For Dafna Kory, it all began with a loquat tree. Dafna, the jam maker behind INNA Jam, was walking around Berkeley when she discovered a loquat tree in somebody’s back yard. The loquat fruit immediately brought her back to her childhood in Israel where loquats grow in abundance. “They’re not an easy fruit to eat,” she says. “They are small and the pits are very big so it takes a lot of effort to get a little bit of fruit. It was a whole experience.”
She was fixated. She spent days staring at the tree until one day she got up the courage to knock on the door and ask whether it would be okay for her to pluck some of the fruit. The people living in the house said that she was most welcome to do so. “I went a bit crazy,” she remembers. “I went home with baskets and baskets of loquats.” Once Dafna discovered the loquats, she started seeing fruit trees everywhere. On trees by the side of the road, in people’s gardens, there was just an abundance of fruit. So she started knocking on doors and foraging for fruit. With all this fruit on hand, making jams and preserves seemed like the natural next step.
For Dafna, the fruit is the thing. The jam is just a natural extension of her love of fruit. “Honestly, I’m not a huge jam-o-phile. I just love fruit.” This fact influences her jam making a great deal. In each jam, she uses only one varietal of fruit. She doesn’t even use lemon juice in her jams, because she doesn’t want to alter the taste of the primary fruit. The idea is to take fruit that is so delicious and seasonal and preserve its original flavor so that it can be eaten all year round. Dafna also believes in buying fruit that is local. She limits herself to fruit produced within 100 miles of where she lives. “I have imposed so many limits on myself,” she says with a laugh. “These boundaries force me to think creatively about what I can do.”
It is her focus on the fruit that influences her decision to use commercial pectin, which many other jam makers are shunning. “When you make your own pectin, it is hard to control how much you are putting into the jam. I want to consistently use the same amount of pectin and sugar, so that the only variations in texture and flavor are coming from the batch of fruit that is going into the jam.” Dafna also has an interest in science. She spent ages learning about the chemistry of pectin in order to master its usage. She is as happy to use commercially made pectin as she is to use commercially made sugar.
Dafna originally made jam just because it was fun. Then she started giving it to friends as gifts. Before she knew it, friends were asking her to carry the jam in their shops. She realized that her passion project could become her life. She started taking fewer film editing projects, which constituted her day job, and decided to throw herself into jam making. This is how INNA Jam was born.
Today, Dafna has big plans to expand INNA Jam’s production. It involves her having a kitchen of her own. In March or April, Dafna is moving into a large industrial kitchen in Emeryville where she will be able to make jam more efficiently. This will bring down her costs and allow her to turn INNA Jams into a viable business. Making jams the ways she does is expensive. “When you buy the best fruit you can find and pay everybody you work with a decent wage, the jam is going to be expensive. I am trying to price my jam as low as I possibly can, so that people will think of it as an everyday jam, rather than just a luxury item.” This new kitchen is going to be expensive, but people are being generous and supporting her dream to make ultra local, eco-friendly jam. You can learn all about her commercial kitchen project from the video below.
I checked out the kitchen space when I visited Dafna in Emeryville. She is so excited about the space and the things she will be able to do when it is fully operational. The kitchen is also located next to a park where kids are always playing and where food trucks stop by every afternoon. It’s pretty heavenly. I’ll be writing some reviews about several different flavors of INNA Jam shortly, so keep a look out for them!