Vanilla Bean and Brown Sugar Caramelized Banana Jam
Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I wind up with too many ripe bananas all at once.
But when you just can’t make one more banana smoothie or loaf of banana bread, make banana jam.
It’s fast, easy, vegan, gluten-free, and comes together in about 20 minutes.
It isn’t traditional jam and there’re no water bath or canning involved, so in case ‘jam-making’ instantly sets you into panic mode, don’t worry.
Just mash the bananas, add brown sugar, butter (or vegan butter), lemon juice, and let the mixture boil for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it’s thickened to your satisfaction.
While it boils, make sure to keep an eye on it, stirring intermittently because you don’t want your caramelized bananas to turn into burnt bananas. That would smell hideous.
After the jam has thickened, add cinnamon, vanilla bean paste, and vanilla extract. I have a heavy hand with both cinnamon and vanilla, but if you don’t love them as much as I do, add them slowly, and adjust to taste.
If you don’t have vanilla bean paste, use extra vanilla extract. You won’t see the tiny little black vanilla bean seeds in your jam, and it won’t have quite the same level of vanilla intensity, but it’ll still be scrumptious.
I don’t find the jam overly banana-ey. I know that’s paradoxical because bananas are the star of the show, but the lemon juice really brightens the jam, while balancing and tempering the banana flavor.
Yet here’s no overt lemon taste. It’s a non-specific background flavor, but adds such a refreshing quality. Since lemon juice is an acid, it also acts as a natural pectin, so your jam sets up without having to use boxed pectin.
The cinnamon is present, but subtle enough to let the vanilla flavor shine. I can never have too much vanilla.
The jam reminds me of the banana equivalent of apple butter.
My jam wasn’t overly sweet, but my bananas weren’t super ripe. The riper your bananas, the sweeter the jam.
Or just eat it by the spoonful which is what I did.
Now you know what to do with those ripe bananas.
Vanilla Bean and Brown Sugar Caramelized Banana Jam (vegan, gluten-free)
When you have too many ripe bananas and just can’t make one more banana smoothie or loaf of banana bread, make banana jam. It’s fast, easy, and it isn’t traditional jam, and there’re no water bath or canning involved. Keep an eye on mixture while it’s boiling, stirring frequently, so it doesn’t burn. Paradoxically, the jam isn’t overly banana-ey, because the lemon juice really brightens and balances the flavors. The cinnamon flavor is present, yet subtle enough to let the vanilla flavor really shine. If you don’t have vanilla bean paste or vanilla beans, substitute with vanilla extract.
2 medium/large or 3 small ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups, mashed)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsalted butter or vegan buttery spread (half of 1 stick)
3 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of half of 1 juicy lemon)
2 teaspoons cinnamon, or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract, or to taste
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or the scrapings of 1 or 2 vanilla beans (or substitute with extra vanilla extract, to taste)
- In a medium saucepan (err on the side of larger than smaller because mixture bubbles up), combine bananas, sugar, butter, lemon juice, and heat uncovered over medium to medium-high heat, allowing mixture to come to a rolling boil.
- Allow mixture to boil uncovered for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until thickened to desired level. Jam continues to thicken as it cools. Over the 15 to 20 minutes, stir frequently and make temperature adjustments to stove so mixture doesn’t burn.
- Turn heat to low, and add the cinnamon, vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, and stir to combine. You may wish to add less than the full amount listed all at once, and first taste your jam and see what it needs. Then, to taste, tinker with the ratio of cinnamon and vanilla. I used the amounts listed.
- Transfer jam to 8-ounce glass jar or heat-safe container with a lid. Storage is up to you. I store mine airtight at room temp, for up to 5 days. It will likely keep longer, especially in the refrigerator, but I haven’t tested it. I have no idea about canning jam in a water bath if it will work or how long to process.
- Use the jam on bread, toast, rolls, crackers, dip apples or pears in in it, or make peanut butter and banana jam sandwiches. It would make a great crepe or stuffed-French toast filling or use as the filling in One-Hour Cinnamon Rolls. Incorporating a hearty dollop of it into banana bread or banana muffins would boost the overall banana flavor and moistness of the recipe. Or just eat by the spoonful.
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