Conserving the Taste of Summer in the Farm Kitchen

Conserving the Taste of Summer in the Farm Kitchen
The orchard is brimming with fruit right now and our kitchen is in high gear preserving the harvest. As part of our commitment to sustainability, we work diligently to avoid wasting fruit in many ways - through our compost program, but also by transforming fruit that is too bruised to eat out of hand into sweet delectables in our Farm Kitchen. Given 25% of our stone fruit harvest is not saleable for fresh eating, we ensure nothing goes to waste.  

“Farming sustainably is not only about what you do or don’t apply to crops,” says Chef Becky. “It’s also about finding value in the leftovers.” If only all leftovers tasted so good!

A single piece of fruit at Frog Hollow Farm could take many journeys—some might go to the Chez Panisse kitchen or a local farmers market. Some find their way into our recyclable packaging to send to fruit-lovers around the country. Others travel a shorter distance: just a few yards to the airy Farm Kitchen adjoining the packing shed, where they’ll be simmered into conserves or sliced to fill buttery tarts and galettes.

Becky is a master at preserving the sweetness of the summer harvest into fruit conserves to be enjoyed all year long. Watching the Farm Kitchen team take juicy, overripe nectarines and plums and turn them into a delicious conserve is a sight to behold. Hand-cutting each piece of fruit, patiently stirring the bubbling mixture, pouring it still-hot into sterilized jars… It’s hard work. And the delicate chemistry of the preserving process must be done just so…

Chef Becky’s original conserve recipe she developed oh so many years ago considers the chemical characteristics of the different fruits and how they will work together. Apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, strawberries, lemons, oranges—they all have different amounts of pectin, an essential property that determines the thickness of the finished product. The pectin interacts with the sugar and acid of the fruit (and any extra sugar you add) to help the conserve gel. Although pectin is a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in the skin and core of fruit, in conventional jam-making, powdered pectin can also be added.

“My mother always used Sure-Jell to make her jam, the go-to source of pectin back in those days, before low-methoxyl and no-sugar pectins were widely available,” says Chef Becky. “When I came to the farm and began our jam making business, I knew I wanted it to be as natural as possible and that I wanted to get away from making jam with added pectin. My goal has always been to let the fruit flavor shine through, and to make the jam be as close to eating fresh fruit as possible. Since the pectin of stone fruit lies in the skin, my work around for peaches is to leave the skin on. Peaches are relatively low in natural pectin, but fortunately, cherries and plums have plenty.”

That’s not the only reason the Frog Hollow conserves are something special. They also have only about 20% added sugar and still achieve the levels of sweetness the FDA considers a benchmark for a jam product. Typically, according to FDA standards, fruit jellies must be 45 parts of fruit to 55 parts of sugar. We don’t need to add nearly that much. The fruit is already so sweet (but still nicely acidic!). To learn more about the differences between jams, preserves, jellies, marmalades, and conserves check out Chef Becky’s blog about it!

“I love making jam, and I love getting jam from people,” says Chef Becky. “It’s a wonderful way to preserve the flavors of the season, and it’s a wonderful way to share it.”

Order a wide selection of delicious conserves and marmalades delivered right to your door.
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