fruit

Post Party Notes

Playing for Favorites.

I woke up the morning after the jam party, the coming out event I put on for my ongoing project with honey preserved fruit, wanting to continue the party. Over the course of the previous afternoon and evening, as people came and went from my apartment, I settled on the pecan shortbreads (an Elana Amsterdam recipe from Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook) mounded with crème fraiche and topped with jam as my snack when I sensed my energy flagging. I tried a different jam each time. The jam jars, all 33, were still out on the shelf as I got ready for work the following morning. Wooden tasting spoons stood clustered and at attention in mason jars placed around the room. I used one to spoon scoops of jam for today’s crème fraiche and shortbread breakfast. With a hangover from yesterday’s party giddiness (nerves not alcohol) now settled in my stomach and at the back of my head, I didn’t have much of an appetite. I ate out of utility, finding energy for the work-day, but tasting the jams gave me a small reenactment of yesterday’s pleasure when friends gathered sampling all the jams and taking home their favorites.

Some of the choices surprised me. Tomato preserves, from the simple Tomato Jam to the Tomato Marmalade (Orange and Lemon slices) and Tomato Plum Preserves had stymied my summer subscribers. I still owe one subscriber an email outlining uses for tomato preserves. Bacon, sourdough bread, chevre, and more bacon come to mind. For the party, between Amy and I, we cooked 6 pounds of bacon to set the sandwich bar up with a vengeance. When eaten with bacon, the Tomato Jam tastes like the most luxurious ketchup. Maybe there is a genetic component to adoring tomato preserves? They baffled my whole family, but certain folks at the jam party couldn’t ferret out enough jars of Tomato Jam to take home with them.

Keep the Color.

Oxidation….gross or just the sign of natural preserving methods? I made a lot of Apricot Butter in July, using the 30-pound box of apricots I brought from Mair Taki Farm to play with different infusions and flavors. I made flavors like Rose and Apricot and Espelette (a Basque chili) and Star Anise with Apricot. Now November, and despite liberal use of lemon juice in my recipe, the very top of the jarred Apricot Butter is darkening. The same happens to the Golden Raspberry Jam and the Aprium and even the Strawberry Orange and Strawberry Pluot though with the strawberry jams it’s harder to discern the darkening because it shows less against the red jams.

I held onto two jars of marmalade from Rachel Saunders’ Marmalade classes at the Pantry last winter. The marmalades are made with sugar and they too have darkened though not nearly as significantly as my Apricot Butters. I can’t decide what I think about oxidation. It’s a question of aesthetics versus process. I don’t worry about the color changes in the red hued jams because the shift is so subtle, but with a brilliant orange colored jar of apricot, does part of the enjoyment come from the color? And is something lost from the eating experience when the orange fades to brown? Or is the great integrity of naturalness—the honesty of letting it all hang out—lost from the jam-making process when I add the smallest bit of powdered citric acid to keep the color?

The natural in naturalness is complicated. There is a fair amount of fuss involved in making simple-looking, simple-tasting, simple-intentioned food. Thinking about the jam I want to make, I have to wonder how disruptive a little citric acid is compared to when I take three days to make 8 jars of marmalade or when I cut apples for a preserve into three different size categories to achieve spreadable jam still redolent with fruit chunks. Does a jam taste the most like the sum of its contents when you throw the contents into a pot and cook them down or when you carefully develop all the parts of the apple flavor by including apple juice, apple pieces, and apple brandy, each prepared separately and then combined to cook down into a jam? In other words, is the addition of citric acid really just a piece of good technique that maintains a fruit’s golden character?

No-Name Jam.

Earlier I was thinking about people’s favorite jam flavors. So far, Tayberry Jam wins hands down. The name, Tayberry, is exotic and nostalgic at the same time. Just what is a Tayberry, people ask in a tone that says, “I feel like I know this but can you just remind me?”. Tayberry, by the way, is a Scottish cross of black raspberry and blackberry. In the days following my project-launch-style jam party, I’ve thought about names, business names specifically. The quest is part of a larger question of what to do next with my project. For being so fond of words, I’m surprised by how stumped I am for a business name. Good, even decent ideas are few. My wish to avoid kitsch, cuteness, Latin, new-age (wu-wu), thesauruses, words that require a dictionary, ampersands, and sentimentality, might just about wipe out all genuine choices because the truth is I love all of the above. Just not for my business name. Don’t worry, I’m not going with No-Name Jam! For me, a seafood restaurant chain on the East Coast takes all the association with it on that name. No, the ideas that come to mind are always one or two words preceding the word preserves. The other day when I came home from work frustrated about the game of knowledge tossed around in a restaurant kitchen, I wanted to name the jam project, Wide-Eyed Preserves. But does wide-eyed make you think of innocence or a scary movie? And is innocence a positive? It seems to me a name must be both concrete in imagery and positive in association.

This is where the Tayberry comes back. A couple months ago I wrote a post called Tayberry Heart. I’d just fallen in love with the berry and was struck by its raspberry façade and its blackberry core, that white center to which the berry’s aggregate drupes cling. Now I also love the Tayberry for being the perfect first spokesjam of my honey preserves project. The Tayberry jam is both a safe and spectacular introduction to jam and “good-enough-to-eat-all-by-itself-on-a-spoon” jam eating, which I think is what artisan jam-making and eating, at its core, is all about. Savoring.

But does having the word heart in a name teeter on New Age (wu-wu)? I know, who cares. Heart is timeless and endlessly re-claimable. And (because it’s always best to look over my shoulder and see what other people are doing just to remind myself of both my daily small insecurities and the constant search for relevance) a very cool coffee roaster in Portland Oregon is named Heart!

The search for a name is really a traverse through personal language associations. Heart associated with coffee sounds tender and gutsy, but with fruit preserves, perhaps a more feminine realm than coffee (really? where do I get the idea that coffee is more butch than fruit?), the word heart might just be pretty and sentimental. And what’s so bad about pretty and sentimental….blah, blah, blah.

While I continue to traipse through this, here are some funny and serious ideas compiled during walks with Amy and I and Beans the dog.

Killer Bee Jams

Bee Fruits

Embroidered Fruits

Embroidery Room Preserves

Bedizen Preserves

Foggy Window Preserves

V Be Jammin

Lez’Bee In Jam

Hive Fruits

Wide-Eyed Preserves

Open Jam

Ajar Preserves

Apini Jams

Worker Bee Preserves

Tayberry Heart Preserves.

When the fruit couldn't wait I took a picture.

This past summer, I took a lot of photos of fruit and honey boiling down to jam. Steam and bubbles obscured any chance of my phone's measly camera capturing 'the action'. I'd pull the pot of jam off the heat and try to capture the dynamics of a jam in progress, the shimmer and gloss of sugars condensing and concentrating. Really I was trying to capture the excitement I felt for the jam in the pot on that particular day and more generally, with each camera-on-jam attempt, I held up the excitement I felt for this honey preserves project.

I've been working on making honey preserved fruit products and recipes since May of this year. The idea of Stovetopletters was that it could serve as a spotty, but spontaneous recording device for the work I did in the kitchen. I like to write. It's what I studied in school but for me it feels more comfortable to be studious about food and unbidden about writing.

Still, I have all these jam related pictures, pictures meant to accompany posts that I didn't write. As I clean up after the coming out / launch party I threw this last weekend for my honey preserves project, part of the tidying entails going through roughly 2.5 seasons (May-November) of food photographs. Here they are with abridged explanations, otherwise known as captions.

Preserves layered in a late May birthday cake.

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All the parts of a three day marmalade combined in one bowl before the cook down that transforms the juice, the honey and the fruit slices into a beautiful marmalade.

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On my way to the Queen Anne Farmers Market.

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An everyday work lunch brightened by a jar of preserves.

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With jam making goes scrubbing. It only took an afternoon of jamming to do this to the wall next to my stove. Also, this was the hottest day of the year in Seattle and I had bought waaaaay too much fruit at the farmers market.

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Thank goodness for these ones. You know, bees!

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I transported the fruit home home by bus. Waiting on the 49, thinking about Tomato Preserves and Strawberry Nectarine Jam.

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Sometimes it's hard to remember to put some away for the winter.

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Then the tomatoes in our Seattle P-Patch ripened and I made Tomato Marmalade with oranges and lemons.

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Two of us rode our bikes to Edel's house, picked up her Vanagon and drove to Christine's yard where we picked plums and prunes. The prunes ripened in our apartment and I spent the next three weeks making plum and prune preserves.

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I loved making this jam. I picked the apples from the tree across the street from my Capitol Hill apartment building. The plums and prunes are from Maple Leaf.

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Sharing jam with my family in Vermont. That is a Vergennes Laundry wood-fired oven croissant.

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My father passed away in October. I had to wait a couple days before I could leave Seattle and get back east. On my parents land in Vermont, they had apple, plum and pear trees. While I cooled my jets in Seattle I made this jam to honor my father's passing. Vanilla, Apple, Pluot, Pear with Lemon. Considering my dad's personality, the jam turned out appropriately, the flavor was layered, the texture complex.

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I used the peel to infuse in some ginger liqueur to be used in next year's preserving cycle. More presently--I thought to myself as I ate the rest of the orange--full-fledged winter, citrus, and marmalade season are coming!

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Here is the ginger liqueur in process.

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Setting up a store of kinds in my apartment. My first jam tasting, Jam Party!

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Dessert or breakfast? I now have one jar open of every jam I made this year, which is a number over 30. I've got some serious eating to do. If you are in Seattle, feel free to contact me if you want to lend a hand. You bring the ice cream, yogurt, scones, gluten free toast, etc, and I have the jam.

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Lionel Loves Jam

A friend I had not seen in almost four years recently visited me in Seattle. She helped me taste a lot of jam. It was our dessert after a lunch we shared. I braised lamb shanks in Apricot Chutney I canned last year and with them we ate copious amounts of cheese from the cheese shop down the street (the Calf and Kid) and greens from my garden. We still needed something sweet. I got out almost every spoon in my kitchen and we tasted and tasted. She was especially drawn to the Marmalades for their texture and bittersweet citrus tang, but she also ended up buying Blueberry Butter for her daughters and the Apricot with Espelette, Cardamom, and Star Anise for curiosity's sake. My friend's back home in Texas now, but she's been sending me videos of her daughters and their friends, like Lionel (the Lion), eating jam. They are adorable. Check it out: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=622389625193