Jam and I have had a love-hate relationship for the past several years. Ever since I discovered that corn is evil and that too much sugar is bad for me (I know, it was a revelation) it’s been harder and harder to justify PBNJ. Check your fridge, it’s likely that your jam (or nigh-unspreadable, gelatinous cousin, jelly) is made of corn or at least has a tablespoon of actual sugar in a tablespoon of jam. That last sentence wasn’t a typo. I just measured it. I took a jar of Bonne Mamam raspberry jam from my fridge and checked the nutrition facts: 13g of sugar per tablespoon of jam. Then I got out the scale and weighed 13 grams of white granulated sugar. Then I poured that into a measuring spoon. Almost exactly one tablespoon.
I have nothing against desserts with lots of sugar, or even desserts of just sugar (cotton candy anyone?) but it shouldn’t be fed to kids all across America, everyday, by disguising it as something healthy like fruit. It’s candy, plain and simple. Yes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches should be renamed peanut butter and fruit flavored candy sandwiches.
This last Tuesday, I finally realized why jam processors put so much sugar in their product. Without sugar, I believe that they would have a hard time selling it at all. They are too cheap, big, lazy, and greedy to actually find, buy, and sometimes wait for good fruit. Bad fruit makes bad jam. Bad jam is difficult to enjoy. Unless, of course, you add unholy amounts of sugar to compensate.
Sourcing good, local, fruit is something that Liz Butcher does not have a problem with.
Several years ago, Liz used to sell a good majority of her garden at the local market but with the rise in popularity of gardening in her area, more and more people started to grow their own food. This put Liz out of business. I don’t feel this is a bad thing. It means that people are becoming more local themselves and more self-sustainable. So, what’s an intelligent, enterprising young woman to do? Turn what’s around her into something she can sell that other people aren’t doing. And if people are already doing it (preserving fruit in jars has been around for a long time) then find out how to do it better than everyone else. And she has.
Most of the jams from Butcher’s Bunches have only 2 grams of sugar per tablespoon, mostly coming from the fruit itself. Liz told me that the first time she got her samples back from the lab she had a hard time believing it herself. The way she gets away with this is by using the best fruit she can find. By saying that her product is local, it really is. She strives to use the most local fruit possible. Most people hawking jam in Utah try to claim that they are local, but if you think about it, that’s like saying that the iPod you bought in California is local (designed in california, assembled in China). The cherries for the Dirty Diana jam are Montmorency cherries from Utah, probably sourced from some farmer by her house up in Logan, or just down the canyon in Brigham City. She kept telling me about when her friend picks his cherries.
I recently wrote a story in the Daily Utah Chronicle about a tasting class at Tony Caputo’s put on by Matt Caputo and the hyper-local distribution company, A Priori. While the story focused mostly on Matt, the classes that he offers, and his teaching ability, the actual event that I attended was based around world-class products from Utah. One of those products was jam from Butcher’s Bunches.
Utah Black Topper was the first jam that we tried. Wonderfully rich, fruity, deep flavor derived from “black caps,” huge, fresh, Utah blackberries. It was not difficult at all to imagine a small dollop on a slice of nice stinky cheese.
The next one was a cherry jam. When I first tasted Dirty Diana, her cherry goodness was tart and sweet all in one exhilarating moment. The cherry inside had just the right amount of pop in my mouth. I felt like I was in heaven. Then I looked at the nutrition facts…how is this possible?!
After the article was published, I got a nice e-mail from Liz thanking me writing it. I continued the correspondence and eventually I ended up being invited to come make jam with her. I was excited. My wife had fallen in love with the jam when we sampled it at the downtown Salt Lake saturday farmer’s market. She was equally excited. We just had to provide the fruit.
Since we are busy people, or we like to think we are busy, and making jam isn’t our life, we hit up our local Costco in hopes of buying some good fruit.
Blueberries and Peaches. Clementines not pictured. We also bought some strawberries, but they weren’t great.
With Liz’s help, we opted for 3 different jams: Peach-Blueberry, Peach-Ginger, and Strawberry-Clementine. Liz had the awesome idea to put whole blueberries into the jars and as the hot jam hit the blueberries they would cook and bleed slightly creating an interesting design throughout the jar, and we’d be able to have whole blueberries in the jar, cooked just enough to be able to spread them on bread afterwards.
The smell was intoxicating.
All 3 jams cooking away.
Keeping with the theme of her shirt, our entire 3-hour long jamming session was set to the soundtrack of 80′s hair-bands. About halfway through Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” I asked her “Liz, is this the restaurant’s music?” (she rents out a spare kitchen from a local pizzeria). Rather bashfully she confessed, “No, it’s my music.”
Our sunken treasure.
In the end, our peach-blueberry and peach-ginger jams turned out the best. The strawberry-clementine is decent, but pretty tart. We’ll save that for meats and other applications. Sadly, this is how I learned that if you’re going to make a jam without sugar, you need great fruit. Luckily, our peaches were awesome. The strawberries were not. Next time, we’ll make the extra effort to acquire fresh, local fruit on our way up to Logan.
Butcher’s Bunches jam is simply some of the best I’ve tasted. Everyone of her flavors stays true to the ingredients in uncanny ways. No sugar was added at all while she helped us. Plenty of flavorings were used such as grated fresh and dried ginger, lemon juice, lime juice, cognac, orange liqueur, nutmeg, and cinnamon. No chemicals. Even the pectin that she uses is a special one derived from only lemons and limes and other citrus.
Check out her site at www.butchersbutches.com or stop by the Salt Lake Downtown Farmer’s market and see her in person to sample some of the delicious flavors. She has a rosemary-lemon marmalade that’s to die for.