Jammin' with Teen Battle Chefs

There is an extraordinary troupe of young chefs in several states who "fight" under the rubric of Teen Battle Chefs. Created by teen-health advocate and educator, Lynn Fredericks, this concept deserves a tv show of its own.  I've watched these kids compete and they are tops! Professional, passionate, and competitive.  Here is an example of  what goes on in the kitchen trenches.  Written by Hannah Cohen, the HealthCorps Coordinator at North Bergen High School in New Jersey who teaches Teen Battle Chefs, as witnessed on the battlefield  one recent afternoon:  From Carrot Sweets to Sweet Success. One afternoon at Teen Battle Chef, I decided to attempt Sweet Carrot Jam with my chefs. My co-workers and I had discussed cooking something totally unfamiliar to us with our students, to show them that we are not afraid to take chances. I stick to Rozanne Gold's Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs because I know her recipes are teen tested and approved, and reliable. She has a recipe for Sweet Carrot Jam, so I decided my chefs and I would cook the jam.

I've never made jam before, so we were all in for an adventure!

"The first time we made the sweet carrot jam was interesting. Instead of jam, we made candy." -Milagros

I'm not going to say it failed, but we didn't make jam.... The recipe said to cook for 1 hour, but the induction burners cook much differently than regular burners. The jam cooked too fast, and all the water evaporated. So, the sugar crystallized and hardened. We made carrot candy instead! My students became intrigued, so we put the mixture on wax paper to harden. I let the students take the candy home, and we each tried to find a way to eat it without cracking our teeth!

"It tasted better than expected! My mom melted the hardened candy and shaped it into baby carrots. She loved the candy so much, she wanted to keep it all to herself!"- Lyli

"Next week, we tried a second time. This recipe was a success. " - Tevin

The second try, we successfully made Sweet Carrot Jam! Of course, not without a little snafu….

A chef accidentally added twice the amount of water than the recipe called for. Not to worry! I knew we could leave the lid off while simmering, allowing the water to evaporate. This process took a little while. My students had to leave, so they didn't get to see the final product. (We will just have to make more!)

"I was not able to munch on it, but it was delicious enough just looking at it! " - Zeinab

Eventually, a nice syrup formed. I spooned the jam into jam jars then tied a black and white checkered ribbon around them. The jam was given to the teachers who successfully completed a Personal Wellness Challenge.

"The chunky texture of the carrots makes this jam great with crackers & cheese! "- Ms. Reilly

One teacher's husband devoured it.

"You don't need to make it exactly by the recipe to enjoy." - Lyli

Sweet Carrot Jam

Adapted from Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs. Ms. Gold said she sometimes adds ground cardamom for added interest and flavor.  Just a pinch will do.

1 pound carrots
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Peel the carrots, cut them into 1 ½ inch pieces, and put in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until they are coarsely ground (about 1/8-inch pieces). You will have about 3 cups. Put the carrots in a heavy 4-quart medium size pot. Add the sugar, lemon juice, 1 cup water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a rapid boil and cook for 1 minute. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 1 hour, stirring frequently. To see if it is ready to jell, place 1 tablespoon of the mixture on a small plate and put in the freezer for 1 minute. If it becomes firm and doesn't flow, it is done even though it will still look quite liquid in the pot. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool. Spoon the mixture into a jar. Cover and refrigerate.