Saturday, December 8, 2012

Quince, Pear & Little Boxes of Jam

Quince. In its raw state it is knobby, furry, yellow, hard, starchy, astringent. Cook it, however, and it becomes soft, sweet, pink, floral, tropical, divine. You honestly feel like you’ve witnessed some kind of alchemy.

One can reasonably wonder- who was the first person that held a furry, hard quince in their hand and thought “ I am going to peel, core and cook this fruit in water for 3 hours to see what happens”. We would like to thank them, whoever they were.

The aroma of a quince gives a hint of what lies beneath. A heady perfume of tropical fruit, floral notes, fresh apple and pear, it’s like nothing else. Coaxing the fruit itself into its much more pleasing pink state is a labour of love. Cutting and coring quince is not for the faint of heart; it takes tenacity and an appreciation of what will come- a kitchen full of the loveliest scent we can think of, and a cupboard full of quince jam. 8 hours later, and perhaps not quite a full cupboard, but never mind. Even still, as we stir the big pots of gently simmering quince we can’t help but think of the thousands year history of this fruit, and of the many people before us who stirred their pots over flames oceans away, generations ago.

The first preserve ever is said to have been quince. Its naturally high pectin content makes it a perfect contender for jamming, and jelly can be made from its poaching liquid without the addition of powdered pectin. Admittedly we’re a bit geeky when it comes to these things, but to us that is amazing.

At Sticky Spoon we make both a jam and a jelly from quince. The jam is flavoured with vanilla and brandy, while the jelly is left pure and unadorned. Either is perfect with sheep cheeses as well as creamy blues. The jelly folds nicely into sauces for duck or game and, as one client shared, is delicious on toast with raw almond butter.

If a quince is hard, furry and bumpy, a pear is just the opposite; fragile, delicate, elegant and mildly sweet. With pears, it's all about choosing the right ones for the job and we know just the man to go to; Walter at Harvey's Orchards grows, among other tree fruit, Bosc pears  that keep us coming back for more. Careful manipulation is the key to preserving these little beauties and, if handled with love, they reward us with a soft, rosy Pear Jam with little dots of vanilla bean throughout. 

A jar of Pear  and Vanilla Jam in our fridge never seems to last very long. While we have been known to glaze a pork loin with it, it makes me the happiest in the morning,  on a nutty bread with a creamy brie or hazelnut butter. It has also been a hit shaken into a bourbon cocktail. 

The holidays are upon us and our time must now be spent away from the production kitchen and into our jam "holiday workshop." We have been sanding and hammering away, with a little  (ok, a lot) of help to make many wooden gift boxes, a popular item around this time of year.

We have been sticking labels, stamping bags and printing pairing tags, stuffing and wrapping boxes and busily taking orders to deliver all over the city. The photos above were taken last week, just before we delivered a custom order of 55 small, handmade boxes filled with three little jars of jam, so cute! We couldn't be prouder and happier to see these gifted to 55 lucky people before Christmas.

Tomorrow is our first holiday market of the year, the Got Craft Market at the Croatian Cultural Centre on Commercial Drive. We have been saving up all year, setting aside flavours and getting stickers made and printed for those limited quantity batches that you don't want to miss out on (Raspberry Rose Geranium Jam with Pink Pepper, Apricot Jam with Chamomile Infused Bourbon, Emilia's Fresh Fig Jam, Caramelized Fig Jam, Blackberry Jam with Lemon Geranium and a limited quantity of Sweet Onion Jam...)

Truth be told, we are excited to be a part of Got Craft tomorrow, we look forward to meeting people, talking about our jams and offering samples to shoppers. But really, we have been studying the list of vendors and most of all, we cannot wait to get our hands on some of the handmade goodies that our fellow vendors have on display. We hope you will be able to make it, we would love to see familiar faces. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Upcoming Winter and Holiday Markets

The apples, pears and onions in our kitchens are telling us that winter is just around the corner, but before we officially pull out our mitts and warm winter hats, we would like to take a moment to look back on the summer markets that brought in so many people in search of berries, zucchini and summer flavours of Sticky Spoon jam.

The Vancouver Farmers Market in the West End is truly a picturesque venue. In the heart of downtown, nudged between heritage homes and a beautifully restored community garden and park, the West End market is possibly the prettiest of all markets. Ever.

We attended our very first Trout Lake Market this year as well. Loyal shoppers have been visiting this market for decades and, in addition to being somewhat bigger than the other venues, its location makes for a perfect family day; a large park for a picnic, a lake for swimming, an area designated for dogs to run free, many food trucks if anyone happens to be peckish... why would you want to shop for groceries anywhere else?

And then there is the sophisticated Shangri-La Market, where all the vendors go out of their way to make every vegetable and pastry look particularly exquisite and the chef and staff put such efforts into welcoming Sunday morning wanderers and shoppers.

We had a great time and want to thank everyone who visited us this summer. On the bright side, you no longer have to keep track of your favourite vendors' market locations: the Winter Market hosts them all every Saturday morning at Nat Bailey Stadium.  If the rest of the Winter is anything like last Saturday, market days will be filled with sun and warm weather and shopping for produce and locally prepared foods will be a treat. Find us at Nat Bailey for the Winter Market on the following dates: February 9th, March 9th and April 13th 2013.

Lately, Sticky Spoon has turned into a holiday jam factory; gift boxes are being made, stamps and pairing tags are stacking up in abundance, special orders are being filled, visits to the post office are more and more frequent and we have been setting aside many cases of jam for these markets so a wide variety will be available for purchase, including new flavours.

You can find us at the Got Craft Market on Sunday, December 9th from 10am to 5pm at the Croatian Cultural Center, 3250 Commercial Drive. 50 bags of goodies will be given away to the first guests on that day and half of these will include small jars of Sticky Spoon jams so we recommend that you arrive early... We have seen a sneak peek of many of the items that will be put into these swag bags and trust us, they are worth it. We look forward to attending and shopping ourselves! Shop local this holiday season; we know we will. 

We will also be participating in the 17th annual VFM Holiday Market, at the Croatian Cultural Center as well, on Saturday December 15th from 10am to 4pm.  Many of our favourite vendors will be under one roof and it draws a big crowd every year.

To everyone involved in creating great summer markets, thank you. Now, let the winter market season begin... See you soon!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tomato Jam

Oh tomatoes. The season could never be long enough. Every year they pop up at the market and seeing them is such a sign of summer’s height. So many colours, so many flavours! Stripes, spots, round and oblong, big and small. It’s dizzying and amazing and we always come home with more than necessary, yet never have trouble eating every last one. As happy as this time is, their arrival also brings the recognition that summer is on the wane. Once tomatoes, corn and peaches are here, we know that squash and apples and pears are soon to follow. That basil has a limited time left, that berries are nearly over.

So what to do with the knowledge that cooler weather is lurking around the corner? Preserve that tomato goodness to enjoy in the middle of rainy winter, of course! 

Tomato jam may be somewhat lesser known, but tomatoes are a fruit, after all, and their sweet, acidic flesh creates a beautifully balanced preserve. At home we’ve been known to muck about with all manner of tomato jam, but for Sticky Spoon we stuck to a classic red tomato jam with warm spices, citrus juice and just a pinch of chili flake. The resulting jam is sweet and tangy and ever so slightly spiced. Think of it as a tomato condiment for a grown up palate.

Our men are particularly fond of this jam with grilled sausages and on burgers, though it is also rather lovely with nice, sharp cheddar on crackers or in a grilled cheese sandwich. This is a personal favourite, as it is extremely versatile. Eggs are a natural partner, and we’ve even used it to add a bit of zip to our fajitas.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Barley Scones with Jam

Why serve scones with a side of jam when you can make scones with delicious gooey jam pockets baked right into them? Just an idea, taken from Kim Boyce's Good To The Grain cookbook... She recommends using Strawberry Jam to complement the sweetness of the barley flour, but we have tried using different jams and found them tasty every time. Happy baking.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Greengage Jam with Chartreuse

We currently have twenty flavours of jam we make for Sticky Spoon, but we can't help but play around with different fruits and spices at home as a way to come up with new flavour ideas for the following seasons. A few weeks ago, while discussing different types of plums with the kind gentleman who co- owns Klippers Farm, I started thinking about Greengage plums and how their dessert-like, sweet, delicate nature would pair nicely with a hint of green Chartreuse. There was only one way to find out..

As it turns out, the combination makes for a bright and fresh jam, a great breakfast companion to Greek yogurt or even mild goat or ricotta cheeses. We are pleased with the results and add this flavour to the potential new jams for 2013. What do you think of Greengage Jam with Chartreuse? Would you add a jar to your pantry?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Spiced Autumn Plum Jam

It's Fall. With our newest jam, we have now transitioned into Sticky Spoon Fall flavours, or so it seems.  Our jam pantry is stocked full of cinnamon, black cardamom, star anise, vanilla bean, brandys and liqueurs... we replace the bright, fresh herbs of Summer months for warm spices reminiscent of the comfort foods that we crave at this time of year.

We are pleased to announce that Spiced Autumn Plum Jam is back in stock, do you remember it from last year?

We were lucky this year, we got to pick most of our own plums, from my own backyard. Technically, they are from my neighbour's yard but she is a wonderful landlord and was pleased to have us pick the fruit, even more so after I left a jar of jam in her hands, a small token of gratitude. It's a friendly neighbourly exchange, the way it should be don't you think?

Prune plums are great on their own, tart and sweet, eaten fresh the day they are picked. Cooked down with spices and plum liqueur, prune plums are amazing, a totally different fruit with a beautiful colour we can't get enough of.

This jam seems to pair up wonderfully with every cheese, especially soft, creamy blue. It also makes a delicious cocktail when shaken with rhubarb bitters and dark rum. Sticky Spoon customers (professional chefs no less!) have roasted pork loins and veal loins with Spiced Autumn Plum Jam and mustard and received rave reviews. It is perfect for Fall and Winter months and makes a great addition to any holiday table. 

 The walnut breakfast cake above made its way to the production kitchen last week, with a small bowl of Spiced Autumn Plum Jam and gave us enough energy to make 16 batches of Tomato Jam. Oh, the little things that keep us going...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cheesecake with Blackberry Jam

I had some mascarpone in the fridge this week. It was just sitting there, waiting to be turned into something delightfully rich and creamy. One thing led to another and here I am, fork in hand, snapping a photo of TK's AdHoc Cheesecake with a nice, thick layer of Blackberry Jam with Lemon Geranium on top. The Blackberry Jam was hanging out next to the mascarpone and I couldn't just leave it there, all alone on the shelf. Turns out, the hint of lemon geranium in the jam complements the lemon zest in the cheesecake beautifully. It was a busy morning in the kitchen (Tomato jam!), followed by many hours of office work. A small slice of cheesecake brightens up a rainy afternoon, don't you think? 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Persian Peach Jam Marks One Year

Sticky Spoon just turned one, we are pleased to report. Actually, as we started making jam in the production kitchen last August, Sticky Spoon technically turned one somewhere around that time this Summer. We were busily producing blackberry, fig and apricot jam, new flavours still, so we marked our business anniversary as we jarred our Persian Peach Jam a couple of weeks ago. Cheers to making it one full year. It's quite fun to look back on our very first blog post and remember how it began, by picking our peaches and bravely starting a company. From now on, every late Summer, as we slice peaches and sprinkle pinches of saffron into large pots, we will happily consider it another year for Sticky Spoon. Fingers crossed. 

Owning a business has its ups and downs (5 am wake up calls, reminding us of 16 hour work days, come to mind.) Overall, we have enjoyed it immensely; we become increasingly efficient in the kitchen with every batch we make and we have learned a ton about the business world, the seasons and the local food community. We have made great friends and have proudly shared our jams with the most sophisticated palates.

We can honestly say we wouldn't be where we are today without all of you cheering us on. Thanks to every one who has supported us this past year, given us advice, liked us on Facebook or Retweeted anything we had to say, carried our jams on their retail shelves, and of course, every person who bought a jar from us. You all truly keep us going.

And now, back to the Persian Peach Jam....

A thick, chunky jam with subtle hints of saffron and rose water, Persian Peach Jam is lovely stirred into thick Greek-style yogourt and garnished with a sprinkle of pistachios for breakfast or a light snack. You could also add it to prosecco for an exotic peach bellini. One of our chef friends recently made a sauce out of this jam to pair with pork medallions and was delighted with the results; we wish we could have tried it too!