in a jar
maybe this way, it will all come true...
Finalize 2014-15 production flavors.
Brainstorm new flavors to cook in small batches for 2014-15 jam subscribers.
Create a V Smiley Preserves postcard with contact and social media info.
Commission 1-3 original pieces by Hannah Viano.
Make a first draft of designs for 2014-15 jar labels (arranging the format, sizing, and spacing of the words that make up a flavor like pear quince orange ginger) so Nova Askue can finalize the designs.
Have labels printed.
Assemble a list of publications to send jam samples to this coming summer and fall.
File my 2013 personal taxes.
Find a bookkeeper.
Apply to the Ballard Farmers Market for Fall/Winter 2014.
Write the New Haven, Vermont zoning board with a detailed plan of what Amy and I would like to do with my mother’s farm and find out what’s possible/impossible.
Research a shipping program so I can
Launch V Smiley Preserves online store.
Visit my sister and old friends in Los Angeles.
Visit Amy’s mom in Montana
Host my mother for 10 days in March.
Photocopy images of passive built structures to start creating a lookbook of designs for Vermont plans.
Research and write a simple cheese and jam pairing rubric for handing out at my farmers market stand.
I slept in this morning, which felt so good after my tired day at the very, very rainy Sunday farmers market yesterday.
While Amy dozed after finishing her first bus driving shift, I fired up coffee water and mixed up some crepes.
Today I wanted to put together the order I received from Beechers Cheese last week. They ordered Blackberry Prune Lemon Basil Jam and Pear Quince Orange Ginger Marmalade. I don't have an established label for the Pear Quince so I have to use my write-in labels, which means I write Pear Quince Orange Ginger Marmalade 48 times and I also write the ingredients: pears, blackberry honey, quince, oranges, lemon juice, candy ginger (honey, ginger, water) 48 times. I know, crazy. But for the 2014-15 preserving season there will be so much less of the write-in labels. I'm getting closer and closer to a finalized list of flavors to produce in the next year. (This means I can head to the printer.)
It's flavors like cherry that keep coming on and off the list. I can't decide whether to make a Cherry Jam. It's time intensive, expensive fruit to work with. It's low in pectin which means yields are lower and capturing cherry flavor is tricky and I probably shouldn't say this, but I don't think a cherry preserve will ever match a fresh cherry. But for some fruits that's not the point. Some fruits, and I think cherries count among them, evolve into having a second identity when cooked. Cherries are such an important fruit to this part of the country and a traditional preserve flavor I'd like to offer my customers in a honey preserves form. As of today, my Cherry Rosehip Hibiscus Jam is back on the list. I'm thinking a small run of the flavor...100/200 jars at most.
Last Tuesday I cleaned out my section of the cooler in the kitchen I rent for jam-making. I'm officially on hiatus from cooking for two months. I took home 6 quarts of jam, a couple pounds of lemons and 10 quince leftover from December. I kept thinking I'd try a savory jam with them, but on Thursday I broke down and accepted I am not making that jam right now. Instead, I peeled the quince, cut them in half and Amy put them in the dehydrator. I'll use them as an aromatic in braised dishes over the next couple months.
Speaking of acceptance, I'm putting my ambitions for a savory rhubarb jam on hiatus for now. I've cooked several batches and they haven't wow-ed me. By savory I mean the jam had star anise, birds eye chili, ginger, apple cider vinegar, and a tiny bit of shallot. With the second batch I skipped the shallot and vinegar and used lime zest and juice instead. I'm using it all as cooking jam. We made short ribs the other day. Today, it's pork belly.
That piece of belly will be a few shades darker, tender and sweet when I get home in a little bit. The pork is from Olsen Farms. They were having a crazy sale on beautiful slabs of pork belly at the Farmers Market. Getting ready and clearing out the freezer for spring slaughter, the stall lady said.
Earlier I mentioned Beechers Cheese and V Smiley Preserves. Yes! You will now be able to buy my jams at the Sea-Tac Airport shop and their flagship Pike Street Shop. I'm really excited about this. I just have to write 11 more labels!
One of the things I think about a lot when I'm taking a daily mental survey of my jam business is the question of how to paint a frank picture. Last spring as I fidgeted around, wondering how, wondering when and where to start this fruit and honey preservation project, I probably spent the most time wishing a written manual already existed that covered all my questions, the technical ones about permitting, money, and liability insurance. I vowed that if I ever did pull it together and start a business, I'd keep notes and my notes would be detailed, funny because they included all my mistakes, and they would be typed so I could share them easily. Most important though, in any sharing I did, on Facebook or blogging, I didn't want to post when things were only going well. Doing so didn't seem honest. Actually, it just didn't seem nice. "Look, look at all these lovely things happening to me! Blah blah blah..."
But when things have gone wrong and I've noted the mistake as one to share, to laugh about it, to get it off my chest, maybe even as a cautionary anecdote, I get stopped by something else. Worry. I worry that anyone reading will just think I have no idea what I'm doing and instead of being helpful to someone or being funny, I'm just demonstrating an untrustworthiness. I know that people expect each other to make mistakes, we all know that sometimes a day goes wrong, and sometimes finding out about that is really heartwarming, but I think that's only the case if we're craving someone's vulnerability OR a lot of time has passed and a mistake is far, far away, settled at a solid distance from the present.
You would think with all this talk I'd have some secret I'm sitting on. I don't. The day to day of the jam business is good. I'm entering a 2 month break from production. It's time meant for planning, for sitting in shops drinking tea followed by cocktails, and for writing.
Today I picked up Nigel Slater's Notes From the Larder, his day by day diary that gives a good picture of how he's created his other books, maybe even how he's created his homey, authoritative style in general. His voice for food is always inspirational. It says be tangential, be detailed, get pondering and write it all down.
I’ve entered a funny down time in the kitchen. Except for half a box of lemons and seven quinces from November, the cooler is empty of produce. It’s winter. I keep counting cases of jam and marmalade in storage wondering if I made enough jam and the right flavors to keep wholesale accounts filled and farmers market shoppers happy until the early May rhubarb appears. When rhubarb does come, the preserving cycle begins again. Rhubarb to strawberries onto cherries, Apriums giving way to Apricots. Then a deluge of fruit, more than can be preserved, summer, summer, summer streaking by.
Raining days like this Monday in February are built for hatching May and June plans. It’s deciding how many jars to make of Rhubarb Vanilla Jam in May before moving onto cherry flavors. It’s writing new cherry jam recipes by closing my eyes, pretending the sun’s come back, the herb garden has re-grown and imagining what I want to taste in my cherry jam four months from now. I love this process. In the case of jam, product development can mean stepping out of season. Cutting up California rhubarb or defrosting frozen cherries to mock up flavor combinations can feel a little blasphemous. But the process of testing, assessment, and problems solving is so rich it makes up for the dampened flavors of frozen or faraway grown fruit.
On Saturday I picked up six pounds of rhubarb from Frank’s Warehouse in Sodo and biked back North four blocks to my kitchen on Airport Way. The kitchen was so cold from the freeze outside I washed the rhubarb in warm water to heat my hands. I plugged in the radio and started chopping rhubarb lengths for two different recipes. One, Rhubarb Plum Conserves, I first made two years ago with dried prunes picked from a friend’s tree in Mapleleaf and the other, Rhubarb Apple Vanilla, a new combination for me.
Wrapped into every fruit-chopping session is a conversation about the way fruit behaves when cooked. Rhubarb loves to splinter into fibrous striations and head towards mush. Is this ok? Do I want to make a Rhubarb Jam that revels in the fruit’s natural tendencies? Or I should employ more time intensive methods like multi day macerations, fine-chopping, or roasting which help rhubarb keep its original shape and potentially add complexity to the finished product? Coming out of marmalade season—its fine–slicing, the three-day processes, the blanching, long cook down times and firm sets—I’m excited for single flavors prepared simply. So I’m going for a rustic Rhubarb jam.
On its own rhubarb has virtually no pectin, a lacking more emphasized when jamming with honey instead of sugar. With a little apple added, pectin reappears, which will improve the jam’s final texture. Apples generally keep their shape when cooked so when I prepare the raw apples I’m deciding the mouth feel of the finished product. Should the apples be chunky, providing a counter-texture to the soft rhubarb? Or does that pull attention away from the rhubarb flavor? Should the apple act solely as a pectin booster, getting grated so it texturally disappears behind the rhubarb allowing the jam’s mouth feel and flavor to match and say one thing, RHUBARB? I settled on small chunks of apple, three inch lengths of rhubarb and half a vanilla bean.
The nice thing about product development is there is no ladling, hot jars or lids to be twisted. The preserve finishes cooking in the copper pan, I pull it from the stove and let it sit. After an hour, I scoop the jam into quart containers that get packed into my bike bags bound for home. In my notebook I jot down how many 6 oz jars the recipe makes and any first impressions of the preserve.
The note taking process continues at home. Yesterday, after I got back from the West Seattle Farmers Market, I ate nearly a cup of the Rhubarb Apple Vanilla, dirtying six spoons as I kept going back for more. The apple chunks I questioned the previous day now felt like a welcome contrast to the rhubarb’s texture. And today? I’m back up in my head wondering, wouldn’t it be nice to have a jam that was soft spoonful’s of rhubarb and apple interspersed with small chunks of roasted rhubarb checkered with vanilla bean? I’ll know for sure by May.
Farmers Market snippets and bundled up travels for winter produce.
For the last several weeks in the jam kitchen I’ve inhaled the steam of lime, pear and vanilla bean condensing into marmalade. I’m deep in producing several hundred jars of my Bosc Pear Bearss Lime Vanilla Marmalade. Say that fast three times in a row! It is a soft, sweet, and warm marmalade with little zaps of sour and bitter interjected when you bite into the lime rind. I love sampling this preserve to people. And it makes a lovely gift, orange jelly dashed with wisps of green lime rind.
Originality in preserves is a fickle creature. It’s easy to end up muddling flavors in the name of creativity. A cook I know has a thing about cinnamon. “Overused!” she cries. That’s usually my sentiment on vanilla in preserves. Vanilla falls so gracefully into so many flavor brainstorms. Oranges with plums and cardamom, oh, and then I’ll just tie the whole thing up with vanilla! But this bossy, know-it-all voice in my head always interjects, hey lady! that’s the easy way to bring a jam flavor together. In my imagination where ingredients have personalities, vanilla is a sound manager type, someone who takes the tart voice of a blueberry and in the name of balance just mutes the fruit’s special zip right out. But sometimes vanilla in a preserve is more than a tidy bow on top of a flavor and sometimes vanilla steps out of character and lets all the ingredients inside sing at the top of their lungs together. That’s how I think of Bosc Pear Bearss Lime Vanilla Marmalade. The (Persian) Bearss Lime by the way is the very pretty name for the lime you commonly find at the grocery store. Also, Bosc Pear season is winding down here in the Pacific Northwest so grab those pears soon. Allow almost a week for them to ripen in your home so they are drippy with flavor for the marmalade. Lastly, feel free to substitute another pear for the Boscs if they are unavailable.
Bosc Pear Vanilla Lime Marmalade
2 lb 14 oz Bosc Pears (make sure they are very ripe)
1 lb 1 oz Limes (allow them to ripen to a nice gold-green color at room temperature)
2 lb 8 oz Blackberry Honey
5 oz Lemon Juice, strained
1 vanilla bean pod
Make the pear juice. Cut pears into eighths, place in non-reactive pot, cover with water to one inch above fruit. Pears should float freely in water. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low-medium, cover, and maintain a lively simmer for 3 hours. Check on the fruit every hour. Use a spoon to press on the cooking pears. When the liquid has become slightly viscous pull the pot off the heat. Place a metal mesh strainer over a non-reactive bowl and pour pears and water through the strainer. Cover straining fruit with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to drip for 12 hours.
While the pears cook in water, prepare the limes. Working lengthwise (as though you were making lime wedges), cut limes into quarters. Working widthwise, cut each quarter into thin slices. Your slices should look like tiny pie slices. Place sliced limes in non-reactive cooking pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to lively simmer and cook limes for 5 minutes. Drain and discard the lime cooking water. Return the lime slices to a non-reactive pot and cover with water to one inch above the limes. Bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat, cover and cook the lime slices at a lively simmer until the fruit is softened, about 35 minutes. Pull the pot from the heat and let rest 12 hours.
Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthwise. Scrape out the bean’s contents and deposit them along with the scraped pod, strained pear juice, lime slices and their cooking liquid, honey, and strained lemon juice into an 11-quart, non-reactive and wide preserving pan like an enameled Dutch oven or—if you have one—a copper jam pan. If you do not have a large pan, split the mixture in two and cook in your standard stock-pot in two rounds.
Over high heat, bring the pot to a boil. The mixture will cook at a high heat until it sets. I like to determine set by having several spoons ready on a plate in the freezer. Cooking times vary depending on the pan and your stove. The cooking mixture will proceed through several cooking stages. When it reaches the foaming stage start to run a heatproof spatula along the bottom of your pan. Don’t over-stir! This slows the cooking process. As the foam disappears, the bubbles get smaller, and the sound of the pot changes to a low, dull roar, stir more often to prevent sticking.
Test for doneness by pulling the pot off the heat and placing a small bit of the mixture into one of your frozen spoons. Allow the spoon to cool in your freezer until the underside feels “room temperature”. Tilt the spoon. If the mixture has formed a skin and moves sluggishly down the spoon then the marmalade is set and done. If the mixture runs down the spoon easily, return the pot to the stove and continue boiling. Remove the pot from the stove each time you check the set. Check the surface of the jam in the pot after it’s rested off the stove for several minutes. If you notice a skin has formed on jam’s surface, this is another sign the marmalade has set.
If you are canning the marmalade, follow the jar manufacturer’s instructions or if you want to eat your marmalade right away, simply extract the vanilla bean from the mixture and place in glass jars and let cool. Store marmalade in the refrigerator if you aren’t canning it. You can eat the marmalade immediately, but I recommend waiting a couple weeks. The flavors continue to develop and will be in full display several weeks after you make the marmalade.
Hello on a Friday evening! I have just come home from a meeting with the buyer from Pasta & Co, the University Village and Bellevue food shops sistered to Beechers Cheese Company. Turns out they love jam and their buyer Jessica has been pushing them in the locally made direction. They will be carrying my Fall/winter flavors Quince Marmalade and Cranberry Apple Marmalade. This is a lovely bookend on a challenging week which I mostly spent in bed doing battle with my overexcited wisdom teeth and a fever. Thank goodness for antibiotics, painkillers, my partner Amy, and Seasons 4 & 5 of 30Rock, which together have helped me weather the wisdom teeth attack.
More jam news is more jam homes. Look for V Smiley Preserves at Lower Queen Anne's Marx foods starting next week. Several small batch--fun flavors that are hard to find--are now on the shelves at The Pantry at Delancey. Check out their awesome cooking classes online too. I learned how to make jam because of their classes. Lastly, the big, no, the epic one, West Seattle Farmers Market!! I officially debuted the V Smiley Preserves stand last weekend at the very same time my wisdom teeth were trying to claim new gumline territory. I'm excited to do the market again next week, the 17th (pain free I'm hoping). It is an honor to be selling in the Seattle Farmers Market. They are a venerable system for accessing the best ingredients. And winter markets are another whole level. The cold is intense! So come support your mittened farmers and producers. See you at the Junction Sunday the 17th of November.
The setup and booth at the West Seattle Farmers Market yesterday. Success!
Seattleites have their favorite farmers markets and it’s not always the one closest to home. My favorite is the University Farmers Market. When I conceived of my preserves company, I imagined making large produce orders with folks like Billy’s Gardens and Tonnemaker Family Orchard and having the deliveries dropped to the jam kitchen with enough time to ripen any lingering firm fruits in time for weekend jam-making. Then to supplement the big orders, to feed my sense of inspiration, and drive product development I imagined making weekly early morning trips to the University Farmers Market to pick up Damson Plums from Mair Taki Farm and currants from the people next to Mair Taki’s stand who bring unusual cane berries and hard to find stone fruits like Royal Blenheim Apricots.
I do make it to the farmers market weekly, but it’s a different one every time. Strawberries and blackberries have me running all over the city. The trick is finding a fresh market berry farmer willing to wholesale their produce in buckets and who comes to city on a Friday or Saturday. Berries in buckets have no shelf life. They must be used within a day or two of harvest. So my trips to the markets have been more dash-like than meandering and curious. Product development comes in a different form too. The 3 lbs. of blackberries left over from making Blackberry Prune Jam combine with the 2 lbs. of apricots left from Apricot Butter and become a small batch of Blackberry Apricot Jam that I deliver to my Subscribers.
Funny, I sat down to write about the leisurely trip I DID make to University Market this weekend and look what it became. I was going to tell you about the odd, and I think surprising relationship between the ended summer season and ensuing flood of tomatoes to the market, where just by sheer quantity and lowered price per pound, tomatoes shift from a beacon of summer to a sign of fall. What is this time of year? We spend the growing season looking to the grower heralding just exactly where we are in the season by way of what they bring to market and then September comes. It’s cold, but sometimes it’s hot and that excited question, “what’s next? tomatoes? are they ready yet?” becomes “oh no, celeriac! we’re there already?”
The tomato flood and its signal of an oncoming tomato drought does have an upside, Tomato Jam. Just now I finished off a package of bacon, really only two slices remained, and slathered the remainders with Tomato Jam, which depending on how you look at it is a glorious ketchup or a sophisticated savory fruit jam built for cheese and sour breads. Tomato Jam goes on the menu soon at The Whale Wins and you can currently purchase jars at DeLaurenti and Sugarpill on Capitol Hill.
This morning I visited the Rose Geraniums in the garden. I read the fresh sheet from Billy's Gardens (in Tonasket, WA) with my breakfast which made me think about the preserving schedule for the next couple weeks. Quince, glorious quince, will come in from the orchard soon and then I will start dismantling the Rose Geraniums one sprig and stalk at a time to make Quince Rose Geranium Grappa Marmalade, one of my all time favorite preserves to make and eat. Amy has taken beautiful care of the two, now gigantic Geraniums that have grown all summer in preparation for quince season.
In the pots this weekend, strawberries and Pluots cooked down to make jam for my co-worker Alex's pop up brunch this coming Sunday at Vif, the adorable, go check it out now if you haven't, coffee and wine shop on Fremont Ave less than a block north of The Book Larder and Dot's. Alex and I work together at the Whale Wins and he and the sous-chef of the Walrus and the Carpenter are presenting a 3 course brunch on Sunday the 15th. There might be a few seats left...check out vifseattle.com. The Strawberry Pluot Honey Jam comes near the start of the meal, with a scone naturally.
Before heading into cook dinner at the Whale Wins tonight, I stop by Marx Foods in Lower Queen Anne. Marx is an online and local Seattle specialty food store. Marx puts the products to a panel of tasters so I'm bringing 8 jams and marmalades for them to sample.
And...I finally finished and submitted my application to the Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, which connects to my final piece of news. The bike trailer. For my birthday, Amy, my sister Moira, and my brother in law Andy gifted me a honking 300 lb. hauler of a bike trailer from an Iowa company called Bikes at Work. Amy assembled the (as she calls it) "puzzle" this weekend. The finished product is a utilitarian kind of dazzling. It's pretty and useful! Now I can get the jam to the farmers market.
I'm still figuring out how to use the Squarespace app and sprinkle the pictures into the text. The last one is the nightly view I see when I emerge from the jam kitchen.
I am on the bus heading back to the jam kitchen after volunteering a couple hours for the orchard work party at my community garden. I have a plot in Seattle's original 'P-Patch'. Picardo it's called and it's first letter is the origin of the 'p' in 'p-patch'.
We tied everbearing raspberries together, weeded the blueberries, currants and gooseberries and some folks pruned the stone fruit trees, which unlike apples and pears, adore a summer pruning. Then everyone harvested what was ripe on the bushes and trees. I ducked out for that part to visit my plot. I picked tomatoes, summer squash, beans, shiso, thai basil, and broccoli. My dear partner Amy met me up there and she weeded, watered and helped harvest. Now she's hauling the veggies up to our home while I return to the jam kitchen to finish my three day weekend of jam making.
Saturday was Strawberry Blackberry. Yesterday was Nectarine Blackberry and today, Monday, is many, many jars of Blackberry Prune. Lots of blackberries! I bought 80 lbs of them on Saturday and my sole mission of the weekend has been channeling blackberries into 100's of little glass jars.
Back to work!
Today I finally, finally, finally sold my jams to Renee Ericksen the owner of The Whale Wins in Seattle. I work in the kitchen at the Whale. We have talked for several months about selling my jam there, but there have been so many dots to connect to get there. The labels came back from the printer. I hauled out my stores of jars and applied away. Renee perched the jars near the entrance to the restaurant. I should have taken a picture, but the whole thing made me so giddy I just couldn't. Currently on sale are Apricot Butter, Nectarine Blackberry Jam, and Blackberry Prune Jam.
In the pots tomorrow, I'll cook down and jar Apricot Nectarine Jam, the last of the apricots. Billy's Gardens delivered peaches and tomatoes today and I'll spend the day prepping that fruit for Sunday jam-making. Everything must be peeled and chopped, measured and have appropriate amounts of honey and fresh squeezed lemon juice added.
Tomorrow also marks the all-important set-up of my books. Oy! My dear friend Stephanie is coming over from Whidbey Island to guide me through the process. Hello Quickbooks. It's been a while. I used to do data entry in Quickbooks for artists in LA. The work turned me into a ruthless receipt collector. My poor wallet's never been the same since.
Thought you'd enjoy this pretty pic of Agastache Blossoms sitting on Blackberry Jam.
After working my pastry shift at the Whale Wins I took the afternoon off from all things business related, biked home, took a long nap, ate potato chips and a piece of apricot cake While doing dishes. Amy graciously cooked morning and nighttime meals the last several days as I ran around town collecting items for jam-making and getting acquainted with my kitchen in SODO and its very small reach-in cooler. Tonight it's my turn. Stuffed peppers?
Last night I vowed to juice a case of lemons while I prepped and cooked several batches of Apricot Butter (my first in the commercial kitchen that homes V Smiley Preserves). I only got halfway through the lemon case before the final jam jars came out of the oven and it was time to clean up. I'd already filled my section of the cooler with boxes of apricots so I brought the half case of lemons home with me. Maybe lemonade later.
This is a time of serious logistical lessons. I don't own a car and for storage reasons must buy fruit in very small quantities. I am still establishing relationships with farmers and suppliers. Sometimes honey deliveries come 3 days later than planned and when the honey does not come the ordered fruit must be sent back. Sometimes, even when I remember everything on my list of items to bring to the kitchen from home, I forget my kitchen keys.
I laugh about these moments with Amy when I get home. I am lucky to get a chance at pursuing my little dream of a micro jam company. And I look forward to getting the routines down. Fruit comes in and jars of jam go out.
August is about making as much jam as possible, jam for wholesaling, jam for the subscriptions that start in September. Right now I am working on building a stock of Apricot Butter before the apricots are all gone. After that, in about a week, I start on Blackberry Plum Jam and fingers crossed, Strawberry Pluot. I played phone tag with Nate Youngquist from Youngquist Farms for a while there, but as of Tuesday, I have a source for the 150 pounds of blackberries I need. Hooray!
I ate crepes both days this weekend. Yesterday I wrapped slices of butter in the eggy folds. I thought of jam loathsomely, wanting instead the deep, sweet fattiness of pure butter promising the most fill for the hunger that is big in my stomach by the end of the work week. A day later and again with a plate of crepes before me, I craved a certain kind of sweetness, the kind that comes from a tart plum jam. I emptied a jar of Plum, Prune and Apricot Conserves. (Conserves? The preserve contained dried Royal Blenheim Apricots and I think of jams including dry fruit as conserves.) See picture above.
In a clear moment on Saturday, Amy and I walked the Rose Geraniums outside into the garden. I bought them last year for jam-making. Rose Geraniums are everywhere in jam recipes. Rub the leaves and place them in the finished pot of jam to infuse a few minutes. The two plants I claimed at a nursery last spring summered in my Seattle P-Patch and spent the winter in my apartment. They are gangly from seeing a Pacific Northwest winter from behind smudged window glass. Not a lot of light in that position. The word for our current weather here in Seattle is dynamic and now the geraniums are in the thick of hail, spring wind and dumping rain. After we placed the two potted geraniums, Amy spent a while propping the plants, weaving their spindly stems onto supporting stakes. Some natural, wind-driven pruning might occur in the next month but hopefully the geraniums will find their strength for this quickly oncoming growing season.
But even as I plant seeds in my garden and pat the soil around them there is a sense of dormancy and limbo within myself about the honey preserves project. I am slowly moving in the direction of going commercial, renting a commercial kitchen, buying insurance to cover the risk associated with working in that kitchen, submitting my jam recipes to the WSDA and seeking out permitting from Seattle King County. It is a complicated and expensive process and venturing into commercial jam making as a micro-business where I continue to work full time in my restaurant cooking job and produce jam on the side means I will work non-stop. And I also want to devote time to my love, Amy, and enjoy that same summer that produces so much fruit as not just a time to preserve in jars but also take as afternoons in the park and ride bikes in the sunset.
Big subjects for producing jam commercially involve issues like the high cost of seeking permitting in Seattle (about a thousand dollars if all goes smoothly), storage of several thousand jam jars and where to place a 650 lb. barrel of honey? I literally don't think the floors of my apartment could handle the weight, especially once all the jars contain jam. And I'm doing this without a personal vehicle.
I voice these concerns out loud and afterwards I picture a maze that for just a moment I see from above. I also see there is a definite thruway and a squiggling line (that's me) oozing along in the maze. You know, snail's pace. With my momentary aerial view (that's really a metaphor for my adamance that I will get this project off the ground one way or another) I attempt memorizing the maze so I can pass the route along to the snail on the ground.
This evening talking on the phone to my mother in Vermont about the daunting financial and logistical aspects of commercial jam-making on a micro level, she suggested I look at commercial kitchen space elsewhere, like Whidbey Island. I used to live there and am still connected to food people in the community. When I consider the idea I still see myself buying my fruit at the Saturday University District Farmers Market. I still see sizable transportation costs because of not having a personal vehicle, but I also see the chance of forming agreements with people for rental and storage that better fit the current stature of my project. In the next week I will research permitting in Washington's Island County.
Had to share this very pretty picture.It
This is beets and Meyer lemons combined in the copper pan with honey just before the final cookdown. The final and finished color of the marmalade is more brown than purple. You have probably seen the color I'm talking of. It happens to the skin of the beet when roasted in the oven. I don't yet know the flavor of beet and Meyer lemons with honey. It's too soon to tell. But I do know more about my jam labels and how I want them to look. Here are some looks. Pink is a favorite color of mine. I wrote a whole piece about the color in college and I continue to enjoy the complex associations with pink. Placed on a jam label it looks...yes, feminine. And then sky blue? A baby boys color for sure but set with serious and official black these are the colors that for me evoke a sense of fancy, freshness, and wide-openness which are the emotions I associate with modern preserve making.
This is a rare three-day weekend. Yesterday I played all day, waking up early to ride the Metro Seattle bus my partner drives every weekday morning. I'd never seen her at work in this capacity of city bus driver. I love seeing how people work and remembering all the realms we live in as human beings from the domestic to professional and the qualities these realms bring out in us. After the bus ride, I spent the next couple hours reading Vanity Fair and drinking tea in Pioneer Square waiting for Bar Sajor to open, but it turns out they are not yet open for lunch. The wind whips through downtown Seattle giving the neighborhood its own unique weather patterns. The gusts sent me home for lunch, but later when the sun started to show around tall, voluminous clouds, I walked down to South Lake Union for 50 cent oysters at Flying Fish. And finally, that grilled chicken I craved from Bar Sajor happened in Wallingford at a friends house where a group of Irish visitors gathered around lots of boiled potatoes, salad, chicken from the grill, and salmon.
After all that play yesterday I easily settled into marmalade preparations this morning. I sliced and picked out seeds and watched over pots of simmering fruit.
I'm working on two rounds of Lemon Pear Marmalade and a Kumquat Meyer Lemon Marmalade, which is a Kumquat jelly with slices of Meyer Lemon.
I make winter fruit subscription deliveries this week and though I have boxes and boxes of jam jars ready to go, I always feel a little more prepared when there are also preserves working on the kitchen counter and stove. I'm sitting at a shop three blocks from home with an evening coffee, but back in my apartment kitchen kumquat halves slowly seep flavor into water, juice collects in bowls set under colanders that contain spent, cooked-out pear eighths that simmered for three hours.
To accompany my coffee I brought along Nigel Slater's Ripe. I've mentioned this book on here before. It is an ultimate tome for thinking about fruit in the kitchen, in the pantry, and in the entire context of a meal. I cannot recommend this book enough and to do so I want to start pointing at some of his fruit cookery ideas. I'll start with something really simple. Fool. It's cream, sugar, fruit, a small serving vessel, and a slight chill.
Slater doesn't specifically give a recipe for making a fool with jam, but he points at the concept with " A Damson fool ", page 225. For 4 people, he cooks 1 pound damson plums with 5 Tablespoons sugar. He food mills this. He whips cream (1.25 cups) til it barely holds its shape and to it he adds the fruit and sugar mixture. It's chilled in small cups and eaten several hours later. I have never measured my proportion of cream to fruit. At home, I just whip some cream and add jam to taste, but I knew someone out there would have more helpful information. And here it is. She works with Strawberry Jam. What jam do you have around?
This is an odds and ends post I think. It's Sunday evening. I've spent the day by myself both resting and doing laps around the house, laundry, defrosting sweatbreads and lamb tongue for dinner, dishes, napping, drinking a glass of mead, and costing out jam recipes I made last year. On Thursday I started a big feeling post about my mother's land back in Vermont. It's the farm I grew up on. I've had the property on my mind for years, but only very recently did I start sharing my dreams and designs for the property with my mother. She is a wonderfully practical woman so I have always thought that I needed a business plan and financial backing before I could come to her with my ideas. She is also (I am learning) very supportive and interested in putting the Vermont land she lives on back to work. This is a very big deal and it involves an intimacy with my home and my mother that is all new to me. Writing about a possible business with my mother back on the land where I grew up is a ball of emotion on the large side. For now the whole thing is sitting in my draft box so I can think more. I had a torrid love affair with a box of Seville oranges and my new copper jam pan.
Now my mind just skitters about. I look online at prices for commercial kitchen rentals here in Seattle. I continue to contemplate whether or how to start producing jam commercially on a level that allows me greater selling opportunities rather than continuing with the grassroots-friends-and-family-suggested-donation approach I currently take. In my head I imagine all the math I must do to establish how much every angle of a micro-jam business costs. Last weekend, I looked at the recipe for Blackberry and Damson Plum with Lemon Basil. Using conservative, ie, high, prices for the fruit, honey, and jars, I came up with a rough cost of goods per jar. Just for the ingredients I calculated a $4.67 cost per 6 oz. jar. I know that's a high price, but I actually found the numbers and their tangibility encouraging.
Then my brain ratcheted to another ongoing question of mine concerning the jam I make. What are its uses again? I spent the next couple days eating jam on toast. People tend to imagine bread first when they think of jam. I rarely eat jam on toast so I wanted to experience my preserves in their natural habitat. At first I loved my morning plate of bread slices, each adorned with a different jam flavor. Good stuff I thought, but by day three, the sweetness of the jam got insipid and I found myself heading for the tartest flavors I could find amongst my stores.
Once I ran out of bread I turned to my two current favorite cookbooks for thinking about fruit and cooking, Pam Corbin's Cake Handbook from the River Cottage Handbook series and Nigel Slater's Ripe. The recipes for Seville Orange Polenta Cake and Banana Bread in the River Cottage Cake Handbook stuck out to me. I decided to combine them into a cake. For my first take on this idea I used a Banana Bread recipe subbing preserves for the mashed banana. Testing out different kinds of honey last year I accumulated more batches of lemon marmalade than I could eat which made it the natural choice for the cake.
How did it turn out? I am terrible at answering this question. At work it's my job to decide if something tastes "right", but when it comes to eating food at home I am so much less picky. Even more so when tasting sweets. I adore cake. Almost anything baked and sweet I love. Taste Notes, here goes: (Oh, I frosted the cake with a combination of creme fraiche and lemon marmalade.) Taste was good, sweet!, definitely lemony with a touch of that marmalade bitterness. I found the texture disarmingly soft, a zero-to-one-chew-needed-before-swallowing kind of softness. Keep in mind, this was my reaction after eating the cake several hours after it came out of the oven. The cake's mouth-feel improved and all the flavors integrated more by day two. By day four the cake was gone. I think it hit its peak on day three. This isn't unusual for cakes. At my work we currently bake a molasses spice cake that definitely improves with age. I want to make my Marmalade Cake again, tweak it some, maybe you'd like to work on it too? Here is my recipe for now:
Citrus Marmalade Cake
Sift together the following and set aside: 3 cups almond flour + 1/8 t salt + 1/2 t baking soda
Combine the following in 1 bowl and once mixed add to dry ingredients: 1 c citrus marmalade + 1/4 c honey + 4 eggs + 1/2 c yogurt + dash of vanilla extract + zest from 2 lemons
I baked this is in two cake pans in a 325 degrees Fahrenheit until done. Isn't that a maddening direction? Til'Done! No, but seriously my baking times will differ from yours and yours and yours. Just make sure to peep in the oven after 15 minutes and move the cakes around to ensure even baking. It's almond flour and honey so be extra vigilant, these ingredients brown quickly. These cakes should not take longer than a 40 minutes to bake.
Let the cakes rest for several minutes before you pop them out of their pans and place them on cooling racks.
While they rest, mix together the Citrus Marmalade Frosting: 2/3 c creme fraiche + 1/3 c citrus marmalade + 1/4 c honey.
Once the cakes cool completely, ice them up! Remember, this cake improves with a little rest time. Taste it over several days and see how it changes.
Refrigeration isn't necessary, just store covered in a cool place.