gem.
In this recipe, bananas are mashed, mixed with lime juice, flavorings, and just enough sugar to make them syrupy. A quick simmer on the stove to bring all the flavors together, and voilà! It’s the perfect way to bring a little sunshine to the breakfast table. While it’s not quite as virtuous as the fruit by itself, it’s a fairly benign indulgence, particularly when it’s paired with something healthy.
Warm from the stove, this is just the thing atop a crunchy piece of toast – whole grain toast if you like. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more decadent, opt for buttermilk pancakes and add in sliced strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream along with the banana jam for a breakfast treat reminiscent of a banana split. Plain Greek yogurt, which I find somewhat too tart on its own, is an excellent pairing with this jam, which balances out the yogurt’s sharpness and plays up its richness. And as much as I like a sliced banana in my oatmeal, a dollop of this concoction stirred into warm oatmeal or Cream of Wheat is a heavenly treat on a chilly morning.
Bananas lack the requisite acidity for long-term home canning, so this jam is best stored in the fridge and enjoyed in a week or two after it’s made, but don’t worry about it going to waste, it’s pretty likely that this jam will disappear long before that. If you’re feeling generous, make a double batch and take a jar to a friend. They’re sure to go bananas for it.
Fresh Banana Jam
Your bananas should be very ripe (covered heavily in brown spots); if you’re using fruit that is a little less ripe, add a bit more sugar. Green bananas won’t work in this recipe—just wait a day or two for them to brown up a bit.
3 large bananas, mashed
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Juice of one lime
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine the mashed bananas with the white and brown sugar in a small saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer the mixture over low heat; when tiny bubbles form on the edges of the mixture, add lime juice and salt, then continue to cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the vanilla. Spoon into a jar or storage container and store in the fridge for up to three weeks.