Jewels in a Jar
Softly-set Preserves made with less sugar than ordinary jams
No added pectin or other thickeners
We start with our own fruits - grown organically with tender-loving care. Fruits are my passion. I love everything about growing them, eating them and cooking them. It's hard to convey how happy I am picking luscious, ripe raspberries on a hot summer day, or harvesting the long-awaited Damson plums in September.
Fruits that are allowed to ripen fully in the summer sun sparkle like jewels. Their aroma is intoxicating. Their flavor is more intense and more complex than that of fruits that must travel to a market. It's that perfect flavor of sun-ripened fruit that we try to capture by making our preserves with as little sugar as possible (twice as much fruit as sugar).
We use an organic sugar made by evaporating the juice of organically grown sugar cane into crystals. It's less refined than white table sugar and has a lovely sparkle.
We make our preserves the old-fashioned way by cooking the fruit in a wide kettle with just enough sugar to ensure a soft set. Using 2/3 fruit to 1/3 sugar, I stir every kettle of boiling fruit as it cooks down, skimming off the foam created as the juice evaporates and the preserves thicken. When I feel the resistance in the stirring spoon increase, I begin testing the fruit, coating and tilting the spoon until I know it's ready. When it is, I remove the kettle from the heat, stir a bit more, then ladle the fruit into jars. Ralph boils the lids and covers the jars and cans them in the boiling water bath canner. Each batch makes a dozen jars or less.
Nowadays, most jams - even homemade - are made by adding pectin, a starch that gels the fruit in just a minute, but only with the addition of large amounts of sugar (or a substitute like corn syrup) usually 2/3 sugar to 1/3 fruit. (Since we don't rely on adding pectin to facilitate a quick gel, we can reverse this to 2/3 FRUIT to 1/3 SUGAR!)
It's a lot more work and our yields are smaller - about half that of typical jams - but the flavor is unsurpassed!
Our preserves have a deeper color, more intense flavor, and softer texture than ordinary jams and they spread easily over toast, muffins, scones, popovers, biscuits, and waffles. They are also wonderful with desserts such as trifles, cheesecakes, crepes, tarts and puddings. They provide a brilliant addition to glazes or sauces for meat, poultry and seafood.
Nomenclature - or the answer to "What's the difference between 'Preserve' and 'Jam' or 'Jelly' or 'Fruit Spread' or 'Fruit Butter' or 'Spreadable Fruit' or 'Spoonable Fruit'.....?!?!?!"
"Preserve" simply means fruits "preserved" or cooked and put up in glass jars for winter storage. Preserves typically are made of whole fruit or chunks of fruit, softly set-up or in syrup. "Jellies" are made from fruit juice (no pulp) and lots of sugar and are clear, sweet and firmly set. "Jams" are made from mashed fruit and lots of sugar and are also sweet and firmly set. "Fruit Spread", "Fruit Butter", "Spreadable Fruit" and "Spoonable Fruit" all refer to products, like ours, that are made with less sugar and no added pectin so they are softly set. (There is a limit to how much you can reduce the sugar without over cooking the fragile berries.)
Since we rely on only the natural pectin present in each of the fruits we grow and put up into our preserves, they vary in the firmness of the set. Some fruits, like Black Currants, loaded with natural pectin, set up firmly in no time. We could call our "Black Currant Preserve" "Black Currant Jelly" because it is as firm as any jelly, but it's not made of juice (we squeeze the whole fruit to get all the goodness of the pulp and skin) and the flavor is more intense and less sweet than a jelly. On the other hand, Blueberries and Elderberries have almost no natural pectin and set up as sauce and syrup. Raspberries vary with the cultivar and the season.
Here's a listing of the relative firmness of the set of our preserves: Black Currant, Red Currant, Damson Plum, Raspberry, Blackberry, Strawberry, Peach, Pear, Blueberry, Elderberry. (Apricots and grapes, crops we hope to harvest next summer, are both relatively firm.) Click on the fruits listed below to learn more about them or select a jar.