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San Francisco's Sweet Side

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Where to find nostalgia treats, small-batch sweets, and sleek truffles in Hayes Valley

Two of San Francisco's best sweet shops are just around the corner from each other in Hayes Valley.

In this video by GloboMaestro.com, San Francisco expert Antonio Barrios — head concierge at The St. Regis San Francisco — takes you to the charming cake-and-candy shop Miette. Here you'll find an incomparable collection of nostalgia treats, a trove of small-batch, boutique sweets, and organic baked goods. (In fact, owner Meg Ray has just published her first cookbook, The Miette Bakery Cookbook.)

A stone's throw from Miette is one of only two Christopher Elbow chocolate boutiques in the country. Antonio shows us just why Elbow's artisanal chocolates are worth seeking out.


Capture the best of California's peaches in preserves, with a dose of revolution

1 of 3 Peach preserves, made by Shakirah Simley in her San Francisco apartment on August 8, 2020. Simley prefers a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit for a mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit once at home. “You want the best fruit because you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” Simley says. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Rosy pink peach juice and cane sugar roil together in a copper jam pot, tight bubbles tapping out a steady beat on the stove top like a good, hard summer rain. Chunks of O&rsquoHenry peaches bobble at the surface among the foam while steamy puffs of fragrant air linger in my kitchen.

&ldquoThat looks great from here!&rdquo says Shakirah Simley&rsquos encouraging voice as she peers into my pot from my laptop.

It&rsquos canning season during a pandemic.

In a normal year, my inner granny gets a thrill from canning seasonal produce for my family and friends. When I open my pantry and view those rainbow rows of jam, pickle and syrup jars, I see jars of possibility: PB&Js for my kids, gifts for friends&rsquo birthdays, new baby-care packages or just what my cocktail was missing. This year, I&rsquove found canning to be a particular comfort. I may not see my parents or send my kids to school for six months, but at least I&rsquoll have the family&rsquos favorite pickled cherries.

That&rsquos how I found myself virtually learning to make preserves one on one from Shakirah Simley, who also goes by Shak. With all that&rsquos going on in the world, I wanted to deepen my preservation practice and its connection to the community, and she&rsquos the perfect person for both. She&rsquos a self-taught preserver who started a socially conscious jam company, Slow Jams, at 22. She then became Bi-Rite Market&rsquos canner-in-residence, where she created recipes for its private-label jams, pickles and preserves and taught canning classes at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite&rsquos nonprofit cooking school.

Simley&rsquos style of preserving isn&rsquot precious it&rsquos about self-sufficiency and community. It fits in with her background of community organizing around food equity, including Nourish Resist, a people of color (POC)-run social justice group she helped create. After Bi-Rite, she decided to work in local government to help create a more equitable food system and is the director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco.

These days, Simley is not making as much jam, but when she does, it&rsquos late at night and her way to de-stress. Today, we&rsquore making her summer peach preserves. &ldquoJam is crushed fruit that&rsquos cooked down, it&rsquos thinner,&rdquo she says from her San Francisco apartment, while cooking over a portable burner so I can see her in her tiny kitchen.

&ldquoPreserves are spoonable pieces of fruit that you can see in the jar and break down on your delicious toast. I&rsquom thinking of you opening this jar in December or January . and thinking this tastes like summer.&rdquo Aside from fruit prep, preserves and jam are cooked the same way, quickly over high heat. As a die-hard jam fan, she&rsquos already sold me.

Simley, who completed the Master Food Preserver course through the University of California&rsquos Cooperative Extension program, likes to cook her stone fruit before adding sugar because she says the sugar freezes the fruit in place, and we want soft fruit. We simmer skin-on, chopped peaches with water to release juices and soften, a bubbling, melting sunset.

Pot: A heavy bottomed, nonreactive (stainless steel or copper) pot is best, especially for high-acid fruits. The best pots have a wide top and narrow bottom with sloped sides, which allows for more evaporation.

Pectin: Pectin thickens jams and preserves, but Simley prefers the natural pectin in fruit skin (unripe fruit has more). "If you rely too heavily on commercial pectin, you aren't learning key parts about the jam making process," she says.

Fruit: High-quality, seasonal, farm-direct fruit is a must, ideally organic or no spray. Stone fruit should be heavy, fragrant and give slightly when you hold it. Avoid cut, bruised or browning fruit, or split pits, which might introduce bacteria, mold or microorganisms into the preserves.

Sugar: Sugar improves flavor and inhibits the growth of mold, bacteria and microorganisms. She prefers 3:1 or 4:1 ratio by weight of fruit to sugar, more fruit forward than the typical 1:1 ratio.

Acid: Citrus juice, vinegar or citric acid adds bite and makes the jam safer by inhibiting mold, bacteria and microorganism growth, while zest adds a floral note. Eureka lemons are good for acid, Meyer for flavor.

Cooking: Jams and preserves are cooked on high and fast heat to preserve the natural fruit flavor. Add spices in a cheesecloth bag at the beginning of cooking, but use extracts, herbs and alcohol at the end for more flavor.

Help: Master Food Preservers from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master program answer any questions you may have. http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/

Part of her passion for fruit comes from growing up without access to it. She was raised with four siblings by her single mother in Harlem, a food desert. Simley remembers in summer, her mother, who was a substance-abuse case manager, would occasionally bring home fresh fruit from vendors in wealthier neighborhoods. She grew up with Welch&rsquos jam, so coming to the Bay Area was like a wonderland of seasonal fruit she had never tried before. The first time she made her own jam, she was hooked. This is what jam could be.

Simley explains that her superpower is picking perfect fruit: She pays attention to details like how the same fruit tastes different throughout the season. Peaches that come in around late August, for instance, are dense with sweet and acidic flavors. Earlier in the season, she says they have more water.

She also doesn&rsquot like using super ripe fruit, which I thought was a requirement for jam and preserves. Instead, a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit makes for her ideal mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit before canning. &ldquoYou want the best fruit because you can&rsquot put lipstick on a pig,&rdquo Simley says. &ldquoIf it tastes like crap fresh, it&rsquoll taste like crap in jam.&rdquo But also, with any water bath canning, she says to avoid fruit with bruising, browning or wormholes because you don&rsquot want to introduce any microorganisms, mold or bacteria that can make your food unsafe.

We stir sugar into the cooked peaches until it dissolves, then bring it to a rolling boil. It gets darker as the blushed skin bleeds into the syrup, making it jewel toned. As jam or preserves cooks, you&rsquoll have two different types of bubbles, she tells me. &ldquoYou&rsquoll go from these tighter, fast bubbles to these slow, big ralump ralump bubbles,&rdquo she says laughing, referring to the noise that the bubbles make.&ldquoThat&rsquos what I call them, that&rsquos what they are.&rdquo

For her, canning is about sharing your jars and your privilege. She learned to take care of the community at home, where she watched her mother support people with HIV, which was ravaging New York City during her childhood. Her grandmother also worked as a social worker, and was a Black Panther and community leader. Canning makes a lot, so sharing makes sense.

&ldquoIf you&rsquore healthy, why not make care packages and check in on neighbors and elderly residents?&rdquo she says.

At Slow Jams, she offered jam-making classes to anyone who couldn&rsquot afford her jam, and helped people preserve their backyard fruit. These are all things that home preservers can do, swapping in-person canning with a phone or laptop and video chat.

Simley believes that community support should extend to the people who make our jam and food possible. For Slow Jams, she sourced fruit from urban farmers, women and POC farmers. Our food industry and agriculture are suffering because of the pandemic, so she suggests shopping at farmers&rsquo markets, which keep farms open, and supporting traditionally marginalized farmers.

But jamming alone isn&rsquot enough. Simley stressed the importance of voting for policies that support communities of color on the state and local level, and holding local leaders accountable for supporting POC essential workers, including farm workers who have been put in unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Issues such as housing and universal health care need to be addressed at a larger level, she says.

&ldquoThere is a person behind that peach in your jar of jam. What do they need?&rdquo Simley asks. &ldquoAs much as we want to fill our pantries, we also have to pay attention to policies.&rdquo

We finish the class by testing the set of our preserves with a spoon test. We dip our spatulas into the preserves, run our finger down the middle, and see if the two sides run together again (not set) or stay separate (set).

&ldquoPeople were always intrigued by me as a Black jam maker,&rdquo she says, even though there&rsquos a long history of canning and preserving in African American food culture. People think of an older white woman in the Midwest with gingham jar covers, she explains, or a young white woman with impossible-to-reproduce recipes. As she recently told the New York Times, she thinks it&rsquos because systemic racism holds back Black jam makers, an issue that was raised by a recent controversy at Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles that in part involved the owner being accused of taking credit for Black and POC workers&rsquo recipes in her cookbook on jam.

&ldquoHere you have me with my Afro and social justice approach and advocacy work I was doing . I was a little more democratic.&rdquo

The only Black canning resource she knows of is the second cookbook ever written by a Black American, &ldquoWhat Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking&rdquo (1881). Abby Fisher was a former illiterate slave who became a multimillionaire with her jam and pickle empire in San Francisco, so her book was full of jam recipes. Fisher is a huge inspiration to Simley.

I leave the jam session feeling inspired. Thoughtful jam and preserves making can go beyond putting up your favorite fruit and help preserve the vulnerable parts of our community. Simley reminds me: &ldquoPreservation is supposed to be selfless.&rdquo


Capture the best of California's peaches in preserves, with a dose of revolution

1 of 3 Peach preserves, made by Shakirah Simley in her San Francisco apartment on August 8, 2020. Simley prefers a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit for a mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit once at home. “You want the best fruit because you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” Simley says. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Rosy pink peach juice and cane sugar roil together in a copper jam pot, tight bubbles tapping out a steady beat on the stove top like a good, hard summer rain. Chunks of O&rsquoHenry peaches bobble at the surface among the foam while steamy puffs of fragrant air linger in my kitchen.

&ldquoThat looks great from here!&rdquo says Shakirah Simley&rsquos encouraging voice as she peers into my pot from my laptop.

It&rsquos canning season during a pandemic.

In a normal year, my inner granny gets a thrill from canning seasonal produce for my family and friends. When I open my pantry and view those rainbow rows of jam, pickle and syrup jars, I see jars of possibility: PB&Js for my kids, gifts for friends&rsquo birthdays, new baby-care packages or just what my cocktail was missing. This year, I&rsquove found canning to be a particular comfort. I may not see my parents or send my kids to school for six months, but at least I&rsquoll have the family&rsquos favorite pickled cherries.

That&rsquos how I found myself virtually learning to make preserves one on one from Shakirah Simley, who also goes by Shak. With all that&rsquos going on in the world, I wanted to deepen my preservation practice and its connection to the community, and she&rsquos the perfect person for both. She&rsquos a self-taught preserver who started a socially conscious jam company, Slow Jams, at 22. She then became Bi-Rite Market&rsquos canner-in-residence, where she created recipes for its private-label jams, pickles and preserves and taught canning classes at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite&rsquos nonprofit cooking school.

Simley&rsquos style of preserving isn&rsquot precious it&rsquos about self-sufficiency and community. It fits in with her background of community organizing around food equity, including Nourish Resist, a people of color (POC)-run social justice group she helped create. After Bi-Rite, she decided to work in local government to help create a more equitable food system and is the director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco.

These days, Simley is not making as much jam, but when she does, it&rsquos late at night and her way to de-stress. Today, we&rsquore making her summer peach preserves. &ldquoJam is crushed fruit that&rsquos cooked down, it&rsquos thinner,&rdquo she says from her San Francisco apartment, while cooking over a portable burner so I can see her in her tiny kitchen.

&ldquoPreserves are spoonable pieces of fruit that you can see in the jar and break down on your delicious toast. I&rsquom thinking of you opening this jar in December or January . and thinking this tastes like summer.&rdquo Aside from fruit prep, preserves and jam are cooked the same way, quickly over high heat. As a die-hard jam fan, she&rsquos already sold me.

Simley, who completed the Master Food Preserver course through the University of California&rsquos Cooperative Extension program, likes to cook her stone fruit before adding sugar because she says the sugar freezes the fruit in place, and we want soft fruit. We simmer skin-on, chopped peaches with water to release juices and soften, a bubbling, melting sunset.

Pot: A heavy bottomed, nonreactive (stainless steel or copper) pot is best, especially for high-acid fruits. The best pots have a wide top and narrow bottom with sloped sides, which allows for more evaporation.

Pectin: Pectin thickens jams and preserves, but Simley prefers the natural pectin in fruit skin (unripe fruit has more). "If you rely too heavily on commercial pectin, you aren't learning key parts about the jam making process," she says.

Fruit: High-quality, seasonal, farm-direct fruit is a must, ideally organic or no spray. Stone fruit should be heavy, fragrant and give slightly when you hold it. Avoid cut, bruised or browning fruit, or split pits, which might introduce bacteria, mold or microorganisms into the preserves.

Sugar: Sugar improves flavor and inhibits the growth of mold, bacteria and microorganisms. She prefers 3:1 or 4:1 ratio by weight of fruit to sugar, more fruit forward than the typical 1:1 ratio.

Acid: Citrus juice, vinegar or citric acid adds bite and makes the jam safer by inhibiting mold, bacteria and microorganism growth, while zest adds a floral note. Eureka lemons are good for acid, Meyer for flavor.

Cooking: Jams and preserves are cooked on high and fast heat to preserve the natural fruit flavor. Add spices in a cheesecloth bag at the beginning of cooking, but use extracts, herbs and alcohol at the end for more flavor.

Help: Master Food Preservers from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master program answer any questions you may have. http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/

Part of her passion for fruit comes from growing up without access to it. She was raised with four siblings by her single mother in Harlem, a food desert. Simley remembers in summer, her mother, who was a substance-abuse case manager, would occasionally bring home fresh fruit from vendors in wealthier neighborhoods. She grew up with Welch&rsquos jam, so coming to the Bay Area was like a wonderland of seasonal fruit she had never tried before. The first time she made her own jam, she was hooked. This is what jam could be.

Simley explains that her superpower is picking perfect fruit: She pays attention to details like how the same fruit tastes different throughout the season. Peaches that come in around late August, for instance, are dense with sweet and acidic flavors. Earlier in the season, she says they have more water.

She also doesn&rsquot like using super ripe fruit, which I thought was a requirement for jam and preserves. Instead, a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit makes for her ideal mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit before canning. &ldquoYou want the best fruit because you can&rsquot put lipstick on a pig,&rdquo Simley says. &ldquoIf it tastes like crap fresh, it&rsquoll taste like crap in jam.&rdquo But also, with any water bath canning, she says to avoid fruit with bruising, browning or wormholes because you don&rsquot want to introduce any microorganisms, mold or bacteria that can make your food unsafe.

We stir sugar into the cooked peaches until it dissolves, then bring it to a rolling boil. It gets darker as the blushed skin bleeds into the syrup, making it jewel toned. As jam or preserves cooks, you&rsquoll have two different types of bubbles, she tells me. &ldquoYou&rsquoll go from these tighter, fast bubbles to these slow, big ralump ralump bubbles,&rdquo she says laughing, referring to the noise that the bubbles make.&ldquoThat&rsquos what I call them, that&rsquos what they are.&rdquo

For her, canning is about sharing your jars and your privilege. She learned to take care of the community at home, where she watched her mother support people with HIV, which was ravaging New York City during her childhood. Her grandmother also worked as a social worker, and was a Black Panther and community leader. Canning makes a lot, so sharing makes sense.

&ldquoIf you&rsquore healthy, why not make care packages and check in on neighbors and elderly residents?&rdquo she says.

At Slow Jams, she offered jam-making classes to anyone who couldn&rsquot afford her jam, and helped people preserve their backyard fruit. These are all things that home preservers can do, swapping in-person canning with a phone or laptop and video chat.

Simley believes that community support should extend to the people who make our jam and food possible. For Slow Jams, she sourced fruit from urban farmers, women and POC farmers. Our food industry and agriculture are suffering because of the pandemic, so she suggests shopping at farmers&rsquo markets, which keep farms open, and supporting traditionally marginalized farmers.

But jamming alone isn&rsquot enough. Simley stressed the importance of voting for policies that support communities of color on the state and local level, and holding local leaders accountable for supporting POC essential workers, including farm workers who have been put in unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Issues such as housing and universal health care need to be addressed at a larger level, she says.

&ldquoThere is a person behind that peach in your jar of jam. What do they need?&rdquo Simley asks. &ldquoAs much as we want to fill our pantries, we also have to pay attention to policies.&rdquo

We finish the class by testing the set of our preserves with a spoon test. We dip our spatulas into the preserves, run our finger down the middle, and see if the two sides run together again (not set) or stay separate (set).

&ldquoPeople were always intrigued by me as a Black jam maker,&rdquo she says, even though there&rsquos a long history of canning and preserving in African American food culture. People think of an older white woman in the Midwest with gingham jar covers, she explains, or a young white woman with impossible-to-reproduce recipes. As she recently told the New York Times, she thinks it&rsquos because systemic racism holds back Black jam makers, an issue that was raised by a recent controversy at Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles that in part involved the owner being accused of taking credit for Black and POC workers&rsquo recipes in her cookbook on jam.

&ldquoHere you have me with my Afro and social justice approach and advocacy work I was doing . I was a little more democratic.&rdquo

The only Black canning resource she knows of is the second cookbook ever written by a Black American, &ldquoWhat Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking&rdquo (1881). Abby Fisher was a former illiterate slave who became a multimillionaire with her jam and pickle empire in San Francisco, so her book was full of jam recipes. Fisher is a huge inspiration to Simley.

I leave the jam session feeling inspired. Thoughtful jam and preserves making can go beyond putting up your favorite fruit and help preserve the vulnerable parts of our community. Simley reminds me: &ldquoPreservation is supposed to be selfless.&rdquo


Capture the best of California's peaches in preserves, with a dose of revolution

1 of 3 Peach preserves, made by Shakirah Simley in her San Francisco apartment on August 8, 2020. Simley prefers a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit for a mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit once at home. “You want the best fruit because you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” Simley says. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Rosy pink peach juice and cane sugar roil together in a copper jam pot, tight bubbles tapping out a steady beat on the stove top like a good, hard summer rain. Chunks of O&rsquoHenry peaches bobble at the surface among the foam while steamy puffs of fragrant air linger in my kitchen.

&ldquoThat looks great from here!&rdquo says Shakirah Simley&rsquos encouraging voice as she peers into my pot from my laptop.

It&rsquos canning season during a pandemic.

In a normal year, my inner granny gets a thrill from canning seasonal produce for my family and friends. When I open my pantry and view those rainbow rows of jam, pickle and syrup jars, I see jars of possibility: PB&Js for my kids, gifts for friends&rsquo birthdays, new baby-care packages or just what my cocktail was missing. This year, I&rsquove found canning to be a particular comfort. I may not see my parents or send my kids to school for six months, but at least I&rsquoll have the family&rsquos favorite pickled cherries.

That&rsquos how I found myself virtually learning to make preserves one on one from Shakirah Simley, who also goes by Shak. With all that&rsquos going on in the world, I wanted to deepen my preservation practice and its connection to the community, and she&rsquos the perfect person for both. She&rsquos a self-taught preserver who started a socially conscious jam company, Slow Jams, at 22. She then became Bi-Rite Market&rsquos canner-in-residence, where she created recipes for its private-label jams, pickles and preserves and taught canning classes at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite&rsquos nonprofit cooking school.

Simley&rsquos style of preserving isn&rsquot precious it&rsquos about self-sufficiency and community. It fits in with her background of community organizing around food equity, including Nourish Resist, a people of color (POC)-run social justice group she helped create. After Bi-Rite, she decided to work in local government to help create a more equitable food system and is the director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco.

These days, Simley is not making as much jam, but when she does, it&rsquos late at night and her way to de-stress. Today, we&rsquore making her summer peach preserves. &ldquoJam is crushed fruit that&rsquos cooked down, it&rsquos thinner,&rdquo she says from her San Francisco apartment, while cooking over a portable burner so I can see her in her tiny kitchen.

&ldquoPreserves are spoonable pieces of fruit that you can see in the jar and break down on your delicious toast. I&rsquom thinking of you opening this jar in December or January . and thinking this tastes like summer.&rdquo Aside from fruit prep, preserves and jam are cooked the same way, quickly over high heat. As a die-hard jam fan, she&rsquos already sold me.

Simley, who completed the Master Food Preserver course through the University of California&rsquos Cooperative Extension program, likes to cook her stone fruit before adding sugar because she says the sugar freezes the fruit in place, and we want soft fruit. We simmer skin-on, chopped peaches with water to release juices and soften, a bubbling, melting sunset.

Pot: A heavy bottomed, nonreactive (stainless steel or copper) pot is best, especially for high-acid fruits. The best pots have a wide top and narrow bottom with sloped sides, which allows for more evaporation.

Pectin: Pectin thickens jams and preserves, but Simley prefers the natural pectin in fruit skin (unripe fruit has more). "If you rely too heavily on commercial pectin, you aren't learning key parts about the jam making process," she says.

Fruit: High-quality, seasonal, farm-direct fruit is a must, ideally organic or no spray. Stone fruit should be heavy, fragrant and give slightly when you hold it. Avoid cut, bruised or browning fruit, or split pits, which might introduce bacteria, mold or microorganisms into the preserves.

Sugar: Sugar improves flavor and inhibits the growth of mold, bacteria and microorganisms. She prefers 3:1 or 4:1 ratio by weight of fruit to sugar, more fruit forward than the typical 1:1 ratio.

Acid: Citrus juice, vinegar or citric acid adds bite and makes the jam safer by inhibiting mold, bacteria and microorganism growth, while zest adds a floral note. Eureka lemons are good for acid, Meyer for flavor.

Cooking: Jams and preserves are cooked on high and fast heat to preserve the natural fruit flavor. Add spices in a cheesecloth bag at the beginning of cooking, but use extracts, herbs and alcohol at the end for more flavor.

Help: Master Food Preservers from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master program answer any questions you may have. http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/

Part of her passion for fruit comes from growing up without access to it. She was raised with four siblings by her single mother in Harlem, a food desert. Simley remembers in summer, her mother, who was a substance-abuse case manager, would occasionally bring home fresh fruit from vendors in wealthier neighborhoods. She grew up with Welch&rsquos jam, so coming to the Bay Area was like a wonderland of seasonal fruit she had never tried before. The first time she made her own jam, she was hooked. This is what jam could be.

Simley explains that her superpower is picking perfect fruit: She pays attention to details like how the same fruit tastes different throughout the season. Peaches that come in around late August, for instance, are dense with sweet and acidic flavors. Earlier in the season, she says they have more water.

She also doesn&rsquot like using super ripe fruit, which I thought was a requirement for jam and preserves. Instead, a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit makes for her ideal mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit before canning. &ldquoYou want the best fruit because you can&rsquot put lipstick on a pig,&rdquo Simley says. &ldquoIf it tastes like crap fresh, it&rsquoll taste like crap in jam.&rdquo But also, with any water bath canning, she says to avoid fruit with bruising, browning or wormholes because you don&rsquot want to introduce any microorganisms, mold or bacteria that can make your food unsafe.

We stir sugar into the cooked peaches until it dissolves, then bring it to a rolling boil. It gets darker as the blushed skin bleeds into the syrup, making it jewel toned. As jam or preserves cooks, you&rsquoll have two different types of bubbles, she tells me. &ldquoYou&rsquoll go from these tighter, fast bubbles to these slow, big ralump ralump bubbles,&rdquo she says laughing, referring to the noise that the bubbles make.&ldquoThat&rsquos what I call them, that&rsquos what they are.&rdquo

For her, canning is about sharing your jars and your privilege. She learned to take care of the community at home, where she watched her mother support people with HIV, which was ravaging New York City during her childhood. Her grandmother also worked as a social worker, and was a Black Panther and community leader. Canning makes a lot, so sharing makes sense.

&ldquoIf you&rsquore healthy, why not make care packages and check in on neighbors and elderly residents?&rdquo she says.

At Slow Jams, she offered jam-making classes to anyone who couldn&rsquot afford her jam, and helped people preserve their backyard fruit. These are all things that home preservers can do, swapping in-person canning with a phone or laptop and video chat.

Simley believes that community support should extend to the people who make our jam and food possible. For Slow Jams, she sourced fruit from urban farmers, women and POC farmers. Our food industry and agriculture are suffering because of the pandemic, so she suggests shopping at farmers&rsquo markets, which keep farms open, and supporting traditionally marginalized farmers.

But jamming alone isn&rsquot enough. Simley stressed the importance of voting for policies that support communities of color on the state and local level, and holding local leaders accountable for supporting POC essential workers, including farm workers who have been put in unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Issues such as housing and universal health care need to be addressed at a larger level, she says.

&ldquoThere is a person behind that peach in your jar of jam. What do they need?&rdquo Simley asks. &ldquoAs much as we want to fill our pantries, we also have to pay attention to policies.&rdquo

We finish the class by testing the set of our preserves with a spoon test. We dip our spatulas into the preserves, run our finger down the middle, and see if the two sides run together again (not set) or stay separate (set).

&ldquoPeople were always intrigued by me as a Black jam maker,&rdquo she says, even though there&rsquos a long history of canning and preserving in African American food culture. People think of an older white woman in the Midwest with gingham jar covers, she explains, or a young white woman with impossible-to-reproduce recipes. As she recently told the New York Times, she thinks it&rsquos because systemic racism holds back Black jam makers, an issue that was raised by a recent controversy at Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles that in part involved the owner being accused of taking credit for Black and POC workers&rsquo recipes in her cookbook on jam.

&ldquoHere you have me with my Afro and social justice approach and advocacy work I was doing . I was a little more democratic.&rdquo

The only Black canning resource she knows of is the second cookbook ever written by a Black American, &ldquoWhat Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking&rdquo (1881). Abby Fisher was a former illiterate slave who became a multimillionaire with her jam and pickle empire in San Francisco, so her book was full of jam recipes. Fisher is a huge inspiration to Simley.

I leave the jam session feeling inspired. Thoughtful jam and preserves making can go beyond putting up your favorite fruit and help preserve the vulnerable parts of our community. Simley reminds me: &ldquoPreservation is supposed to be selfless.&rdquo


Capture the best of California's peaches in preserves, with a dose of revolution

1 of 3 Peach preserves, made by Shakirah Simley in her San Francisco apartment on August 8, 2020. Simley prefers a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit for a mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit once at home. “You want the best fruit because you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” Simley says. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Rosy pink peach juice and cane sugar roil together in a copper jam pot, tight bubbles tapping out a steady beat on the stove top like a good, hard summer rain. Chunks of O&rsquoHenry peaches bobble at the surface among the foam while steamy puffs of fragrant air linger in my kitchen.

&ldquoThat looks great from here!&rdquo says Shakirah Simley&rsquos encouraging voice as she peers into my pot from my laptop.

It&rsquos canning season during a pandemic.

In a normal year, my inner granny gets a thrill from canning seasonal produce for my family and friends. When I open my pantry and view those rainbow rows of jam, pickle and syrup jars, I see jars of possibility: PB&Js for my kids, gifts for friends&rsquo birthdays, new baby-care packages or just what my cocktail was missing. This year, I&rsquove found canning to be a particular comfort. I may not see my parents or send my kids to school for six months, but at least I&rsquoll have the family&rsquos favorite pickled cherries.

That&rsquos how I found myself virtually learning to make preserves one on one from Shakirah Simley, who also goes by Shak. With all that&rsquos going on in the world, I wanted to deepen my preservation practice and its connection to the community, and she&rsquos the perfect person for both. She&rsquos a self-taught preserver who started a socially conscious jam company, Slow Jams, at 22. She then became Bi-Rite Market&rsquos canner-in-residence, where she created recipes for its private-label jams, pickles and preserves and taught canning classes at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite&rsquos nonprofit cooking school.

Simley&rsquos style of preserving isn&rsquot precious it&rsquos about self-sufficiency and community. It fits in with her background of community organizing around food equity, including Nourish Resist, a people of color (POC)-run social justice group she helped create. After Bi-Rite, she decided to work in local government to help create a more equitable food system and is the director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco.

These days, Simley is not making as much jam, but when she does, it&rsquos late at night and her way to de-stress. Today, we&rsquore making her summer peach preserves. &ldquoJam is crushed fruit that&rsquos cooked down, it&rsquos thinner,&rdquo she says from her San Francisco apartment, while cooking over a portable burner so I can see her in her tiny kitchen.

&ldquoPreserves are spoonable pieces of fruit that you can see in the jar and break down on your delicious toast. I&rsquom thinking of you opening this jar in December or January . and thinking this tastes like summer.&rdquo Aside from fruit prep, preserves and jam are cooked the same way, quickly over high heat. As a die-hard jam fan, she&rsquos already sold me.

Simley, who completed the Master Food Preserver course through the University of California&rsquos Cooperative Extension program, likes to cook her stone fruit before adding sugar because she says the sugar freezes the fruit in place, and we want soft fruit. We simmer skin-on, chopped peaches with water to release juices and soften, a bubbling, melting sunset.

Pot: A heavy bottomed, nonreactive (stainless steel or copper) pot is best, especially for high-acid fruits. The best pots have a wide top and narrow bottom with sloped sides, which allows for more evaporation.

Pectin: Pectin thickens jams and preserves, but Simley prefers the natural pectin in fruit skin (unripe fruit has more). "If you rely too heavily on commercial pectin, you aren't learning key parts about the jam making process," she says.

Fruit: High-quality, seasonal, farm-direct fruit is a must, ideally organic or no spray. Stone fruit should be heavy, fragrant and give slightly when you hold it. Avoid cut, bruised or browning fruit, or split pits, which might introduce bacteria, mold or microorganisms into the preserves.

Sugar: Sugar improves flavor and inhibits the growth of mold, bacteria and microorganisms. She prefers 3:1 or 4:1 ratio by weight of fruit to sugar, more fruit forward than the typical 1:1 ratio.

Acid: Citrus juice, vinegar or citric acid adds bite and makes the jam safer by inhibiting mold, bacteria and microorganism growth, while zest adds a floral note. Eureka lemons are good for acid, Meyer for flavor.

Cooking: Jams and preserves are cooked on high and fast heat to preserve the natural fruit flavor. Add spices in a cheesecloth bag at the beginning of cooking, but use extracts, herbs and alcohol at the end for more flavor.

Help: Master Food Preservers from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master program answer any questions you may have. http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/

Part of her passion for fruit comes from growing up without access to it. She was raised with four siblings by her single mother in Harlem, a food desert. Simley remembers in summer, her mother, who was a substance-abuse case manager, would occasionally bring home fresh fruit from vendors in wealthier neighborhoods. She grew up with Welch&rsquos jam, so coming to the Bay Area was like a wonderland of seasonal fruit she had never tried before. The first time she made her own jam, she was hooked. This is what jam could be.

Simley explains that her superpower is picking perfect fruit: She pays attention to details like how the same fruit tastes different throughout the season. Peaches that come in around late August, for instance, are dense with sweet and acidic flavors. Earlier in the season, she says they have more water.

She also doesn&rsquot like using super ripe fruit, which I thought was a requirement for jam and preserves. Instead, a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit makes for her ideal mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit before canning. &ldquoYou want the best fruit because you can&rsquot put lipstick on a pig,&rdquo Simley says. &ldquoIf it tastes like crap fresh, it&rsquoll taste like crap in jam.&rdquo But also, with any water bath canning, she says to avoid fruit with bruising, browning or wormholes because you don&rsquot want to introduce any microorganisms, mold or bacteria that can make your food unsafe.

We stir sugar into the cooked peaches until it dissolves, then bring it to a rolling boil. It gets darker as the blushed skin bleeds into the syrup, making it jewel toned. As jam or preserves cooks, you&rsquoll have two different types of bubbles, she tells me. &ldquoYou&rsquoll go from these tighter, fast bubbles to these slow, big ralump ralump bubbles,&rdquo she says laughing, referring to the noise that the bubbles make.&ldquoThat&rsquos what I call them, that&rsquos what they are.&rdquo

For her, canning is about sharing your jars and your privilege. She learned to take care of the community at home, where she watched her mother support people with HIV, which was ravaging New York City during her childhood. Her grandmother also worked as a social worker, and was a Black Panther and community leader. Canning makes a lot, so sharing makes sense.

&ldquoIf you&rsquore healthy, why not make care packages and check in on neighbors and elderly residents?&rdquo she says.

At Slow Jams, she offered jam-making classes to anyone who couldn&rsquot afford her jam, and helped people preserve their backyard fruit. These are all things that home preservers can do, swapping in-person canning with a phone or laptop and video chat.

Simley believes that community support should extend to the people who make our jam and food possible. For Slow Jams, she sourced fruit from urban farmers, women and POC farmers. Our food industry and agriculture are suffering because of the pandemic, so she suggests shopping at farmers&rsquo markets, which keep farms open, and supporting traditionally marginalized farmers.

But jamming alone isn&rsquot enough. Simley stressed the importance of voting for policies that support communities of color on the state and local level, and holding local leaders accountable for supporting POC essential workers, including farm workers who have been put in unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Issues such as housing and universal health care need to be addressed at a larger level, she says.

&ldquoThere is a person behind that peach in your jar of jam. What do they need?&rdquo Simley asks. &ldquoAs much as we want to fill our pantries, we also have to pay attention to policies.&rdquo

We finish the class by testing the set of our preserves with a spoon test. We dip our spatulas into the preserves, run our finger down the middle, and see if the two sides run together again (not set) or stay separate (set).

&ldquoPeople were always intrigued by me as a Black jam maker,&rdquo she says, even though there&rsquos a long history of canning and preserving in African American food culture. People think of an older white woman in the Midwest with gingham jar covers, she explains, or a young white woman with impossible-to-reproduce recipes. As she recently told the New York Times, she thinks it&rsquos because systemic racism holds back Black jam makers, an issue that was raised by a recent controversy at Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles that in part involved the owner being accused of taking credit for Black and POC workers&rsquo recipes in her cookbook on jam.

&ldquoHere you have me with my Afro and social justice approach and advocacy work I was doing . I was a little more democratic.&rdquo

The only Black canning resource she knows of is the second cookbook ever written by a Black American, &ldquoWhat Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking&rdquo (1881). Abby Fisher was a former illiterate slave who became a multimillionaire with her jam and pickle empire in San Francisco, so her book was full of jam recipes. Fisher is a huge inspiration to Simley.

I leave the jam session feeling inspired. Thoughtful jam and preserves making can go beyond putting up your favorite fruit and help preserve the vulnerable parts of our community. Simley reminds me: &ldquoPreservation is supposed to be selfless.&rdquo


Capture the best of California's peaches in preserves, with a dose of revolution

1 of 3 Peach preserves, made by Shakirah Simley in her San Francisco apartment on August 8, 2020. Simley prefers a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit for a mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit once at home. “You want the best fruit because you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” Simley says. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Rosy pink peach juice and cane sugar roil together in a copper jam pot, tight bubbles tapping out a steady beat on the stove top like a good, hard summer rain. Chunks of O&rsquoHenry peaches bobble at the surface among the foam while steamy puffs of fragrant air linger in my kitchen.

&ldquoThat looks great from here!&rdquo says Shakirah Simley&rsquos encouraging voice as she peers into my pot from my laptop.

It&rsquos canning season during a pandemic.

In a normal year, my inner granny gets a thrill from canning seasonal produce for my family and friends. When I open my pantry and view those rainbow rows of jam, pickle and syrup jars, I see jars of possibility: PB&Js for my kids, gifts for friends&rsquo birthdays, new baby-care packages or just what my cocktail was missing. This year, I&rsquove found canning to be a particular comfort. I may not see my parents or send my kids to school for six months, but at least I&rsquoll have the family&rsquos favorite pickled cherries.

That&rsquos how I found myself virtually learning to make preserves one on one from Shakirah Simley, who also goes by Shak. With all that&rsquos going on in the world, I wanted to deepen my preservation practice and its connection to the community, and she&rsquos the perfect person for both. She&rsquos a self-taught preserver who started a socially conscious jam company, Slow Jams, at 22. She then became Bi-Rite Market&rsquos canner-in-residence, where she created recipes for its private-label jams, pickles and preserves and taught canning classes at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite&rsquos nonprofit cooking school.

Simley&rsquos style of preserving isn&rsquot precious it&rsquos about self-sufficiency and community. It fits in with her background of community organizing around food equity, including Nourish Resist, a people of color (POC)-run social justice group she helped create. After Bi-Rite, she decided to work in local government to help create a more equitable food system and is the director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco.

These days, Simley is not making as much jam, but when she does, it&rsquos late at night and her way to de-stress. Today, we&rsquore making her summer peach preserves. &ldquoJam is crushed fruit that&rsquos cooked down, it&rsquos thinner,&rdquo she says from her San Francisco apartment, while cooking over a portable burner so I can see her in her tiny kitchen.

&ldquoPreserves are spoonable pieces of fruit that you can see in the jar and break down on your delicious toast. I&rsquom thinking of you opening this jar in December or January . and thinking this tastes like summer.&rdquo Aside from fruit prep, preserves and jam are cooked the same way, quickly over high heat. As a die-hard jam fan, she&rsquos already sold me.

Simley, who completed the Master Food Preserver course through the University of California&rsquos Cooperative Extension program, likes to cook her stone fruit before adding sugar because she says the sugar freezes the fruit in place, and we want soft fruit. We simmer skin-on, chopped peaches with water to release juices and soften, a bubbling, melting sunset.

Pot: A heavy bottomed, nonreactive (stainless steel or copper) pot is best, especially for high-acid fruits. The best pots have a wide top and narrow bottom with sloped sides, which allows for more evaporation.

Pectin: Pectin thickens jams and preserves, but Simley prefers the natural pectin in fruit skin (unripe fruit has more). "If you rely too heavily on commercial pectin, you aren't learning key parts about the jam making process," she says.

Fruit: High-quality, seasonal, farm-direct fruit is a must, ideally organic or no spray. Stone fruit should be heavy, fragrant and give slightly when you hold it. Avoid cut, bruised or browning fruit, or split pits, which might introduce bacteria, mold or microorganisms into the preserves.

Sugar: Sugar improves flavor and inhibits the growth of mold, bacteria and microorganisms. She prefers 3:1 or 4:1 ratio by weight of fruit to sugar, more fruit forward than the typical 1:1 ratio.

Acid: Citrus juice, vinegar or citric acid adds bite and makes the jam safer by inhibiting mold, bacteria and microorganism growth, while zest adds a floral note. Eureka lemons are good for acid, Meyer for flavor.

Cooking: Jams and preserves are cooked on high and fast heat to preserve the natural fruit flavor. Add spices in a cheesecloth bag at the beginning of cooking, but use extracts, herbs and alcohol at the end for more flavor.

Help: Master Food Preservers from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master program answer any questions you may have. http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/

Part of her passion for fruit comes from growing up without access to it. She was raised with four siblings by her single mother in Harlem, a food desert. Simley remembers in summer, her mother, who was a substance-abuse case manager, would occasionally bring home fresh fruit from vendors in wealthier neighborhoods. She grew up with Welch&rsquos jam, so coming to the Bay Area was like a wonderland of seasonal fruit she had never tried before. The first time she made her own jam, she was hooked. This is what jam could be.

Simley explains that her superpower is picking perfect fruit: She pays attention to details like how the same fruit tastes different throughout the season. Peaches that come in around late August, for instance, are dense with sweet and acidic flavors. Earlier in the season, she says they have more water.

She also doesn&rsquot like using super ripe fruit, which I thought was a requirement for jam and preserves. Instead, a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit makes for her ideal mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit before canning. &ldquoYou want the best fruit because you can&rsquot put lipstick on a pig,&rdquo Simley says. &ldquoIf it tastes like crap fresh, it&rsquoll taste like crap in jam.&rdquo But also, with any water bath canning, she says to avoid fruit with bruising, browning or wormholes because you don&rsquot want to introduce any microorganisms, mold or bacteria that can make your food unsafe.

We stir sugar into the cooked peaches until it dissolves, then bring it to a rolling boil. It gets darker as the blushed skin bleeds into the syrup, making it jewel toned. As jam or preserves cooks, you&rsquoll have two different types of bubbles, she tells me. &ldquoYou&rsquoll go from these tighter, fast bubbles to these slow, big ralump ralump bubbles,&rdquo she says laughing, referring to the noise that the bubbles make.&ldquoThat&rsquos what I call them, that&rsquos what they are.&rdquo

For her, canning is about sharing your jars and your privilege. She learned to take care of the community at home, where she watched her mother support people with HIV, which was ravaging New York City during her childhood. Her grandmother also worked as a social worker, and was a Black Panther and community leader. Canning makes a lot, so sharing makes sense.

&ldquoIf you&rsquore healthy, why not make care packages and check in on neighbors and elderly residents?&rdquo she says.

At Slow Jams, she offered jam-making classes to anyone who couldn&rsquot afford her jam, and helped people preserve their backyard fruit. These are all things that home preservers can do, swapping in-person canning with a phone or laptop and video chat.

Simley believes that community support should extend to the people who make our jam and food possible. For Slow Jams, she sourced fruit from urban farmers, women and POC farmers. Our food industry and agriculture are suffering because of the pandemic, so she suggests shopping at farmers&rsquo markets, which keep farms open, and supporting traditionally marginalized farmers.

But jamming alone isn&rsquot enough. Simley stressed the importance of voting for policies that support communities of color on the state and local level, and holding local leaders accountable for supporting POC essential workers, including farm workers who have been put in unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Issues such as housing and universal health care need to be addressed at a larger level, she says.

&ldquoThere is a person behind that peach in your jar of jam. What do they need?&rdquo Simley asks. &ldquoAs much as we want to fill our pantries, we also have to pay attention to policies.&rdquo

We finish the class by testing the set of our preserves with a spoon test. We dip our spatulas into the preserves, run our finger down the middle, and see if the two sides run together again (not set) or stay separate (set).

&ldquoPeople were always intrigued by me as a Black jam maker,&rdquo she says, even though there&rsquos a long history of canning and preserving in African American food culture. People think of an older white woman in the Midwest with gingham jar covers, she explains, or a young white woman with impossible-to-reproduce recipes. As she recently told the New York Times, she thinks it&rsquos because systemic racism holds back Black jam makers, an issue that was raised by a recent controversy at Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles that in part involved the owner being accused of taking credit for Black and POC workers&rsquo recipes in her cookbook on jam.

&ldquoHere you have me with my Afro and social justice approach and advocacy work I was doing . I was a little more democratic.&rdquo

The only Black canning resource she knows of is the second cookbook ever written by a Black American, &ldquoWhat Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking&rdquo (1881). Abby Fisher was a former illiterate slave who became a multimillionaire with her jam and pickle empire in San Francisco, so her book was full of jam recipes. Fisher is a huge inspiration to Simley.

I leave the jam session feeling inspired. Thoughtful jam and preserves making can go beyond putting up your favorite fruit and help preserve the vulnerable parts of our community. Simley reminds me: &ldquoPreservation is supposed to be selfless.&rdquo


Capture the best of California's peaches in preserves, with a dose of revolution

1 of 3 Peach preserves, made by Shakirah Simley in her San Francisco apartment on August 8, 2020. Simley prefers a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit for a mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit once at home. “You want the best fruit because you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” Simley says. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Rosy pink peach juice and cane sugar roil together in a copper jam pot, tight bubbles tapping out a steady beat on the stove top like a good, hard summer rain. Chunks of O&rsquoHenry peaches bobble at the surface among the foam while steamy puffs of fragrant air linger in my kitchen.

&ldquoThat looks great from here!&rdquo says Shakirah Simley&rsquos encouraging voice as she peers into my pot from my laptop.

It&rsquos canning season during a pandemic.

In a normal year, my inner granny gets a thrill from canning seasonal produce for my family and friends. When I open my pantry and view those rainbow rows of jam, pickle and syrup jars, I see jars of possibility: PB&Js for my kids, gifts for friends&rsquo birthdays, new baby-care packages or just what my cocktail was missing. This year, I&rsquove found canning to be a particular comfort. I may not see my parents or send my kids to school for six months, but at least I&rsquoll have the family&rsquos favorite pickled cherries.

That&rsquos how I found myself virtually learning to make preserves one on one from Shakirah Simley, who also goes by Shak. With all that&rsquos going on in the world, I wanted to deepen my preservation practice and its connection to the community, and she&rsquos the perfect person for both. She&rsquos a self-taught preserver who started a socially conscious jam company, Slow Jams, at 22. She then became Bi-Rite Market&rsquos canner-in-residence, where she created recipes for its private-label jams, pickles and preserves and taught canning classes at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite&rsquos nonprofit cooking school.

Simley&rsquos style of preserving isn&rsquot precious it&rsquos about self-sufficiency and community. It fits in with her background of community organizing around food equity, including Nourish Resist, a people of color (POC)-run social justice group she helped create. After Bi-Rite, she decided to work in local government to help create a more equitable food system and is the director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco.

These days, Simley is not making as much jam, but when she does, it&rsquos late at night and her way to de-stress. Today, we&rsquore making her summer peach preserves. &ldquoJam is crushed fruit that&rsquos cooked down, it&rsquos thinner,&rdquo she says from her San Francisco apartment, while cooking over a portable burner so I can see her in her tiny kitchen.

&ldquoPreserves are spoonable pieces of fruit that you can see in the jar and break down on your delicious toast. I&rsquom thinking of you opening this jar in December or January . and thinking this tastes like summer.&rdquo Aside from fruit prep, preserves and jam are cooked the same way, quickly over high heat. As a die-hard jam fan, she&rsquos already sold me.

Simley, who completed the Master Food Preserver course through the University of California&rsquos Cooperative Extension program, likes to cook her stone fruit before adding sugar because she says the sugar freezes the fruit in place, and we want soft fruit. We simmer skin-on, chopped peaches with water to release juices and soften, a bubbling, melting sunset.

Pot: A heavy bottomed, nonreactive (stainless steel or copper) pot is best, especially for high-acid fruits. The best pots have a wide top and narrow bottom with sloped sides, which allows for more evaporation.

Pectin: Pectin thickens jams and preserves, but Simley prefers the natural pectin in fruit skin (unripe fruit has more). "If you rely too heavily on commercial pectin, you aren't learning key parts about the jam making process," she says.

Fruit: High-quality, seasonal, farm-direct fruit is a must, ideally organic or no spray. Stone fruit should be heavy, fragrant and give slightly when you hold it. Avoid cut, bruised or browning fruit, or split pits, which might introduce bacteria, mold or microorganisms into the preserves.

Sugar: Sugar improves flavor and inhibits the growth of mold, bacteria and microorganisms. She prefers 3:1 or 4:1 ratio by weight of fruit to sugar, more fruit forward than the typical 1:1 ratio.

Acid: Citrus juice, vinegar or citric acid adds bite and makes the jam safer by inhibiting mold, bacteria and microorganism growth, while zest adds a floral note. Eureka lemons are good for acid, Meyer for flavor.

Cooking: Jams and preserves are cooked on high and fast heat to preserve the natural fruit flavor. Add spices in a cheesecloth bag at the beginning of cooking, but use extracts, herbs and alcohol at the end for more flavor.

Help: Master Food Preservers from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master program answer any questions you may have. http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/

Part of her passion for fruit comes from growing up without access to it. She was raised with four siblings by her single mother in Harlem, a food desert. Simley remembers in summer, her mother, who was a substance-abuse case manager, would occasionally bring home fresh fruit from vendors in wealthier neighborhoods. She grew up with Welch&rsquos jam, so coming to the Bay Area was like a wonderland of seasonal fruit she had never tried before. The first time she made her own jam, she was hooked. This is what jam could be.

Simley explains that her superpower is picking perfect fruit: She pays attention to details like how the same fruit tastes different throughout the season. Peaches that come in around late August, for instance, are dense with sweet and acidic flavors. Earlier in the season, she says they have more water.

She also doesn&rsquot like using super ripe fruit, which I thought was a requirement for jam and preserves. Instead, a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit makes for her ideal mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit before canning. &ldquoYou want the best fruit because you can&rsquot put lipstick on a pig,&rdquo Simley says. &ldquoIf it tastes like crap fresh, it&rsquoll taste like crap in jam.&rdquo But also, with any water bath canning, she says to avoid fruit with bruising, browning or wormholes because you don&rsquot want to introduce any microorganisms, mold or bacteria that can make your food unsafe.

We stir sugar into the cooked peaches until it dissolves, then bring it to a rolling boil. It gets darker as the blushed skin bleeds into the syrup, making it jewel toned. As jam or preserves cooks, you&rsquoll have two different types of bubbles, she tells me. &ldquoYou&rsquoll go from these tighter, fast bubbles to these slow, big ralump ralump bubbles,&rdquo she says laughing, referring to the noise that the bubbles make.&ldquoThat&rsquos what I call them, that&rsquos what they are.&rdquo

For her, canning is about sharing your jars and your privilege. She learned to take care of the community at home, where she watched her mother support people with HIV, which was ravaging New York City during her childhood. Her grandmother also worked as a social worker, and was a Black Panther and community leader. Canning makes a lot, so sharing makes sense.

&ldquoIf you&rsquore healthy, why not make care packages and check in on neighbors and elderly residents?&rdquo she says.

At Slow Jams, she offered jam-making classes to anyone who couldn&rsquot afford her jam, and helped people preserve their backyard fruit. These are all things that home preservers can do, swapping in-person canning with a phone or laptop and video chat.

Simley believes that community support should extend to the people who make our jam and food possible. For Slow Jams, she sourced fruit from urban farmers, women and POC farmers. Our food industry and agriculture are suffering because of the pandemic, so she suggests shopping at farmers&rsquo markets, which keep farms open, and supporting traditionally marginalized farmers.

But jamming alone isn&rsquot enough. Simley stressed the importance of voting for policies that support communities of color on the state and local level, and holding local leaders accountable for supporting POC essential workers, including farm workers who have been put in unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Issues such as housing and universal health care need to be addressed at a larger level, she says.

&ldquoThere is a person behind that peach in your jar of jam. What do they need?&rdquo Simley asks. &ldquoAs much as we want to fill our pantries, we also have to pay attention to policies.&rdquo

We finish the class by testing the set of our preserves with a spoon test. We dip our spatulas into the preserves, run our finger down the middle, and see if the two sides run together again (not set) or stay separate (set).

&ldquoPeople were always intrigued by me as a Black jam maker,&rdquo she says, even though there&rsquos a long history of canning and preserving in African American food culture. People think of an older white woman in the Midwest with gingham jar covers, she explains, or a young white woman with impossible-to-reproduce recipes. As she recently told the New York Times, she thinks it&rsquos because systemic racism holds back Black jam makers, an issue that was raised by a recent controversy at Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles that in part involved the owner being accused of taking credit for Black and POC workers&rsquo recipes in her cookbook on jam.

&ldquoHere you have me with my Afro and social justice approach and advocacy work I was doing . I was a little more democratic.&rdquo

The only Black canning resource she knows of is the second cookbook ever written by a Black American, &ldquoWhat Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking&rdquo (1881). Abby Fisher was a former illiterate slave who became a multimillionaire with her jam and pickle empire in San Francisco, so her book was full of jam recipes. Fisher is a huge inspiration to Simley.

I leave the jam session feeling inspired. Thoughtful jam and preserves making can go beyond putting up your favorite fruit and help preserve the vulnerable parts of our community. Simley reminds me: &ldquoPreservation is supposed to be selfless.&rdquo


Capture the best of California's peaches in preserves, with a dose of revolution

1 of 3 Peach preserves, made by Shakirah Simley in her San Francisco apartment on August 8, 2020. Simley prefers a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit for a mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit once at home. “You want the best fruit because you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” Simley says. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Rosy pink peach juice and cane sugar roil together in a copper jam pot, tight bubbles tapping out a steady beat on the stove top like a good, hard summer rain. Chunks of O&rsquoHenry peaches bobble at the surface among the foam while steamy puffs of fragrant air linger in my kitchen.

&ldquoThat looks great from here!&rdquo says Shakirah Simley&rsquos encouraging voice as she peers into my pot from my laptop.

It&rsquos canning season during a pandemic.

In a normal year, my inner granny gets a thrill from canning seasonal produce for my family and friends. When I open my pantry and view those rainbow rows of jam, pickle and syrup jars, I see jars of possibility: PB&Js for my kids, gifts for friends&rsquo birthdays, new baby-care packages or just what my cocktail was missing. This year, I&rsquove found canning to be a particular comfort. I may not see my parents or send my kids to school for six months, but at least I&rsquoll have the family&rsquos favorite pickled cherries.

That&rsquos how I found myself virtually learning to make preserves one on one from Shakirah Simley, who also goes by Shak. With all that&rsquos going on in the world, I wanted to deepen my preservation practice and its connection to the community, and she&rsquos the perfect person for both. She&rsquos a self-taught preserver who started a socially conscious jam company, Slow Jams, at 22. She then became Bi-Rite Market&rsquos canner-in-residence, where she created recipes for its private-label jams, pickles and preserves and taught canning classes at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite&rsquos nonprofit cooking school.

Simley&rsquos style of preserving isn&rsquot precious it&rsquos about self-sufficiency and community. It fits in with her background of community organizing around food equity, including Nourish Resist, a people of color (POC)-run social justice group she helped create. After Bi-Rite, she decided to work in local government to help create a more equitable food system and is the director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco.

These days, Simley is not making as much jam, but when she does, it&rsquos late at night and her way to de-stress. Today, we&rsquore making her summer peach preserves. &ldquoJam is crushed fruit that&rsquos cooked down, it&rsquos thinner,&rdquo she says from her San Francisco apartment, while cooking over a portable burner so I can see her in her tiny kitchen.

&ldquoPreserves are spoonable pieces of fruit that you can see in the jar and break down on your delicious toast. I&rsquom thinking of you opening this jar in December or January . and thinking this tastes like summer.&rdquo Aside from fruit prep, preserves and jam are cooked the same way, quickly over high heat. As a die-hard jam fan, she&rsquos already sold me.

Simley, who completed the Master Food Preserver course through the University of California&rsquos Cooperative Extension program, likes to cook her stone fruit before adding sugar because she says the sugar freezes the fruit in place, and we want soft fruit. We simmer skin-on, chopped peaches with water to release juices and soften, a bubbling, melting sunset.

Pot: A heavy bottomed, nonreactive (stainless steel or copper) pot is best, especially for high-acid fruits. The best pots have a wide top and narrow bottom with sloped sides, which allows for more evaporation.

Pectin: Pectin thickens jams and preserves, but Simley prefers the natural pectin in fruit skin (unripe fruit has more). "If you rely too heavily on commercial pectin, you aren't learning key parts about the jam making process," she says.

Fruit: High-quality, seasonal, farm-direct fruit is a must, ideally organic or no spray. Stone fruit should be heavy, fragrant and give slightly when you hold it. Avoid cut, bruised or browning fruit, or split pits, which might introduce bacteria, mold or microorganisms into the preserves.

Sugar: Sugar improves flavor and inhibits the growth of mold, bacteria and microorganisms. She prefers 3:1 or 4:1 ratio by weight of fruit to sugar, more fruit forward than the typical 1:1 ratio.

Acid: Citrus juice, vinegar or citric acid adds bite and makes the jam safer by inhibiting mold, bacteria and microorganism growth, while zest adds a floral note. Eureka lemons are good for acid, Meyer for flavor.

Cooking: Jams and preserves are cooked on high and fast heat to preserve the natural fruit flavor. Add spices in a cheesecloth bag at the beginning of cooking, but use extracts, herbs and alcohol at the end for more flavor.

Help: Master Food Preservers from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master program answer any questions you may have. http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/

Part of her passion for fruit comes from growing up without access to it. She was raised with four siblings by her single mother in Harlem, a food desert. Simley remembers in summer, her mother, who was a substance-abuse case manager, would occasionally bring home fresh fruit from vendors in wealthier neighborhoods. She grew up with Welch&rsquos jam, so coming to the Bay Area was like a wonderland of seasonal fruit she had never tried before. The first time she made her own jam, she was hooked. This is what jam could be.

Simley explains that her superpower is picking perfect fruit: She pays attention to details like how the same fruit tastes different throughout the season. Peaches that come in around late August, for instance, are dense with sweet and acidic flavors. Earlier in the season, she says they have more water.

She also doesn&rsquot like using super ripe fruit, which I thought was a requirement for jam and preserves. Instead, a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit makes for her ideal mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit before canning. &ldquoYou want the best fruit because you can&rsquot put lipstick on a pig,&rdquo Simley says. &ldquoIf it tastes like crap fresh, it&rsquoll taste like crap in jam.&rdquo But also, with any water bath canning, she says to avoid fruit with bruising, browning or wormholes because you don&rsquot want to introduce any microorganisms, mold or bacteria that can make your food unsafe.

We stir sugar into the cooked peaches until it dissolves, then bring it to a rolling boil. It gets darker as the blushed skin bleeds into the syrup, making it jewel toned. As jam or preserves cooks, you&rsquoll have two different types of bubbles, she tells me. &ldquoYou&rsquoll go from these tighter, fast bubbles to these slow, big ralump ralump bubbles,&rdquo she says laughing, referring to the noise that the bubbles make.&ldquoThat&rsquos what I call them, that&rsquos what they are.&rdquo

For her, canning is about sharing your jars and your privilege. She learned to take care of the community at home, where she watched her mother support people with HIV, which was ravaging New York City during her childhood. Her grandmother also worked as a social worker, and was a Black Panther and community leader. Canning makes a lot, so sharing makes sense.

&ldquoIf you&rsquore healthy, why not make care packages and check in on neighbors and elderly residents?&rdquo she says.

At Slow Jams, she offered jam-making classes to anyone who couldn&rsquot afford her jam, and helped people preserve their backyard fruit. These are all things that home preservers can do, swapping in-person canning with a phone or laptop and video chat.

Simley believes that community support should extend to the people who make our jam and food possible. For Slow Jams, she sourced fruit from urban farmers, women and POC farmers. Our food industry and agriculture are suffering because of the pandemic, so she suggests shopping at farmers&rsquo markets, which keep farms open, and supporting traditionally marginalized farmers.

But jamming alone isn&rsquot enough. Simley stressed the importance of voting for policies that support communities of color on the state and local level, and holding local leaders accountable for supporting POC essential workers, including farm workers who have been put in unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Issues such as housing and universal health care need to be addressed at a larger level, she says.

&ldquoThere is a person behind that peach in your jar of jam. What do they need?&rdquo Simley asks. &ldquoAs much as we want to fill our pantries, we also have to pay attention to policies.&rdquo

We finish the class by testing the set of our preserves with a spoon test. We dip our spatulas into the preserves, run our finger down the middle, and see if the two sides run together again (not set) or stay separate (set).

&ldquoPeople were always intrigued by me as a Black jam maker,&rdquo she says, even though there&rsquos a long history of canning and preserving in African American food culture. People think of an older white woman in the Midwest with gingham jar covers, she explains, or a young white woman with impossible-to-reproduce recipes. As she recently told the New York Times, she thinks it&rsquos because systemic racism holds back Black jam makers, an issue that was raised by a recent controversy at Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles that in part involved the owner being accused of taking credit for Black and POC workers&rsquo recipes in her cookbook on jam.

&ldquoHere you have me with my Afro and social justice approach and advocacy work I was doing . I was a little more democratic.&rdquo

The only Black canning resource she knows of is the second cookbook ever written by a Black American, &ldquoWhat Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking&rdquo (1881). Abby Fisher was a former illiterate slave who became a multimillionaire with her jam and pickle empire in San Francisco, so her book was full of jam recipes. Fisher is a huge inspiration to Simley.

I leave the jam session feeling inspired. Thoughtful jam and preserves making can go beyond putting up your favorite fruit and help preserve the vulnerable parts of our community. Simley reminds me: &ldquoPreservation is supposed to be selfless.&rdquo


Capture the best of California's peaches in preserves, with a dose of revolution

1 of 3 Peach preserves, made by Shakirah Simley in her San Francisco apartment on August 8, 2020. Simley prefers a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit for a mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit once at home. “You want the best fruit because you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” Simley says. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Rosy pink peach juice and cane sugar roil together in a copper jam pot, tight bubbles tapping out a steady beat on the stove top like a good, hard summer rain. Chunks of O&rsquoHenry peaches bobble at the surface among the foam while steamy puffs of fragrant air linger in my kitchen.

&ldquoThat looks great from here!&rdquo says Shakirah Simley&rsquos encouraging voice as she peers into my pot from my laptop.

It&rsquos canning season during a pandemic.

In a normal year, my inner granny gets a thrill from canning seasonal produce for my family and friends. When I open my pantry and view those rainbow rows of jam, pickle and syrup jars, I see jars of possibility: PB&Js for my kids, gifts for friends&rsquo birthdays, new baby-care packages or just what my cocktail was missing. This year, I&rsquove found canning to be a particular comfort. I may not see my parents or send my kids to school for six months, but at least I&rsquoll have the family&rsquos favorite pickled cherries.

That&rsquos how I found myself virtually learning to make preserves one on one from Shakirah Simley, who also goes by Shak. With all that&rsquos going on in the world, I wanted to deepen my preservation practice and its connection to the community, and she&rsquos the perfect person for both. She&rsquos a self-taught preserver who started a socially conscious jam company, Slow Jams, at 22. She then became Bi-Rite Market&rsquos canner-in-residence, where she created recipes for its private-label jams, pickles and preserves and taught canning classes at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite&rsquos nonprofit cooking school.

Simley&rsquos style of preserving isn&rsquot precious it&rsquos about self-sufficiency and community. It fits in with her background of community organizing around food equity, including Nourish Resist, a people of color (POC)-run social justice group she helped create. After Bi-Rite, she decided to work in local government to help create a more equitable food system and is the director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco.

These days, Simley is not making as much jam, but when she does, it&rsquos late at night and her way to de-stress. Today, we&rsquore making her summer peach preserves. &ldquoJam is crushed fruit that&rsquos cooked down, it&rsquos thinner,&rdquo she says from her San Francisco apartment, while cooking over a portable burner so I can see her in her tiny kitchen.

&ldquoPreserves are spoonable pieces of fruit that you can see in the jar and break down on your delicious toast. I&rsquom thinking of you opening this jar in December or January . and thinking this tastes like summer.&rdquo Aside from fruit prep, preserves and jam are cooked the same way, quickly over high heat. As a die-hard jam fan, she&rsquos already sold me.

Simley, who completed the Master Food Preserver course through the University of California&rsquos Cooperative Extension program, likes to cook her stone fruit before adding sugar because she says the sugar freezes the fruit in place, and we want soft fruit. We simmer skin-on, chopped peaches with water to release juices and soften, a bubbling, melting sunset.

Pot: A heavy bottomed, nonreactive (stainless steel or copper) pot is best, especially for high-acid fruits. The best pots have a wide top and narrow bottom with sloped sides, which allows for more evaporation.

Pectin: Pectin thickens jams and preserves, but Simley prefers the natural pectin in fruit skin (unripe fruit has more). "If you rely too heavily on commercial pectin, you aren't learning key parts about the jam making process," she says.

Fruit: High-quality, seasonal, farm-direct fruit is a must, ideally organic or no spray. Stone fruit should be heavy, fragrant and give slightly when you hold it. Avoid cut, bruised or browning fruit, or split pits, which might introduce bacteria, mold or microorganisms into the preserves.

Sugar: Sugar improves flavor and inhibits the growth of mold, bacteria and microorganisms. She prefers 3:1 or 4:1 ratio by weight of fruit to sugar, more fruit forward than the typical 1:1 ratio.

Acid: Citrus juice, vinegar or citric acid adds bite and makes the jam safer by inhibiting mold, bacteria and microorganism growth, while zest adds a floral note. Eureka lemons are good for acid, Meyer for flavor.

Cooking: Jams and preserves are cooked on high and fast heat to preserve the natural fruit flavor. Add spices in a cheesecloth bag at the beginning of cooking, but use extracts, herbs and alcohol at the end for more flavor.

Help: Master Food Preservers from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master program answer any questions you may have. http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/

Part of her passion for fruit comes from growing up without access to it. She was raised with four siblings by her single mother in Harlem, a food desert. Simley remembers in summer, her mother, who was a substance-abuse case manager, would occasionally bring home fresh fruit from vendors in wealthier neighborhoods. She grew up with Welch&rsquos jam, so coming to the Bay Area was like a wonderland of seasonal fruit she had never tried before. The first time she made her own jam, she was hooked. This is what jam could be.

Simley explains that her superpower is picking perfect fruit: She pays attention to details like how the same fruit tastes different throughout the season. Peaches that come in around late August, for instance, are dense with sweet and acidic flavors. Earlier in the season, she says they have more water.

She also doesn&rsquot like using super ripe fruit, which I thought was a requirement for jam and preserves. Instead, a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit makes for her ideal mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit before canning. &ldquoYou want the best fruit because you can&rsquot put lipstick on a pig,&rdquo Simley says. &ldquoIf it tastes like crap fresh, it&rsquoll taste like crap in jam.&rdquo But also, with any water bath canning, she says to avoid fruit with bruising, browning or wormholes because you don&rsquot want to introduce any microorganisms, mold or bacteria that can make your food unsafe.

We stir sugar into the cooked peaches until it dissolves, then bring it to a rolling boil. It gets darker as the blushed skin bleeds into the syrup, making it jewel toned. As jam or preserves cooks, you&rsquoll have two different types of bubbles, she tells me. &ldquoYou&rsquoll go from these tighter, fast bubbles to these slow, big ralump ralump bubbles,&rdquo she says laughing, referring to the noise that the bubbles make.&ldquoThat&rsquos what I call them, that&rsquos what they are.&rdquo

For her, canning is about sharing your jars and your privilege. She learned to take care of the community at home, where she watched her mother support people with HIV, which was ravaging New York City during her childhood. Her grandmother also worked as a social worker, and was a Black Panther and community leader. Canning makes a lot, so sharing makes sense.

&ldquoIf you&rsquore healthy, why not make care packages and check in on neighbors and elderly residents?&rdquo she says.

At Slow Jams, she offered jam-making classes to anyone who couldn&rsquot afford her jam, and helped people preserve their backyard fruit. These are all things that home preservers can do, swapping in-person canning with a phone or laptop and video chat.

Simley believes that community support should extend to the people who make our jam and food possible. For Slow Jams, she sourced fruit from urban farmers, women and POC farmers. Our food industry and agriculture are suffering because of the pandemic, so she suggests shopping at farmers&rsquo markets, which keep farms open, and supporting traditionally marginalized farmers.

But jamming alone isn&rsquot enough. Simley stressed the importance of voting for policies that support communities of color on the state and local level, and holding local leaders accountable for supporting POC essential workers, including farm workers who have been put in unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Issues such as housing and universal health care need to be addressed at a larger level, she says.

&ldquoThere is a person behind that peach in your jar of jam. What do they need?&rdquo Simley asks. &ldquoAs much as we want to fill our pantries, we also have to pay attention to policies.&rdquo

We finish the class by testing the set of our preserves with a spoon test. We dip our spatulas into the preserves, run our finger down the middle, and see if the two sides run together again (not set) or stay separate (set).

&ldquoPeople were always intrigued by me as a Black jam maker,&rdquo she says, even though there&rsquos a long history of canning and preserving in African American food culture. People think of an older white woman in the Midwest with gingham jar covers, she explains, or a young white woman with impossible-to-reproduce recipes. As she recently told the New York Times, she thinks it&rsquos because systemic racism holds back Black jam makers, an issue that was raised by a recent controversy at Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles that in part involved the owner being accused of taking credit for Black and POC workers&rsquo recipes in her cookbook on jam.

&ldquoHere you have me with my Afro and social justice approach and advocacy work I was doing . I was a little more democratic.&rdquo

The only Black canning resource she knows of is the second cookbook ever written by a Black American, &ldquoWhat Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking&rdquo (1881). Abby Fisher was a former illiterate slave who became a multimillionaire with her jam and pickle empire in San Francisco, so her book was full of jam recipes. Fisher is a huge inspiration to Simley.

I leave the jam session feeling inspired. Thoughtful jam and preserves making can go beyond putting up your favorite fruit and help preserve the vulnerable parts of our community. Simley reminds me: &ldquoPreservation is supposed to be selfless.&rdquo


Capture the best of California's peaches in preserves, with a dose of revolution

1 of 3 Peach preserves, made by Shakirah Simley in her San Francisco apartment on August 8, 2020. Simley prefers a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit for a mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit once at home. “You want the best fruit because you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” Simley says. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Rosy pink peach juice and cane sugar roil together in a copper jam pot, tight bubbles tapping out a steady beat on the stove top like a good, hard summer rain. Chunks of O&rsquoHenry peaches bobble at the surface among the foam while steamy puffs of fragrant air linger in my kitchen.

&ldquoThat looks great from here!&rdquo says Shakirah Simley&rsquos encouraging voice as she peers into my pot from my laptop.

It&rsquos canning season during a pandemic.

In a normal year, my inner granny gets a thrill from canning seasonal produce for my family and friends. When I open my pantry and view those rainbow rows of jam, pickle and syrup jars, I see jars of possibility: PB&Js for my kids, gifts for friends&rsquo birthdays, new baby-care packages or just what my cocktail was missing. This year, I&rsquove found canning to be a particular comfort. I may not see my parents or send my kids to school for six months, but at least I&rsquoll have the family&rsquos favorite pickled cherries.

That&rsquos how I found myself virtually learning to make preserves one on one from Shakirah Simley, who also goes by Shak. With all that&rsquos going on in the world, I wanted to deepen my preservation practice and its connection to the community, and she&rsquos the perfect person for both. She&rsquos a self-taught preserver who started a socially conscious jam company, Slow Jams, at 22. She then became Bi-Rite Market&rsquos canner-in-residence, where she created recipes for its private-label jams, pickles and preserves and taught canning classes at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite&rsquos nonprofit cooking school.

Simley&rsquos style of preserving isn&rsquot precious it&rsquos about self-sufficiency and community. It fits in with her background of community organizing around food equity, including Nourish Resist, a people of color (POC)-run social justice group she helped create. After Bi-Rite, she decided to work in local government to help create a more equitable food system and is the director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco.

These days, Simley is not making as much jam, but when she does, it&rsquos late at night and her way to de-stress. Today, we&rsquore making her summer peach preserves. &ldquoJam is crushed fruit that&rsquos cooked down, it&rsquos thinner,&rdquo she says from her San Francisco apartment, while cooking over a portable burner so I can see her in her tiny kitchen.

&ldquoPreserves are spoonable pieces of fruit that you can see in the jar and break down on your delicious toast. I&rsquom thinking of you opening this jar in December or January . and thinking this tastes like summer.&rdquo Aside from fruit prep, preserves and jam are cooked the same way, quickly over high heat. As a die-hard jam fan, she&rsquos already sold me.

Simley, who completed the Master Food Preserver course through the University of California&rsquos Cooperative Extension program, likes to cook her stone fruit before adding sugar because she says the sugar freezes the fruit in place, and we want soft fruit. We simmer skin-on, chopped peaches with water to release juices and soften, a bubbling, melting sunset.

Pot: A heavy bottomed, nonreactive (stainless steel or copper) pot is best, especially for high-acid fruits. The best pots have a wide top and narrow bottom with sloped sides, which allows for more evaporation.

Pectin: Pectin thickens jams and preserves, but Simley prefers the natural pectin in fruit skin (unripe fruit has more). "If you rely too heavily on commercial pectin, you aren't learning key parts about the jam making process," she says.

Fruit: High-quality, seasonal, farm-direct fruit is a must, ideally organic or no spray. Stone fruit should be heavy, fragrant and give slightly when you hold it. Avoid cut, bruised or browning fruit, or split pits, which might introduce bacteria, mold or microorganisms into the preserves.

Sugar: Sugar improves flavor and inhibits the growth of mold, bacteria and microorganisms. She prefers 3:1 or 4:1 ratio by weight of fruit to sugar, more fruit forward than the typical 1:1 ratio.

Acid: Citrus juice, vinegar or citric acid adds bite and makes the jam safer by inhibiting mold, bacteria and microorganism growth, while zest adds a floral note. Eureka lemons are good for acid, Meyer for flavor.

Cooking: Jams and preserves are cooked on high and fast heat to preserve the natural fruit flavor. Add spices in a cheesecloth bag at the beginning of cooking, but use extracts, herbs and alcohol at the end for more flavor.

Help: Master Food Preservers from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master program answer any questions you may have. http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/

Part of her passion for fruit comes from growing up without access to it. She was raised with four siblings by her single mother in Harlem, a food desert. Simley remembers in summer, her mother, who was a substance-abuse case manager, would occasionally bring home fresh fruit from vendors in wealthier neighborhoods. She grew up with Welch&rsquos jam, so coming to the Bay Area was like a wonderland of seasonal fruit she had never tried before. The first time she made her own jam, she was hooked. This is what jam could be.

Simley explains that her superpower is picking perfect fruit: She pays attention to details like how the same fruit tastes different throughout the season. Peaches that come in around late August, for instance, are dense with sweet and acidic flavors. Earlier in the season, she says they have more water.

She also doesn&rsquot like using super ripe fruit, which I thought was a requirement for jam and preserves. Instead, a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit makes for her ideal mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit before canning. &ldquoYou want the best fruit because you can&rsquot put lipstick on a pig,&rdquo Simley says. &ldquoIf it tastes like crap fresh, it&rsquoll taste like crap in jam.&rdquo But also, with any water bath canning, she says to avoid fruit with bruising, browning or wormholes because you don&rsquot want to introduce any microorganisms, mold or bacteria that can make your food unsafe.

We stir sugar into the cooked peaches until it dissolves, then bring it to a rolling boil. It gets darker as the blushed skin bleeds into the syrup, making it jewel toned. As jam or preserves cooks, you&rsquoll have two different types of bubbles, she tells me. &ldquoYou&rsquoll go from these tighter, fast bubbles to these slow, big ralump ralump bubbles,&rdquo she says laughing, referring to the noise that the bubbles make.&ldquoThat&rsquos what I call them, that&rsquos what they are.&rdquo

For her, canning is about sharing your jars and your privilege. She learned to take care of the community at home, where she watched her mother support people with HIV, which was ravaging New York City during her childhood. Her grandmother also worked as a social worker, and was a Black Panther and community leader. Canning makes a lot, so sharing makes sense.

&ldquoIf you&rsquore healthy, why not make care packages and check in on neighbors and elderly residents?&rdquo she says.

At Slow Jams, she offered jam-making classes to anyone who couldn&rsquot afford her jam, and helped people preserve their backyard fruit. These are all things that home preservers can do, swapping in-person canning with a phone or laptop and video chat.

Simley believes that community support should extend to the people who make our jam and food possible. For Slow Jams, she sourced fruit from urban farmers, women and POC farmers. Our food industry and agriculture are suffering because of the pandemic, so she suggests shopping at farmers&rsquo markets, which keep farms open, and supporting traditionally marginalized farmers.

But jamming alone isn&rsquot enough. Simley stressed the importance of voting for policies that support communities of color on the state and local level, and holding local leaders accountable for supporting POC essential workers, including farm workers who have been put in unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Issues such as housing and universal health care need to be addressed at a larger level, she says.

&ldquoThere is a person behind that peach in your jar of jam. What do they need?&rdquo Simley asks. &ldquoAs much as we want to fill our pantries, we also have to pay attention to policies.&rdquo

We finish the class by testing the set of our preserves with a spoon test. We dip our spatulas into the preserves, run our finger down the middle, and see if the two sides run together again (not set) or stay separate (set).

&ldquoPeople were always intrigued by me as a Black jam maker,&rdquo she says, even though there&rsquos a long history of canning and preserving in African American food culture. People think of an older white woman in the Midwest with gingham jar covers, she explains, or a young white woman with impossible-to-reproduce recipes. As she recently told the New York Times, she thinks it&rsquos because systemic racism holds back Black jam makers, an issue that was raised by a recent controversy at Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles that in part involved the owner being accused of taking credit for Black and POC workers&rsquo recipes in her cookbook on jam.

&ldquoHere you have me with my Afro and social justice approach and advocacy work I was doing . I was a little more democratic.&rdquo

The only Black canning resource she knows of is the second cookbook ever written by a Black American, &ldquoWhat Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking&rdquo (1881). Abby Fisher was a former illiterate slave who became a multimillionaire with her jam and pickle empire in San Francisco, so her book was full of jam recipes. Fisher is a huge inspiration to Simley.

I leave the jam session feeling inspired. Thoughtful jam and preserves making can go beyond putting up your favorite fruit and help preserve the vulnerable parts of our community. Simley reminds me: &ldquoPreservation is supposed to be selfless.&rdquo


Capture the best of California's peaches in preserves, with a dose of revolution

1 of 3 Peach preserves, made by Shakirah Simley in her San Francisco apartment on August 8, 2020. Simley prefers a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit for a mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit once at home. “You want the best fruit because you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” Simley says. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

3 of 3 Shakirah Simley, master food preserver and director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco, makes peach preserves in her apartment in San Francisco on August 8, 2020. Simley turns off the heat before adding sugar to her peach preserves. Celeste Noche / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

Rosy pink peach juice and cane sugar roil together in a copper jam pot, tight bubbles tapping out a steady beat on the stove top like a good, hard summer rain. Chunks of O&rsquoHenry peaches bobble at the surface among the foam while steamy puffs of fragrant air linger in my kitchen.

&ldquoThat looks great from here!&rdquo says Shakirah Simley&rsquos encouraging voice as she peers into my pot from my laptop.

It&rsquos canning season during a pandemic.

In a normal year, my inner granny gets a thrill from canning seasonal produce for my family and friends. When I open my pantry and view those rainbow rows of jam, pickle and syrup jars, I see jars of possibility: PB&Js for my kids, gifts for friends&rsquo birthdays, new baby-care packages or just what my cocktail was missing. This year, I&rsquove found canning to be a particular comfort. I may not see my parents or send my kids to school for six months, but at least I&rsquoll have the family&rsquos favorite pickled cherries.

That&rsquos how I found myself virtually learning to make preserves one on one from Shakirah Simley, who also goes by Shak. With all that&rsquos going on in the world, I wanted to deepen my preservation practice and its connection to the community, and she&rsquos the perfect person for both. She&rsquos a self-taught preserver who started a socially conscious jam company, Slow Jams, at 22. She then became Bi-Rite Market&rsquos canner-in-residence, where she created recipes for its private-label jams, pickles and preserves and taught canning classes at 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite&rsquos nonprofit cooking school.

Simley&rsquos style of preserving isn&rsquot precious it&rsquos about self-sufficiency and community. It fits in with her background of community organizing around food equity, including Nourish Resist, a people of color (POC)-run social justice group she helped create. After Bi-Rite, she decided to work in local government to help create a more equitable food system and is the director of the Office of Racial Equity for the city and county of San Francisco.

These days, Simley is not making as much jam, but when she does, it&rsquos late at night and her way to de-stress. Today, we&rsquore making her summer peach preserves. &ldquoJam is crushed fruit that&rsquos cooked down, it&rsquos thinner,&rdquo she says from her San Francisco apartment, while cooking over a portable burner so I can see her in her tiny kitchen.

&ldquoPreserves are spoonable pieces of fruit that you can see in the jar and break down on your delicious toast. I&rsquom thinking of you opening this jar in December or January . and thinking this tastes like summer.&rdquo Aside from fruit prep, preserves and jam are cooked the same way, quickly over high heat. As a die-hard jam fan, she&rsquos already sold me.

Simley, who completed the Master Food Preserver course through the University of California&rsquos Cooperative Extension program, likes to cook her stone fruit before adding sugar because she says the sugar freezes the fruit in place, and we want soft fruit. We simmer skin-on, chopped peaches with water to release juices and soften, a bubbling, melting sunset.

Pot: A heavy bottomed, nonreactive (stainless steel or copper) pot is best, especially for high-acid fruits. The best pots have a wide top and narrow bottom with sloped sides, which allows for more evaporation.

Pectin: Pectin thickens jams and preserves, but Simley prefers the natural pectin in fruit skin (unripe fruit has more). "If you rely too heavily on commercial pectin, you aren't learning key parts about the jam making process," she says.

Fruit: High-quality, seasonal, farm-direct fruit is a must, ideally organic or no spray. Stone fruit should be heavy, fragrant and give slightly when you hold it. Avoid cut, bruised or browning fruit, or split pits, which might introduce bacteria, mold or microorganisms into the preserves.

Sugar: Sugar improves flavor and inhibits the growth of mold, bacteria and microorganisms. She prefers 3:1 or 4:1 ratio by weight of fruit to sugar, more fruit forward than the typical 1:1 ratio.

Acid: Citrus juice, vinegar or citric acid adds bite and makes the jam safer by inhibiting mold, bacteria and microorganism growth, while zest adds a floral note. Eureka lemons are good for acid, Meyer for flavor.

Cooking: Jams and preserves are cooked on high and fast heat to preserve the natural fruit flavor. Add spices in a cheesecloth bag at the beginning of cooking, but use extracts, herbs and alcohol at the end for more flavor.

Help: Master Food Preservers from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master program answer any questions you may have. http://cesanmateo.ucanr.edu/

Part of her passion for fruit comes from growing up without access to it. She was raised with four siblings by her single mother in Harlem, a food desert. Simley remembers in summer, her mother, who was a substance-abuse case manager, would occasionally bring home fresh fruit from vendors in wealthier neighborhoods. She grew up with Welch&rsquos jam, so coming to the Bay Area was like a wonderland of seasonal fruit she had never tried before. The first time she made her own jam, she was hooked. This is what jam could be.

Simley explains that her superpower is picking perfect fruit: She pays attention to details like how the same fruit tastes different throughout the season. Peaches that come in around late August, for instance, are dense with sweet and acidic flavors. Earlier in the season, she says they have more water.

She also doesn&rsquot like using super ripe fruit, which I thought was a requirement for jam and preserves. Instead, a mix of just ripe and slightly underripe fruit makes for her ideal mix of sweet and acid. She always tastes the fruit before canning. &ldquoYou want the best fruit because you can&rsquot put lipstick on a pig,&rdquo Simley says. &ldquoIf it tastes like crap fresh, it&rsquoll taste like crap in jam.&rdquo But also, with any water bath canning, she says to avoid fruit with bruising, browning or wormholes because you don&rsquot want to introduce any microorganisms, mold or bacteria that can make your food unsafe.

We stir sugar into the cooked peaches until it dissolves, then bring it to a rolling boil. It gets darker as the blushed skin bleeds into the syrup, making it jewel toned. As jam or preserves cooks, you&rsquoll have two different types of bubbles, she tells me. &ldquoYou&rsquoll go from these tighter, fast bubbles to these slow, big ralump ralump bubbles,&rdquo she says laughing, referring to the noise that the bubbles make.&ldquoThat&rsquos what I call them, that&rsquos what they are.&rdquo

For her, canning is about sharing your jars and your privilege. She learned to take care of the community at home, where she watched her mother support people with HIV, which was ravaging New York City during her childhood. Her grandmother also worked as a social worker, and was a Black Panther and community leader. Canning makes a lot, so sharing makes sense.

&ldquoIf you&rsquore healthy, why not make care packages and check in on neighbors and elderly residents?&rdquo she says.

At Slow Jams, she offered jam-making classes to anyone who couldn&rsquot afford her jam, and helped people preserve their backyard fruit. These are all things that home preservers can do, swapping in-person canning with a phone or laptop and video chat.

Simley believes that community support should extend to the people who make our jam and food possible. For Slow Jams, she sourced fruit from urban farmers, women and POC farmers. Our food industry and agriculture are suffering because of the pandemic, so she suggests shopping at farmers&rsquo markets, which keep farms open, and supporting traditionally marginalized farmers.

But jamming alone isn&rsquot enough. Simley stressed the importance of voting for policies that support communities of color on the state and local level, and holding local leaders accountable for supporting POC essential workers, including farm workers who have been put in unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Issues such as housing and universal health care need to be addressed at a larger level, she says.

&ldquoThere is a person behind that peach in your jar of jam. What do they need?&rdquo Simley asks. &ldquoAs much as we want to fill our pantries, we also have to pay attention to policies.&rdquo

We finish the class by testing the set of our preserves with a spoon test. We dip our spatulas into the preserves, run our finger down the middle, and see if the two sides run together again (not set) or stay separate (set).

&ldquoPeople were always intrigued by me as a Black jam maker,&rdquo she says, even though there&rsquos a long history of canning and preserving in African American food culture. People think of an older white woman in the Midwest with gingham jar covers, she explains, or a young white woman with impossible-to-reproduce recipes. As she recently told the New York Times, she thinks it&rsquos because systemic racism holds back Black jam makers, an issue that was raised by a recent controversy at Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles that in part involved the owner being accused of taking credit for Black and POC workers&rsquo recipes in her cookbook on jam.

&ldquoHere you have me with my Afro and social justice approach and advocacy work I was doing . I was a little more democratic.&rdquo

The only Black canning resource she knows of is the second cookbook ever written by a Black American, &ldquoWhat Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking&rdquo (1881). Abby Fisher was a former illiterate slave who became a multimillionaire with her jam and pickle empire in San Francisco, so her book was full of jam recipes. Fisher is a huge inspiration to Simley.

I leave the jam session feeling inspired. Thoughtful jam and preserves making can go beyond putting up your favorite fruit and help preserve the vulnerable parts of our community. Simley reminds me: &ldquoPreservation is supposed to be selfless.&rdquo


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