The Jam-Makers: Tips and Tricks by We Love Jam

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It’s no secret. We absolutely adore We Love Jam, and all of their incredibly tasty and beautiful spreads–we’re even offering a special  price on their Tart Cherry and Apricot Jam for a very limited time in our shop. And since we’re such big fans, we wanted to know more about the two people behind the product, Eric Haeberli and Phineas Hoang. Eric was kind enough to take a few moments to tell us about the jam-making business, as well as share a few tips on how to make jaw-dropping jams at home. ~Kate

What moment or inspiration made you start your business?

Well, it was discovering a 50-year old apricot tree in my friend’s backyard, and deciding to use up all the excess fruit making jam. The tree was a Blenhiem apricot tree and the fruit tastes amazing. Everyone we gave it to went nuts. As a joke we sent a jar to several food magazines just to see what they thought. We got written up by Food & Wine magazine saying it was the best jam they ever tasted, and the rest is history.

Why do you make food?  What makes you get up early or stay up late to do what is generally considered to be some of the hardest work out there?

I make food because I find it relaxing and it helps me express myself creatively. Now that I am in the food biz and know about all the horrible things added to lots of foods, cooking my own food to eat and for others seems the right thing to do.

What’s been the greatest struggle in becoming a professional maker?

The cost. I had no idea how much money it would take to just get off the ground. I guess I am an optimist and figured I could do it very inexpensively, and while we did most of the construction work ourselves and had family members help, it still cost a small fortune. However, business is good and it has all been worth it.

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What do you eat when no one is looking? 

Mmmm. Well I have been very health conscious since I was a kid and my parents were very strict about food. We were only allowed soda on our birthdays and my mom made almost all the food we ate. I guess I am boring in guilty pleasures, but I do love chocolate.

What’s the best homemade food gift you’ve ever received?

Two things. Our friend and neighbor (when he lived across the street years ago, before he moved to Paris), David Lebovitz, surprised us one December by giving us a small fruit cake he had made. He made enough for all his friends and I was really taken back at the effort to make so many delicious fruit cakes, as well as the care of keeping them moist with booze over a period of time, which is what you have to do. I found that a very moving gesture. Then a few years back a customer at one of the farmers’ markets I did gave me some peach jam she made from some peaches her relatives drove out with from Colorado. They are a special peach grown in an area of Colorado and are famous out there. I had never heard of them, and, boy, that was the best peach jam I ever had.

Share a few tips to help home cooks make incredible jams. 

Making delicious jam is very easy if you follow a few basic rules:

1. Use absolutely amazing fruit – the best is that you grow yourself or from small farms that grow good varieties with lots of flavor. The fruit you buy at the supermarket are specially created varieties that do not bruise easily and have a long shelf life, but have little flavor. Do your research on what are the best varieties of plums, raspberries, blueberries, apples, etc. Do a lot of tasting. If it tastes incredible raw, it will taste incredible as a jam.

2. You do not have to add a lot of sugar. The FDA recommends equal weight in sugar to the fruit, a 50/50 ratio which gives it a very long shelf life, and also prevents spoilage if you do not follow the best sterilization techniques. But you can add less and it is perfectly safe. Sure, it might get moldy after a few months after opening in the fridge, but if it tastes that good it won’t last that long. We have found 25 percent sugar is fine, as long as you follow guidelines on sterilizing. One thing to keep in mind is the water content is what makes jams get moldy. The sugar replaces the water and that is what preserves the fruit and you need a certain concentration of sugar vs. water to insure no mold. Same idea behind vinegar or salt in cucumbers for pickles, salt in meat to make jerky. If you use less sugar and the fruit has a high water content, like very ripe stone fruits, you just cook it down until the water evaporates and it thickens. This is the idea behind fruit leathers or pates, take more water out and it will have more of the natural sugar content in it.

3. A secret to thickening up jams is to include fruit that has a high pectin content which is a natural thickener. Apples are what commercial pectin is made out of, and it is primarily in the skin. We never use any pectin in any of our jams. Stone fruits when they are unripe or semi-ripe have more pectin than when they are ripe. So if you are making a plum jam, you can use say 50 percent ripe and 50 percent hard fruit and it will thicken up nicely. Also, very ripe fruit gets sweeter when you cook it so using all ripe fruit can make the jam cloying. Use a blend. Some berries have no or little pectin, such as strawberries. To be unique cook strawberries with a fruit with pectin, either apples, or semi-ripe plums, apricots etc. Of course we really do not care if the jam is runny, but some people like thick jam and this is the secret.

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5 Ways to Jam it Up

Though we all agree jam is simply made for toast, Eric has a few other ways to spread the love. 

  1. Jam makes a fantastic glaze, as all bakers know. Apricot jam is one of the most widely used for dessert glazes and we love to push it through a strainer for glazing any type of fruit – think blueberries or raspberries on a cheesecake, tarts, galettes, or my favorite rum babas.
  2. Add jam, instead of sugar, to tea.
  3. Incorporate jam into vinaigrettes and dressings.
  4. Jam can be an important sugar substitute for cobblers, bread puddings and even added to sweet breads (think zucchini or ginger bread with marmalade).
  5. Jam can be added to soft cookies. For example, we have an amazing plum-chocolate cookie recipe from an old Danish cookbook, which is perfect for our jam.

Photos taken and styled by Heidi Murphy/White Loft Studio

Eat Boutique discovers the best small batch foods by boutique food makers and shares our version of #foodgiftlove. We share recipes, maker stories and city guides to eating boutique. We host tasting events and markets for food makers, cookbook authors and food fans. We craft seasonal, regional gift and tasting boxes and sell individual items that you can order in the Eat Boutique Shop. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagramTumblr and Pinterest.

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Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista–shop girl, writer, author, and creative business coach. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is working to open her first permanent Eat Boutique–a food-retail concept space with a new way to the very best food–as well as coaching women in food to reach life and business goals. Her second cookbook, A New Way to Food: 100 Recipes to Encourage a Healthy Relationship with Food, Nourish Your Beautiful Body, and Celebrate Real Wellness for Life, will be published by Roost Books on February 5, 2019. 

Follow Maggie Battista here: InstagramTwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.

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