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.