Alright, I’m gonna say it: Eating jam can be a political act. Maybe I’m stating the obvious: Eating food that was sought out, scavenged, and/or produced with the intention to provide food in the future is food activism…nowadays. (Jam, of course, is also entirely devoid of politics—it used to be a very commonplace/non-radical item on folks’ agenda and for those simply interested in having (good?) food to eat in Winter/Spring.) Nutrients that would otherwise be unavailable made available (like during Winter) is magic to me, and an intelligent use of the human mind/body.
tart cherries: rescued
So often it feels like a rescue mission: nothing seems more sensible than capturing waste (i.e., food) from the plants/insects/soil/humans that worked so hard together to make. Deep in the throes of food activism, we rescued blemished or overripe melons rather than letting them die in the field, we braved insect stings, bramble wounds, questionable tree branches, and the extreme tedious task of handpicking to produce these gems, without mentioning the risks taken in the kitchen. One of our mantras since the beginning days of Elder Fire has been, ‘pick to preserve’, plus, when you’re working with limited funds and resources, you don’t really have a choice.
Jammaking is a true labor of love. It’s a farm kitchen art we hesitated to resurrect being pretty big sticklers about sweets, even towards ones that consciously cut back on them. Seriously, we were never jam people: never bought or made it until we started to farm and the fruit started calling to us from giant mulberry trees, when we took turns climbing, shaking branches, and catching berries with a sheet, a family fun event requiring many hands and no fossil fuels.
black mulberries bout to be jammed
Food grows wild all around us, and as farmers we have come to deeply appreciate native plants and fruit bearing perennials, i.e. things we didn’t have to plant and raise but get to enjoy and feed from/graze on. And it’s worth going through with making the jam and its entourage of dishes when you’re making enough to share. But it’s not only activist work we’re all doing here, it’s romantic and fun and sensational. Homemade preserves, like most slow food, tastes better than anything you can obtain commercially; maybe because opening a jar of a small batch, organic preserve, lovingly made and creatively crafted, conjures vivid memories of the growing season, voicing narratives of storm, drought, Summer, Spring and Fall and Winter in ways only real food can. I’ve felt the real meaning in it all and its possible you will too: sharing food moments like these with friends and family connect us to each other and to the land a little bit., or a lot. And, darn it, it tastes good.
You and your grandmother and your child can enjoy a season’s worth of wisdom and all its little triumphs tomorrow or a year from now, keep a little capsule of time in your cupboard or give to a friend, six bucks a pop for seriously handmade artistry. But our ability to offer them to you is, perhaps appropriately, seasonal at this time. Find us at the last 100 Mile Market (@peoples food co-op) THIS HALLOWEEN, (tomorrow) THIS Wednesday from 3-7, and one last Bank St. Market on Saturday 7ish-12:30. Now let me introduce your sweet little slow food friends, the spreads you’ve been waiting for:
Tropical Melon Moon, smooth as silk and breezy! Our heirloom French cantaloupes cooked down to a smooth preserve with notes of fresh citrus and pieces of crystallized ginger.
Tomato Marmalade, Bright from citrus, tangy from citrus peel, and perfectly sweet and fruity from our ripe heirloom tomatoes. This is a gorgeous and delicious marmalade.
Sunset Spread, our popular Orange glow watermelons cooked into a jelly with chili flakes and rosehips and sweetened with local honey—this one will bring back light from those summer months, and could be worked beautifully into a savory dish.
Autumnberry Peary, tangy and sweet wild harvested autumn olive berries blended with local no spray bartlett pears make a delicate, colorful, juicy and thick spread for toast, desserts, yogurt, or for pairing with cheese. The color on this one can’t be beat.
Vanilla Ambrosia, our heirloom cantaloupes cooked down with organic vanilla bean into a looser preserve, sweetened to make a creamy and luxurious topping for pancakes, ice cream, toast, you name it.
Maiden’s Voyage, we explored newish ground for this one! Our purple tomatillos, red jalapenos, and fresh lime make for a sweet and sour with a touch of heat jam. Use it for the base of a sweet and sour sauce, try on tacos like a sweet salsa, on a bagel, or with a soft cheese.
Heart of Summer, pink watermelon jelly made from the juice of our heirloom watermelons, cooked down with star anise—this jelly will turn around a gloomy day and remind you of being a kid. Put it on toast, pb+j, yogurt, or ice cream, or_____!
Spiced Pear, chemical free and locally grown/harvested pears picked by our friends blended with soaked organic Turkish apricots and dusted with Chinese 5 spice makes for a warming, sophisticated, and outspoken pear butter like jam.
Sunrise Spread, this sweet, glowing gem will catch your eye and brighten your day. Our golden husk cherries are the heart of this jam, paired with fresh organic oranges and cooked to a thick marmalade like texture—it melts on your tongue and has a slightly tropical flavor that is great on its own, eaten with a spoon. Our farmstead jams/jellies/marmalades/chutneys are made in small batches, on site in the farm kitchen (not inspected by the USDA). We’re proud because we use:
° Wildcrafted SW Michigan fruits
° Fresh fruits, herbs, vegetables grown by us using organic methods
° Fresh produce grown by friends using organic methods.
° Certified Organic fruits, herbs, spices grown by people we don’t know and purchased at our local cooperative grocer.
° Organic cane juice crystals or local honey
° Pomona pectin (allowing us to use less sweetener without affecting the gelling of the jam/jelly)
° Fresh squeezed organic lemon/lime
° Lots of love and inspiration