Day One.

My Mauviel copper jam arrived – delivered to my doorstep via Amazon Prime Shipping, just like most of my online purchases. To me, the copper jam pot signifies the beginning of this blog, and my jam-making adventure; if you didn’t see my ‘ABOUT’ post, this is my journey to becoming not only a jam maker, but a jam seller.

I want to create a line of jams and take them to market. Well, at least to the Farmer’s Market. But I will neither limit myself nor get ahead of myself. Afterall…I’ve only made and canned jam a handful of times in my life. And one of the times, it wasn’t even a jam, it was a curd. But it was canned, so I count it as experience.

No Experience is no obstacle.

On the flip-side, I can look at my lack of experience as a plus. When you’ve done something a million times, or grown up being shown the way to do something, it’s harder to think outside the box. I’ve found this in starting my stationery business too. I won’t let my inexperience curb my enthusiasm, if anything, it’s a door to a new world. The world of canning.  

When I was growing up my Grandma, Ruby, sent us package around the holidays every year that contained homemade candy (the pecan caramel turtles were the best), Norwegian specialties like Lefse, and jars of home canned jam. Back then, they didn’t utilize the water-bath method that’s become standard today and considered the safest form of home canning. They used the ‘open kettle’ method – and then poured a wax seal on the top. If you’re of a certain age and were the recipient of homemade jams or preservatives, you’ll instantly know what I’m talking about. There was something about that thick disk of wax you had to pop off that was so satisfying. Now you just get to pry off of the lid, hoping you don’t bend a nail back (eek).

Chocolate or Jam?

Originally, I was going to try out different foods I might want to start with on the road to my ‘food empire.’ But when I went to start, I realized I kept being drawn back to jam. That’s what I wanted to make, and what I was excited about making. This, despite the plethora of artisanal jams that line the specialty food store shelves.

For example, I briefly bandied about the idea of chocolates. I do love chocolate -especially really dark, glossy chocolate. But the one thing about chocolate – good chocolate – is that it’s expensive. I don’t mean the final creation, which is expensive too, but rather I’m talking about the couverture – the high-quality chocolate it takes to make your bon-bons. Unless you’re going to be the actual manufacture of the bean to bar, as a chocolatier, you’ll be buying your base chocolate.

It also melts in the summer and you need to keep your kitchen cool if you’re going to working with it. Tempering is another art altogether. The first time you table temper chocolate moving it back and forth across a marble slab to rapidly cool it, you’ll feel as if you’re in a movie (one called ‘Chocolat’ starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche).

Homemade smores with dark chocolate and bourbon
I made everything edible in this photo, except the bourbon (is that edible?)

The first, second and third time you temper chocolate via the microwave (aka ‘the less messy way’) and it doesn’t set up correctly despite stirring it for 10 minutes, you’ll realize two things. One, how out of shape your arm muscles are, and Two, tempering is an exact science, and it takes a lot of experience to get the correct result every time. Otherwise, you have to start over – and mind, your arm muscles are already hurting.

In the end, although I said I wouldn’t let lack of experience or obstacles stop me from going after my dreams, I found that I just wasn’t as excited about something that would need to be so carefully stored. As for the tempering, I could do as many professionals do, and just buy a tempering machine, so that wasn’t the final decider. But I’ve decided I’ll just keep the chocolate in mind as a sauce.

Jam yesterday, Jam tomorrow, Jam today.

Another reason I chose jam is because of the myriad of uses for it.
Sure, most folks will slather it on toast, but there are so many other applications! Usually it ends up ‘sandwiched’ between something, and I’m not talking about white bread. For example, cookies, tarts, layers of Victoria Sponge cake, or between sheets of puff pastry in a modified Napoleon.

Mini Pavlovas with fruit filling

Or sometimes it’s used in the open. On cloud-like piles of meringue-y Pavlovas, Galette fillings, layers in a parfait, swirled through a Vanilla Semi-Freddo, or dribbled atop a Panna Cotta. I won’t start on the savory uses but will mention that jam works as a glaze on almost anything pork!

Which brings me to the end of my post…

Because tomorrow the jam experiment begins.

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