LACONIA — When My Coffee House owner Brandon Morin was little, he loved going to his grandmother’s house and watching her cook and prepare food.
He watched and learned as she made things like omelets and apple jelly, and Morin dreamed of someday opening his own restaurant and cooking flavorful items, just like his grandmother.
Now in his sixth year of operating My Coffee House on Court Street, Morin has perfected many of the recipes his “gram” Earline Sanborn taught him and she even occasionally helps out in the restaurant’s kitchen when he sets out to make homemade jam from scratch.
Sanborn said she learned how to make jelly and jam because her mother had a crab apple tree and some of the jams and jellies sold in grocery stores were too sweet for her family.
“A great jam should be all about the flavor of the fruit,” she said.
Morin, 27, has been cooking and canning his own jams and jellies for a few years now and said they are popular with his customers.
“I got started when I noticed some grapes growing in a maple tree in our yard,” he said. “I saw the vine and harvested them and made grape jelly. Now I make strawberry-rhubarb and blueberry jams and I also make and sell homemade salsa and pasta sauces.”
He said it doesn’t matter what the season is because people enjoy that his jams and jellies are all-natural.
“I don’t add any artificial ingredients,” Morin said. “Nothing is added except fresh fruits and vegetables.”
A graduate of the Lakes Region Community College culinary arts program, Morin said strawberry-rhubarb jam is one of his grandmother’s favorites of everything he makes.
Using fresh rhubarb picked from their garden, Morin and Sanborn made a fresh batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam together and make quite the team.
Morin mashed and blended the fruit while Sanborn sterilized the canning jars and lids as the mixture cooked slowly on the stove.
Adding pectin and a little bit of sugar to the mix, Morin said he that he doesn’t go overboard with the sugar.
“I’ve found that you don’t need as much sugar as some recipes require,” he said. “Once it’s just about ready, the trick is to put a spoon in it to see if it jells up and keep stirring until it comes to a boil. That’s cooking the old-fashioned way, the way it was intended and the way my gram taught me.”
Sanborn, 86, said she constantly stirs whatever it is she’s cooking for good reason.
“It won’t burn on the bottom if you keep stirring it,” she said.
When the mixture thickened, Morin poured it steaming hot into the canning jars as Sanborn attached the lids.
“When the lids pop, it means there’s enough vacuum inside to keep the bacteria out,” Morin said. “It’s a way to preserve with artificial preservatives.”
Once cooled, the half-cup jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam are labeled and displayed at the restaurant and sell for $3 each.
“I haven’t had anyone who didn’t like it and they always come back for more,” Morin said. “The flavor of the fruit really is what sells the jam.”