Experimenting with “Saving the Season”: Fancy Strawberry Jam with Pinot Noir

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I always feel like there’s magic in the air in the springtime. The blooming flowers, the appearance of colorful fruits and vegetables at the market and the chirping birds all represent an awakening of the senses (also, hello, allergies!) and of the earth. Because this is an enchanted time, I often forget how fleeting it can be be. In part, this is because I wish it would last forever. This, however, is clearly wishful thinking. As we all know, the asparagus appears only to become scarce again and the strawberries, which though they appear in grocery stores for most of the year in California, seem to be fragrant and perfectly sweet for only a short window. I suppose this is what makes us appreciate the seasons; would these things be as delightful if we had access to them all year round?

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In a way, no (this is why I always say no to hothouse tomatoes; they are forever disappointing. Tomatoes should taste of sunshine and summer; anything less is but a pale imitation), but, when it comes to preserving fruits and vegetables, the answer is yes. I think this is because there is a lot of work and love that goes into canning. From the excitement of picking out the fruit or vegetable to the process of transformation through heat, you’re taking the time to capture the season. There’s always a moment in winter when you long for sweet summer berries and there’s a moment in the heat of summer when all you want is the crisp chill of fall, apples and warming spices.

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In recent years, I’ve gone a little crazy for preserving. While I don’t get to do it as often or in batches as large as I would like, I feel like there’s something to be said for even small-batch preserving: the stray jar that might make breakfast a little more special or help to transform dinner into a truly flavorful affair (this is why I keep a jar of preserved lemons around; it’s a meal saver if there ever was one). Two books that I often consult are Diana Henry’s Salt Sugar Smokea beautiful book if there ever was one, and Kevin West’s recent classic, Saving the Season, which is about so much more than preserving. West explores preserving through art, literature and essays; he also compares different methods (French vs. American vs. British) and presents a lot of different viewpoints about home canning. When reading his book, you can’t help but think that he’s a food anthropologist, traveling far and wide to collect stories and recipes. Although it’s a fairly recent addition to my collection, it’s a book I’ve been turning to more and more, especially this spring.

A few weeks ago, West’s recipe for Strawberry Preserves with Elderflower Liqueur jumped out at me; it seemed like it would have both texture (because the strawberries would be preserved only, they would be whole–really, more poached than cooked down) and a fragrant, floral quality that would evoke spring. There was one problem, though: I didn’t have any St. Germain and, given the amount of liqueur in our cabinet, it didn’t seem right to buy another bottle without first getting rid of something else. While I had a wonderful basil liqueur a friend had given me last year that might have worked, I immediately turned to something lighter and less herbal, namely the bottle of citrusy Lillet Blanc in the fridge. Then, I invited a friend over for a Saturday jamming session and promptly turned my attention to something else.

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Two things happened afterwards: 1) the night before, when my boyfriend and I were supposed to go and pick up some nice strawberries at Jack’s Night Market in Oakland (as well as meet with a preserves maker for another product review and interview), our little beagle collapsed from dehydration and we instead spent the night at the doggie emergency room, and 2) when I finally took another, more sustained look at the recipe, I realized that it wasn’t the kind of thing that involved much work. In fact, the fruit had to be macerated for 24 hours so that there would be enough juice to create an adequate preserving liquid. Since that wasn’t likely to happen in such a short period of time, the morning of our jam-making afternoon, I quickly decided on a new plan: Fancy Strawberry Jam with Pinot Noir, which West created in honor of the vanilla and strawberry jam of his friend Valerie Gordon, the LA-based sweet maker and owner of Valerie Confections.

I don’t know that I’m always the kind of person who easily rolls with the punches–I can be spontaneous, but I like having a set plan and sticking to it–but if this experience taught me anything, it’s that 1) I should always read the recipe well in advance and 2) kitchen accidents–veering from the plan because of a method or a missing ingredient-can be incredibly rewarding. This jam, which calls for only a few segments from a star anise pod and a 1-inch piece of cinnamon stick, is proof. It’s subtly spiced and fragrant, although the flavor of the Pinot Noir is barely there (I’m sure it adds depth, but my palate isn’t fine enough to pick out individual flavors). However, when you lick the leftover jam off a spoon or a knife, the flavor of strawberries overwhelms you, followed by the tiniest–and most welcome–hint of licorice. It’s fancy alright, fancy enough to make mere toast seem like the breakfast of a queen (or a king), and a good reason to follow West’s advice and recipes and to “save the season” at home.

If you’re looking for more strawberry inspiration, here’s a recipe for an avocado salad that might also have some appeal.

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Fancy Strawberry Jam with Pinot Noir

from Kevin West’s Saving the Season

yields 4 (1-pint) jars

3 pounds ripe strawberries

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

zest of 1/4 lemon (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoons)

1-inch piece of a cinnamon stick

2-3 segments of a star anise pod

3 tablespoons Pinot Noir

-Rinse the strawberries and drain them. Then, remove the tops and quarter the strawberries lengthwise.  Ideally, your strawberries will be small, but, if not, halve each quarter.

-Place the berries in a large bowl, then add the sugar, lemon juice and zest and spices. Leave to macerate for 30-45 minutes.

-In the meantime, prepare the jars. Preheat the oven to 250 and line a baking sheet with parchment. Wash the jars in warm, soapy water and then place on the baking sheet. Leave in the oven until the jam is ready (you want the jars to be hot when the jam is done).

-Pour the strawberries and their liquid into a large pot or preserving pan (I use a large Dutch oven) and bring to a boil over high heat.

-Using a whisk, stir constantly and vigorously, which will help to break the berries down into a paste.

-Add the Pinot Noir after 6-8 minutes and keep whisking.

-Continue reducing to the gel point (this is when the jam is ready to jar. You will know when the jam coats the back of a cold spoon, when the temperature is 220 F, or by a few quick and reliable methods. You can either chill a saucer, put a teaspoon of hot jam on it and place it in the freezer  and, if it wrinkles when you push it, it is ready, OR you can put a dab of jam between your fingertips and, when you stretch them out, look to see if the jam forms a thin thread. While checking through any of these methods, it is best to reduce the heat to very low or to remove the pot from the heat so that the jam will not burn). West says that, after you’ve added the Pinot Noir, this should take only another 4-6 minutes; because we weren’t using a copper jam pot, however, it took a solid 25-30 minutes before our jam was ready.

-Once the jam is set, whisk for another minute or two until the jam is smooth and then carefully remove the spices (cheesecloth or a metal tea strainer can be useful here).

-Ladle the jam into 4 prepared 1/2 pint jars (if the jars are too hot, the jam will sizzle. If this happens, wait a few minutes and then try again), leaving about 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe off the rims of the jars with a warm towel (any sticky jam remnants will prevent proper sealing) and place the lid on them. Then, screw on the rings.

-Process the jars in the oven at 250 F for 15 minutes, then set on a rack until they cool completely and seal. If one of the jars doesn’t seal, don’t worry: you can either reheat the contents and re-sterilize the jars or put the jar in the fridge for immediate consumption.

Jam Profile: Lynnette Shaw and the Republic of Jam

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When I volunteered in the preserves section at the Good Food Awards back in the fall, I had the great fortune to take home a jar of Marionberry Espresso Jam. Not only was this the first time in my life I got to try a marionberry (for those of you who have never heard of this fruit—I too was once in your position—the marionberry is a sweet and juicy blackberry that was developed at Oregon State University by crossing two different types of blackberries: Chehalem and Olallieberry and only appeared on the market in 1956. Stories like this show us that fruits and vegetables, i.e. the things we take for granted, are more fascinating and complicated than we allow ourselves to imagine), but, once I tried it, I discovered just how haunting the combination of espresso and blackberries could be. Sadly, because the judging was supposed to be blind, the jar was unmarked and, after a few failed Google searches for this flavor, I started to doubt that I would ever discover the genius behind it–as well as how I could get more. But then, when I was washing the jar, I discovered a hidden label beneath the generic white one required by the Good Food Awards and suddenly saw the answer to the question that had been on my mind for several months: the makers of Marionberry Espresso was the The Republic of Jam, a company whose trademark is a grape with rays of light emanating from it (as a former Slavist, I felt that there was something Soviet about the label, as if all the bright and happy future depended on was the grape; I imagine oenophiles everywhere would agree with this. Interestingly, Lynnette would later tell me that the grape is a nod to the company’s location, which is in the wine country of Oregon).

While I immediately looked the company up, I decided not to order anything since I still had a cupboard full of jam. Nevertheless, the company and its many offerings–from Apricot Ginger Saffron to Mango Voignier–stuck with me. Then, when Elizabeth asked me to take over this blog, a thing that I have not done as well as I would have liked, I immediately thought of the Republic of Jam and how I could feature them. I wrote to Lynnette Shaw, the Jam Master who started the company, and asked if I could do an interview with her and write about her products here. Lynnette was nothing but generous and enthusiastic; she immediately responded to my request and sent me, much to my delight, four jars of jam—Strawberry Basil, Marionberry Cinnamon, Blood Orange Black Pepper and Pear Rosemary—and a jar of Blueberry Pickles. The Marionberry was my favorite of the bunch (I like marionberries so much that I now occasionally consider moving to Oregon), both in terms of its subtle spicy flavor and velvety texture, and the Blood Orange and the Pear, with their different savory and herbal notes, were closely tied for second place. The Strawberry Basil was just as good as the others in terms of flavor, but its texture was more reminiscent of a sauce than of a jam; I wondered if this might have been deliberate since the addition of basil and the bright red color of the jam easily evoked a strawberry marinara. And the blueberry pickles, though a bit surprising given the punch that their bite-sized pieces contained, were a real treat when spooned over goat cheese (I should add that this was just as Lynnette said it would be).  In any case, I was happy to have them all for swirling into yogurt, for spreading on crisp slices of toast and for making granola (jam will is as good a sweetener as honey and it imbues the granola with a welcome fruity flavor).

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The actual tasting, however, was only half the pleasure of writing about this company. On a sunny morning in February (this post is terribly overdue, but life—travel, visitors, responsibilities—sometimes gets in the way of blogging; also, as they say, better late than never), a few weeks after Lynnette and Marionberry Espresso had won at the Good Food Awards, I called her and we spoke for an hour. She was eager to talk about the company, as well as her own trajectory in the industry.

Katy: How did you become or decide to become a jam master?

Lynnette: It was one of those accidental things. I wasn’t raised in this tradition at all; my mother was a convenience cook. I grew up in northern California and then moved to Minneapolis, where I worked at large corporation and came to miss the agriculture offerings of the west coast..

I eventually moved back to the west coast—to Oregon—and when I went to a local farmer’s market on my second day back, I not only wept over the offerings, but was shocked by them, by six different kinds of plums! I’m in a community that values variety and fresh local produce—it’s a tradition in Oregon—and because of the time of year, because of the offerings at the market, it was all really inspiring. I kept going to the market each week and returning home with boxes of fruit and, frankly, there’s only so much pie you could make. I wanted to preserve, so I bought the Ball Blue Book that is known as the canning bible. I made three recipes from this book and found that they were too sugary for me. I have a savory palate and like tart fruits. I’m inspired by what people are doing with savory things and wanted to do that with fruit preserves. I have a science background and wasn’t afraid of the chemistry. Really, I enjoyed coming up with recipes—which I saw more as a fruit sauce than a traditional jam. At the Republic of Jam, we developed the technique of using 4 parts fruit to 1 part sugar; this way, the fruit is kept more vibrant. It’s not dominated by the sugar.

The dirty little secret at Republic of Jam is that I don’t like sweet stuff and, as it turned out, people both were and continue to be receptive to jam that uses sugar only as a preservative, not as a flavor in and of itself. As I made more and more jam, I was giving it as gifts. At that point, starting the business just happened.

I didn’t have a commercial kitchen, which was a barrier, but then something fell in my lap. I started to rent out a little kitchen in a local coffee shop and, within a week, I noticed a tiny little place (we came to call it the “jam shack”) that was a wine tasting room and and that was for rent. I decided we’d come and open on weekends (in addition to selling at farmers markets). When I look back, it all seems so naive and humble, but we opened during a big wine tasting weekend over the Thanksgiving weekend and it took us four weeks to understand that this arrangement wasn’t going to work. The people kept coming and we were sold out; we even stored empty boxes on the shelves to make them look full! We then saw that a tattoo parlor was going out of business and they bought that location and decided to build a kitchen there. I also treat that retail location as a tasting room. We were really surprised by the demand, but it turned out that people want local products with integrity and intention. This is why our business has been like a rocket and we’ve been holding onto it. It was all about luck and good timing.

People come in and taste our products and see us in action and want to know about our culinary background. I always tell them it’s 40+ years’ worth of eating, as well as the work I did in the wine industry  (I had a mind for flavor nuances and details in tasting), and somehow these things tap into the enthusiasm of other people. I love that I’ve created something and get to watch people eat it. It’s a way for me to experience their joy—an unbelievable thing. It’s very personal and it allows me to establish a connection with a lot of people. Having a retail location where we can be face to face with our customers is so important. When we made the leap from the jam shack to the much larger space, we realized it was turning into a real thing, but we also didn’t want it to grind us into the ground…

After all, it all started as a hobby. But there were really stressful moments, too. For a while, we had only one burner. On that one burner, I produced over 17,000 jars of jam in 2012. Fortunately, we then decided it was time to get a grown-up stove with six burners, which has made life a lot easier.

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Katy: How do you come up with your flavors? Can you describe a typical day in the test kitchen? How much trial and error is involved in the process?

 Lynnette:

Good question. You’ll find our inventory changes a lot.  In our busy season, we can make a batch and sell it out easily in the same week. We’ve also got about 350 different flavors. My assistant, Danny (he actually wrote the recipe for the Marionberry Espresso Jam), helps with the process; we have a lot of discussions about flavors. We really are inspired by people who are doing creative savory things.

But in a way, it just happens. We start thinking about something—for example sour cherries—and look for something unusual that will complement the flavors. This led to our Sour Cherry Tarragon Jam.

I have a restless, creative spirit and want our jams to be not just about the fruit. I like adding something exotic and unexpected. I’m also inspired by descriptions of world cuisine; a friend was telling me about a sour plum sauce that he had tried in Russia (Georgian tkemali) and I then try to adapt it, the idea, to what we’re doing using local plums.

Katy: What is your personal favorite flavor?

Lynnette: I really can’t say. To be honest, it’s usually the last thing I put on the shelf! If I had to pick, though, I love the Pacific Berry. The way that we got a hold of it was amazing. A woman came in and was looking for a donation for a literary auction, but then, as she was leaving, she stopped to say that there might be something we would be interested in. It turned out that her father worked at Oregon State University and was part of an experiment to cross the mountain blackberry (it grows in coastal mountains; it’s tiny and grows like peas. People don’t eat them, deer do) with the raspberry. What resulted was the Pacific Berry and it was deemed not commercially viable since it wilts when you pick it and starts to crumble (it must be frozen or used within 3 hours). It’s a beautiful, delicious berry that was thrown away. But this woman’s father secretly took 20 plants home and now we buy the crop each year. She flash freezes them for us and we turn it into jam and put it on the shelf. It always sells out in 24 hours.

I also love our cassis, which is modeled after a Scottish dessert.

Katy: I read on the Republic of Jam website that,“In keeping with the wonderful wine tasting rooms in our area, we run our store as a jam tasting room where you can try a flight of jams paired or prepared in ways to make you think beyond toast at breakfast — though our jams are fantastic that way, too!”. Given your unique treatment of jam in your retail location, what role do you see jam playing in your ideal kitchen? More importantly, what do you consider jam to be?

Lynnette:  Our mission is to push the boundaries of jam. Part of what we do in the tasting room is that we cook with our products. When people come in, they can get a tasting plate with savory things and sweet things –salad or roasts with a fruit sauce.

One time I made this lentil soup and made meatballs with an orange fennel marmalade. It was absolutely delicious. I’ve also used our Cherry Chocolate Jam in a Chicken Chocolate Mole, which was a favorite in the tasting room as well. We get requests for a cookbook all the time; people want to know how to cook with jam. But, really, we’re just making what we want to eat.

We also do a lot with cocktails since we make a lot of syrups (we use the same flavors as we do in our jams; we just strain the pulp). We use these culinary syrups and make cocktails with them; there’s even a quarterly cocktail club at Republic of Jam, where we do cocktail samplers.

We found that the spirit and culture in Oregon, particularly in Carlton where we’re based, is perfect for people who are makers. It’s a really neat place.

The World of Milk Jam

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When the Greek and I returned from my winter vacation, we were in for an unpleasant surprise. Our refrigerator had turned off while we were away and everything in it had spoiled: the apple jelly and chutney we had made in the fall after going apple picking in northern California, the various condiments that we liked to use to give our food a little boost (that is, everything but the sriracha; much like the cockroach and the rat, sriracha is forever), the ice cream that we are never without and, worst of all, the jar of Matcha Milk Jam that I had decadently bought at Craftsman and Wolves after getting my first paycheck in the fall after  months of unemployment.

Always one to try to find the silver lining, however, I decided that not only did this mean that our refrigerator would now be stupendously clean for the new year, but that I could also use this opportunity to try to recreate the Matcha Milk Jam at home. But even though I always have a ready supply of matcha powder for any tea drinking or baking whim and would happily consume it on a daily basis, I suddenly felt that I needed to try something different. I needed to make a milk jam flavor of my own.

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Milk jam, which is also known as dulce de leche (candy of milk or, literally, jam of milk) or confiture de lait, is similar to sweetened condensed milk, but is thicker and more caramelized in terms of its flavor. In different countries, it comes in different flavors: in India, it is flavored with cardamom and eaten as dessert; in France, it is served with fromage blanc; in Puerto Rico, it’s said to be made from unsweetened coconut milk. In short, the possibilities are endless.

For me, if I was going to abandon my love of Japanese flavors, there was only one other path to embark on. In the past year, I developed a serious interest in Persian cooking. I found the flavor combinations–rose, lemon, saffron, walnut, cinnamon, cardamom, pomegranate, lime and pistachio–to be nothing short of inspiring, as well as aesthetically pleasing to the eye. When I thought of the milk jam flavor that would reflect my current kitchen love affair, it combined several of these flavors: namely rose, cinnamon and lemon.

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Although I like to use rosewater when cooking, I also sometimes feel that it’s too potent; if you add one drop too many, your food can quickly go from pleasantly flavored to overly floral (i.e. soapy; I find this to be a similar problem when cooking or baking with lavender). Because of this, I decided to use the dried rose petals that I had picked up at a local Middle Eastern market when I baked this Turkish cake. If you have any tea filter bags (I like these ones), it’s really quite simple to stuff the bag with your flavors of choice and to attach it to the side of the pan (yes, that’s a binder clip; this was a very ad hoc kitchen project, but it worked!) so that it will infuse the gently simmering milk with its flavors. If any stray rose petals escape, they can easily be captured with cheesecloth or with a metal tea strainer.

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I should add that I was hoping for this milk jam to take on a rosy hue as it ever so gently simmered (keep in mind that making milk jam can be a bit of a kitchen project; it takes about 2-2 1/2 hours to make and requires your attention since you have to watch to make sure that the milk doesn’t burn or form a skin), but it didn’t. Midway through making it, I decided that I could possibly add a bit of color by adding a few hibiscus leaves to the tea bag; while this did result in my getting a few beautiful swirls of purple, they faded away once I stirred the mixture. Had I had some pomegranate molasses (this too had perished in the fridge), I might have added a few drops for a tangy note, as well as a splash of color. All of that being said, a muted milk jam is better than no milk jam at all and, if you make this, I’m sure you’ll feel the same.

It’s the kind of spread that can be used to sandwich cookies, to fill thumbprints, to be hidden between two layers of spongy cake, or to be eaten by the spoonful on the sly. That short list doesn’t even begin to exhaust its possible uses.

Making a Persian-style milk jam wasn’t enough for me. In one of my more whimsical moments, I decided to make semi-fancy toasts for breakfast; I called them Persian Milk Jam toasts: walnut bread (here’s the recipe I used), Rose Petal and Lemon Milk Jam, Sour Cherry Preserves and a scattering of dried rose petals. It’s as good a use for this spread as any of the others.

General milk jam tips:

Use caster sugar or, if you don’t have it in your pantry, put some granulated sugar in the food processor and make your own. This will make for a smoother milk jam.

Apparently, using baking soda (1/4-1/2 teaspoon) will give your milk jam a more caramelized appearance.

Rose Petal and Lemon Milk Jam

Method inspired by Farmette

2 cups whole milk

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

200 grams granulated sugar, ground in the food processor and turned into caster sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons dried rose petals

2-3 strips (about 2 inches each) lemon peel

1 cinnamon stick

a few hibiscus leaves

-In a small filter bag, combine the dried rose petals, strips of lemon peel, 1 cinnamon stick and a few hibiscus leaves. Attach to the side of a small saucepan (I recommend a binder clip).

-Add the milk, caster sugar and sea salt to the saucepan and stir to combine.

-Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the milk starts to bubble, turn down the heat to the lowest possible setting immediately. You don’t want the milk to froth, burn or to form a skin.

-Continue to simmer ever so gently for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until reduced by about half, stirring the mixture every 10 minutes. If necessary, skim any foam that appears with a cheesecloth.

-Once the milk jam has reached your desired consistency (it can be as thick or as thin as you like, although do remember that it will continue to thicken as it cools, place it in a sterilized jar and allow it to cool before putting the lid on and placing it in the fridge.

Persian Milk Jam Toasts

walnut bread

Rose Lemon Milk Jam

Sour Cherry preserves

crushed rose petals, for decorating

Toast your bread and slather it with milk jam. Place a spoonful of sour cherry preserves in the center of the slice and then sprinkle the toast with dried rose petals.

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Jam Profile: William Werner of Craftsman and Wolves

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Back in November I met a friend for lunch at San Francisco’s Craftsman and Wolves, a self-titled “contemporary pâtisserie” where you’re not likely to find your run-of-the-mill baked goods. In fact, part of the fun in going there stems from discovering the unique twist that Werner and his team put on the usual pastries. Rather than a plain old (delicious) chocolate croissant, you’ll find a stacked work of buttery art with a layer of chocolate so shiny on top that you can almost see your reflection in it; similarly, a muffin studded with sausage, chives and cheese may look like your average breakfast fare, but then you take a bite and immediately realize there’s soft-boiled egg inside (they call it “The Rebel Within,” which seems more than apt). Whenever I find myself in this shop, I always enjoy a lengthy perusal of the pastry case, but this time around I instead found myself gravitating towards the small selection of preserves in the back–the Passion Fruit-Olive Oil Curd, the Café Au Lait and the Matcha Milk Jam. Really, it was the vibrant green color of the Matcha Milk Jam that caught my eye;  in the fall, I always become a little nostalgic for the year I spent in Japan and, since this jam seemed to promise to transport me back in time, I decided to buy some. I’ll also confess that I was feeling decadent enough to buy some of the Passion Fruit-Olive Oil Curd, too.

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The next morning I immediately opened the Matcha Milk Jam and slathered it on my morning toast. It was silky, sweet and grassy in just the way matcha is supposed to be. I was so intrigued that I couldn’t help but wonder about Werner’s process: how does he choose these flavors? why focus on milk jams, a sweeter spread? As it turned out, I would get answers to my questions. After I took over this blog, I started thinking that it would be great to feature not only Werner and Craftsman and Wolves, but also some less common jams, spreads, and add-in ingredients; fortunately, Werner agreed to an interview, and he and I met last week at Craftsman to talk about his jam philosophy, the shop, expansion plans, etc. He was also kind enough to send me some lovely photos that he had taken, which I’ve used throughout this post.

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For those of you unfamiliar with William Werner, before opening Craftsman and Wolves, he worked as a pastry chef at the Ritz-Carlton and at Quince in San Francisco’s Jackson Square. It was at the latter that Werner said he had first started experimenting with and making preserves. He explained that he had always been intrigued by the technical aspect of jam making–“the manipulation of fruit,” as well as by the more whimsical and creative side of the process–the idea of “preserving a moment in time.” Werner’s interest in both sides of this process eventually led to a pop-up shop, the Tell Tale Preserve Company, which focused heavily on jams.

Talking to Werner, I got the impression that his turn to milk jams was fairly inevitable. As a pastry chef, his mission seems to be to tweak classics, personalizing them in playful and thoughtful way. He said that he first encountered milk jam (or, as it’s more commonly known, dulce de leche) when he was living in France; watching the mother of a friend slowly boil down the milk that otherwise would have spoiled left a lasting impression on him. And as his work with jams and spreads evolved, he was convinced that milk jam offered him the unique opportunity to play with the “sweeter side” of jams and spreads. As he put it, you often have your fruit preserves and then your chocolate sauces and caramel; milk jam is really the space in between these two extremes.

When I asked Werner what inspired him, his answer was simple: he makes what he wants to eat himself. In terms of confitures, this may be Meyer Lemon Yuzu; in terms of candies, this may be a caramel made salty by the addition of a delicate white soy sauce. Werner and his team at Craftsman, it seems, are always coming up with new ideas and flavor combinations, as well as trying to work uncommon ingredients into the shop’s sweets. Interestingly, the confitures aren’t featured in Craftsman’s pastries; they do, however, make an appearance in the shop’s afternoon high tea service, which has become so popular that it’s going to get its own shop.

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Until recently, you either had to be a Bay Area local or an online shopper at Heidi Swanson’s Quitokeeto to try Werner’s confitures, but the good news is that, as of tomorrow, an online shop is opening that will feature them, as well as other shipping-friendly Craftsman and Wolves creations (sadly, I don’t think The Rebel Within will be part of the online selection, but there’s a reason to visit San Francisco!).  If you order anything from the shop, Werner will also be including recipe ideas for the confitures since a lot of people who have bought them have written to him to ask how they could use them; he says he likes them on a toasted baguette (I concur), but there are other ways you can use them, too. Milk jam goes well with ice cream, shortbread and cake; it’s just the thing for people with a sweet tooth.

If you do make it to San Francisco, here are the shop’s hours, which is worth stopping by if you’re in the area:

Monday through Thursday: 7am – 7pm
Friday: 7am – 8pm
Saturday: 8am – 8pm
Sunday: 8am – 7pm.

Even if milk jam doesn’t turn out to be your thing, I’m sure that something on the menu, which changes seasonally, will appeal to you.

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New Year, New Beginning

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Hello jam lovers and makers,

I just wanted to introduce myself; my name is Katy (I also blog over at Dining with Dostoevsky) and I’m the new owner/administrator of Jam Experiments. I’m really excited to have this opportunity and to start reviewing different jams, to  interview both upcoming and established jam makers and to have an excuse to experiment with different jam flavors. I’m one of those people who believes that a full pantry is best! I should confess that, although I want to stay true to Elizabeth’s vision and to focus primarily on jams, I also think there are different preserves that could be featured here, so I may use this space to try out some recipe ideas for chutneys, pickles and, given my familiarity with the Greek way of preserving, spoon sweets (I promise they’re good stuff). If you have any ideas for the blog , please feel free to send them my way in the comments section of this post.

But before saying anything else, I should explain how the change in blog ownership came about. Back in September, I volunteered to help out in the preserves category at the Good Food Awards. As the judges started to arrive, I realized that one of them looked awfully familiar and, when I finally got a chance to speak to this judge, I discovered that it was Elizabeth. We had gone to Columbia together (River 2A/2B, or the story of how college dorm choices will haunt you forever) and then both ended up at Berkeley for graduate school; as it turned out, we also had one more thing in common: an interest in jam, food blogging and writing. After the Good Food Awards, we found each other on Twitter and Facebook to stay in touch; then one day in November, Elizabeth wrote out of the blue, asking me if I would be interested in taking over her blog since she didn’t have as much time as she would have liked to dedicate to it. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity, but then Thanksgiving and holiday travel got in the way of my actually coming up with some new material for the blog. Fortunately, it’s a new year and a new beginning, and I fully intend on making Jam Experiments a big part of my year.

I’m currently working with a few jam makers to get some new brands and flavors to review and I’m also both working on and looking for some recipes to feature. If all goes as planned, I should be able to update here at least once a week and I hope you’ll all stick around to see what’s coming up!

In the meantime, I’m going to provide some links and general jam/preserving inspiration for your reading pleasure:

If you want to know more about the spoon sweets I mentioned, here’s a link to my post on turning jujubes into one.

A friend of mine recently made cranberry curd, which seems like a wonderful treat for this time of year.

As I was running late to work today, I stopped by a local place for breakfast and to flavor my yogurt they gave me a small container of a spiced pear jam; inspired by the flavor, I immediately went to Google for some ideas and found this.

Some jam brands whose products I’m currently coveting: quince & apple (based in the midwest), Republic of Jam (based in the Pacific northwest) and Craftsman & Wolves (based in SF, i.e. in my backyard; their Passion Fruit Olive Oil Curd is heartstoppingly good).

A recipe for Valencia Orange Marmalade from Food & Wine/Rachel Saunders.

And, finally, in case you just want to eat jam, rather than make jam: a recipe for a Vanilla Bean Jam Cake (we all know that New Year’s resolutions were made to be broken).

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Jam Review: Doves & Figs Jam

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Doves & Figs is a delightful little jam business in Arlington, Mass., a town right outside Boston owned by Robin Cohen. Robin grew up in Long Island making grape jam with her family and while other children dreamed of opening up a lemonade stand, Robin dreamed of having her very own jam stand to sell her wares. Today, her life consists of developing delicious and unique jam concoctions and selling them in farmer’s markets — very much fulfilling the dreams of her childhood.

I first came across her jam at the Taza Chocolate Factory. Taza is an artisanal chocolate company located in Somerville, Mass. It was the first time I had ever seen chocolate in a jam and I was excited to try it. Robin has created a range of jams that incorporate Taza chocolate in unexpected ways. While some jams taste rich and dessert-like, other jams incorporate the rich cocoa flavor and chunky texture of chocolate, without tasting too sweet. Robin’s jams are among the most original that I have tasted and span a wide range of flavor profiles.

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Chocolate Fig Sunshine

This was my favorite of the three. It has a very subtle flavor that blends orange with fig. The chocolate in this jam does not overwhelm the jam – rather the cocoa adds another component to the taste that melds nicely with the other slightly acidic fruit flavors. As a whole, the flavor is very delicate which means that it works very well for an everyday breakfast jam. (And believe me, I have been eating this every day!) Despite the fig seeds that you can see throughout, this jam has a very smooth texture. All in all, a jam whose flavor has been very carefully thought through and that remains interesting every time you taste it because none of the ingredients dominates.

Razzle Dazzle Raspberry Chocolate Jam

In contrast to the Chocolate Fig Sunshine, this jam is rich and creamy and dessert-like. Again, the chocolate is well incorporated balancing out the acidic nature of the raspberries. It has an smooth texture and the raspberry seeds punctuate the consistency with a bit of a crunch. Here, the classic combination of raspberry and chocolate works wonderfully in jam form, making it quite the breakfast treat. It works well on toast or in yoghurt, but we’ve also enjoyed it in vanilla ice cream and on top of cookies.

Farmhouse Kitchen

Of the three, this is the most traditional jam and it does not have any chocolate in it. However, traditional in this context is relative. All of Robin’s jams are exciting in some way. Here, we have a strawberry and rhubarb jam, but in the mixture, Robin adds walnuts and ginger which serve as an unexpected surprise. I love strawberry jams of all kinds, but I have never tasted one quite as interesting as this one. To me, it provides all the comfort you are looking for in a strawberry jam with none of the boredom.

Looking through Robin’s extensive list of flavors, it is clear that she is particularly skilled at discovering flavors and textures that go together very naturally, but that haven’t yet been served in jam form. For instance, one of her jams incorporates Earl Grey tea with blackberry, one spices up sweet summer peaches with  hot pepper flakes and yet another mixes blueberry, port and cinnamon. I’m always interesting in discovering new flavor combinations in my jam and I can’t wait to try more of Doves & Figs jams.

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