My silly thoughts about jam.
- val ann c Oct 2, 2007 07:59 PM
Don't you hate it when you open a new jar of jam, and the jam is neither great nor terrible. The jam is just OK. If it was terrible, you would throw it away or return it to the store. If it was great, you would enjoy it and it would disappear quickly.
The just OK jam sits in the fridge for months. While the potentially great jams wait unopened in the pantry.
Right now I have two just OK jams in my fridge: Crofters Four Fruit Conserve and Mediterranean Organic Peach Apricot Preserves. The Mediterranean Organic is too sweet -- the sugar overpowering the fruit flavor. The Crofters tastes fruity, but it has that baby-food flavor that sometimes occurs when you blend several fruits.
In my pantry waits a jar of homemade peach jam, purchased at the farmers market. Oh when will the just OK jam be emptied?
I go to Whole Foods and there are a zillion jams. Most of them are expensive. How do I know which ones are great?
I feel your pain, and am stuck in the same morass. I'd love to hear hounds' recommendations for great jams.
As for the too-sweet mediocre stuff--I've found that a great use is mixed in to plain yogurt. The sweetness is cut by and complements the tart yogurt. Yogurt, jam, flax seeds, and walnuts is my new standard breakfast, and I love it.
I would be happy to recommend some of the jams I like, but first I would like to know what do you like? Do you have a brand that you really like as a gauge?
And what flavors appeal to you?
It is great that we can test taste the jam at Farmer's Markets!
And guess what, you can also taste the jam at Whole Food.
Just tell them you've never had it before, and are tired of buying jams you don't like.
They will be happy to sample it for you.
Several uses for that jam:
I used it to concoct a homemade BBQ sauce
Mix with cream cheese to frost cupcakes
Use it in baked BBQ beans
I personally don't care for this, but I know alot of folks rave over them at parties:
Cocktail weenies, smoked sausage & meatballs in BBQ Sauce made with jam or jelly or just the jelly as a sauce. Google some recipes.
Also, my mama used to spread jam between cake layers while still hot.
My favorite jams and jellies right now are from Berkshire Berries - I buy them at the Union Square farmer's market in Manhattan, but they have a website as well - http://www.berkshireberries.com/ . I'm positively addicted to their Berry Golden Raspberry jam.
The cheaper jams that I tend to get are the Hero brand (Swiss) and the French brand, the name of which is escaping me, I think it has a checkered top?
Bonne Maman. I like all of their varieties that I've tried (which is not all of them), and the jars are nice for re-use. Crofters I find wildly unpredictable, have quit trying.
Not the same topic, but my pet peeve with jams is the tall narrow jars so many brands are using, that you can't get to the bottom of without an iced-tea spoon.
Agreed re: Crofters! Some have been good, some not - but can't remember which was which, so just stopped buying that brand.
Great ideas on how to use up the mediocre jams. My frugal side often won't allow me to throw out foodstuff until they have become candidates for biology experiments.
i try to get rid of such jam so that i may move on to better jam.
for instance, i once hid some terrible grape jam in a blueberry pie. noone knew the difference. the apricot one i would think may be nice made into a danish with cream cheese. and the jam cake solution is also tasty.
You can also use up mediocre jam in swedish meatballs and meatloaf glaze. My typical meatloaf glaze is pepper jelly and ketchup and perhaps a little horseradish, but really, anything works. And there's that swedish meatball recipe that uses a jar of grape jelly, but again, anything but mint works there, too.
I don't buy supermarket jams often. I stick to farmers markets where you can sample. In addition to getting a trial run you are eating local and supporting a small business.
You might post a query about specific jams you are interested in from Whole Foods.
If I do get tempted by a jam I didn't sample and it is a dud, then in additio to mixing it into yogurt, you can also mix it into oatmeal. Use it for some things that call for honey. Orange marmelades are good mixed with sweet potatoes.
If you are interested in mail order June Taylor from the SF area makes some very good jellies and jams.
I enjoy the Sarabeth preserves: http://www.sarabethsbakery.com/ These are easily found at most upscale-ish markets.
I do wish, however, that rather than her combination flavors, they would produce single fruit flavors such as: raspberry or apricot.
Also, my favorite dependable jar is Bonne Maman raspberry.
val ann c -- You have articulated a problem for all of us Hounds who are anxious to try new products/tastes/textures. It could be anything. This is why I enjoy some of our Los Angeles ethnic markets which have a lot of activity with tastes in the aisles. Always, there are tables set up with new products (new to me!) and it's a great way to expand one's menu. I think more markets are "catching on" to this, as I see Whole Foods and others quite willing to open something for a customer's taste-test...at least I hope so!
Thanks for all your replies. Such great ideas on how to use up the below-average jams!
Our favorite jam flavors are apricot, strawberry, peach, orange marmalade. I love a good cherry jam. Not so much for the plums or berries. I am seeking a really good strawberry jam. If I recall correctly, Bonne Maman strawberry jam is pretty good and a good price. I would love a heavenly strawberry jam, organically grown, sweetened with cane sugar. It would probably cost a small fortune.
I agree with the poster who complained about the bothersome narrow jars.
Great idea to ask Whole Foods to give me a sample. I will definitely do that. I'll see if They'll open a jar of Sarabeth or Stonewall Kitchen. If they cant' provide a sample, maybe I'll buy a jar and return it if I don't like it.
I've seen the June Taylor jams. They are pricey. If they have a one-fruit flavor, maybe I'll splurge.
My local farmers market has one vendor who makes preserves. Her organically-grown peach jam is wonderful. Her other jams are flavor combos (i.e. kiwi/blackberry or blueberry/lime) and tend to be too stiff or too loose, and she's still tweaking the flavor combinations. She does provide samples.
I'm so happy to be chatting with folks who care about jam!
re: val ann c
June Taylor has the best cherry jam I ever tasted in my life. It has the taste of true bing cherries. Most cherry jam doesn't taste true to the fresh fruit flavor, IMO. This year she had an exceptional apricot, but I forgot which one it was. If I'm at the farmers market again I'll give them a taste and let you know which one.
Do you know if June Taylor (wasn't she an actress from the 50's?!!) distributes in our Southern Cal markets? I don't think I have ever seen it at Gelson's, Bristol Farms or Whole Foods. Perhaps I would find it -- wasn't looking for it -- at some of the restaurants that have an attached catering business or shop: Joan's on Third or Julienne's. Thanks for any info that you have on where I might find it...besides online. I will check their website as well.
man, i hav'nt had good jam since my grandmother died...tomato preserves, apricot/cherry jam,home made apple butter,and the king!, black raspberry preserves...man i miss those!
Just another suggestion to use up the mediocre stuff: Mix it with sriracha and use as a sweet hot dip for pretzels or with stir-fry.
I haven't had that problem in a long while because I buy almost all my jam at the Union Square Greenmarket from Phillips Farms. They have them all set out every week for tastes, and they are divine! I especially love the Tart Cherry, but there is not a dud in the bunch. All single fruit flavors. Occasionally I'll be tempted by a Stonewall Kitchen Flavor, and they're always great, as well. AND, if you can find American Spoon Foods jams and barbecue sauces, they're amazing.
I'm very surprised no one has mentioned McCutcheon's (http://www.mccutcheons.com/index.php ), a 4th generation family-run preserve company. They're sold at Fairway, and my fridge is full of them. (Literally--it's not uncommon for me to have 10 or more opened jars at once.) I don't think there's been a dud among the lot, and I've tried all (or close to all) of their preserves and fruit butters (apple, pumpkin and cherry are favs). I'm not into the juice sweetened stuff or the jellies, but the preserves have huge chunks of fruit and taste very fresh. I'm pretty sure the ingredients are limited to sugar, fruit and pectin (the latter only for those that don't gel well naturally).
Nice wide-mouthed jars, too. They run about $4 a piece at Fairway (varies by type), but it's a big jar.
Has anyone tried Thursday Cottage preserves? Or Rosebud Farms marmalade? These are on sale at my local Whole Foods.