A busy afternoon at the office. Up to my neck in the crushing deadlines of the high-stakes world of magazine publishing. The telephone rang.


Stifling the urge to answer with the Dorothy Parker classic "What fresh hell is this?"  I was more than delighted to hear the voice of my dear friend Sharon Franke, Director of Food Appliances in the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, located just two floors above mine in the Hearst Tower. 


Sharon and her associate Paul Hope along with Good Housekeeping Food Director Susan Westmoreland (another good friend of longstanding) were being given a press preview of the new Ball Countertop Jam and Jelly Cooker. Would I like to join them? Did she really have to ask?



I just happened to have a fresh jar of our Georgica Bend Chunky Apple-Ginger Jam in the office which I pocked as I rushed out the door.  All those obligations could damn well wait!


In Sharon's testing labs I met Shirley (white apron) and Lindsay from the Ball Canning company who were giving a sneak peak of this new counter top cooker. It has a stirring thingy at the bottom of the vessel so no need to stand over the stove. It heats quickly and evenly and has some kind of mechanism to guide you through the steps (when to add pectin, when it's done).


The thing about it I found really cool is that Ball now has loose pectin that comes with a chart to tell you how much pectin to use based on the amount of fruit you have.  Normally you're a slave to the measurements on the pectin packages, warned that any deviation from the stated measures and proportions are destined for tragedy. 

As the strawberry jam cooked away I cracked open the Georgica Bend Chunky Apple Ginger Jam. Happily the reviews were stellar. 

The cooker isn't in stores yet. I think it's coming out in the spring. I may well have broken some kind of press embargo by scooping this story — I hope not. I'm sure they'll let me know. 

And check out this last shot of Sharon's lab. See all those knives? That's an example of the exhaustive testing and evaluations she conducts for the magazine. Her expertise is second to none — follow her blog on GHRI here. 

Susan Westmoreland oversees the development and triple-testing of all the many hundreds of recipes the magazine and its cookbooks publish every year. (Readers of SpecD will know that my GH Cookbooks are invaluable resources.) Susan also blogs about all things kitchen and food too, click here to read more

Lindsay and Shirley have graciously left the door open to Spectacularly Delicious for news of upcoming innovations. 

What a serendipitous afternoon indeed. 

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Written by on February 12, 2012 under Famous Chefs, Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Relish, Kitchen Gadgets.

  • Charles G Thompson

    I want Sharon’s job!  How much fun.  And a new gadget/kitchen essential to consider.  So cool that you got to be a part of this!

    • http://www.spectacularlydelicious.com Sean

      Sharon does know everything about anything that has to do with the preparation, cooking and storing of food. Yes it’s a cool job though also very technical. Those 50 or so knives will probably go through 3 or 4 separate precise tests each. They don’t fool around!

    • http://www.spectacularlydelicious.com Sean

      If I ever have a question about anything in the kitchen, recipe advice included, Sharon is the indisputable resource

  • sharonfranke

    Thanks for the shout-out Sean. Yes Charles, I’m a lucky girl! By the way, it’s Paul Hope, Toni’s son not Marjorie’s.

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