Anniversary Notes Vol. 2: Big Flavor

On a very different note….

2. A quick lesson on flavors.  One year later, I’m making sweeter jams. This happened organically. Yes, I think I’ve developed a little of a sweet tooth in the process of tasting so much jam. But I should qualify this by saying that in the field of jams, I still make a tart preserve. When I sample jam at the farmers market, I consistently get exclamations of “oh, that’s tart” but instead of it being too tart, it’s just tart enough to remind someone of the fresh fruit that fuels the jam. Revelations about where to go with flavor boil down to a good old lesson on knowing your audience. There are some requests I can never fill like making jam with stevia instead of honey but when 5 people ask me for a peach jam or 20 ask for a pepper jam, it’s fun to respond to those requests with a big “yes! I’ll get to work on that flavor.”

Big flavor lessons have come from sussing out how to use the same product line to fulfill both farmers markets and wholesale accounts, each having different demands. First, my wholesale accounts generally want “unique” but still recognizable flavor combinations like Strawberry Aprium Jam or Pear Quince Orange Ginger Marmalade. But at the farmers markets, people are hunting for that simple blackberry jam. Actually, it’s Marionberry I get asked for the most. One of my primary jobs as a jammer at the farmers market is to provide summer fruit flavor in the winter but most wholesale accounts have not interest in Raspberry jam in January. Instead these accounts tend to work more seasonally. They want peaches for summer, apples and pears for winter. With more chilly months in Seattle than warm ones I end up needing way more jars of cold weather fruit preserves than summer flavors so I can fill wholesale orders October-April. And yet I can only get those locally grown pears and quince September-December. This makes fall exceedingly busy as I rush to capitalize on low fruit prices and local availability. But I also choose to stretch the idea of local seasonality to include California citrus. Divine flavors like Bergamot and Seville Oranges come on strong from California as the last local storage pears and quince give out in December.

Slowly too, as I develop regulars at the farmers market, people have grown the habit of stopping by the jam stand to taste what’s new this week. This weekend it’s the return of Tomato Jam, which went out of stock 2 months ago, and next week I tell them, I’ll have Nectarine Plum Cherry Conserve. I love those conversations and our shared sense of anticipation.