Preserving goodness in a jar
Farmer offers tips on making preserves with produce in its prime
For jam maker and farmer Lee Murphy, it’s all about the fruit. She combines peach with lemon verbena and Champagne, fig with honey and star anise, crabapple with orange and Aperol.
At The Preservatory in Langley, B.C., she specializes in preserves that highlight fresh-picked, prime produce. “If we won’t eat it, we’re not putting it in a jar,” Murphy says. “The philosophy from the beginning has been it has to be really good fruit before it’s a jam.”
Murphy’s artisanal preserves are stocked by Harrods, the prestigious London, U.K., department store. They’re also sold across Canada and in the U.S. and Spain. Now she’s sharing her fruit philosophy, creative flavour combinations and inventive ideas for cooking with preserves in a cookbook,
The Preservatory (Appetite by Random House, 2017).
She explains that it was important for her to illustrate not only how to make preserves but also how to incorporate them into everyday dishes.
“The more you play with it, the more jam can be in everything you make if you’re not careful,” Murphy says with a laugh. “Cooking with them is almost more exciting (than making them).”
Preserves shine in dishes for brunches, dinners and desserts. And in a particularly compelling section Murphy devotes to aperitivo — an Italian tradition similar to happy hour.
Crispy pork belly bites call for a dollop of Moroccan-spiced sour cherry preserves.
Butter-barbecued oysters gain a spicy note from a compound butter made with heirloom tomato and chili preserve.
Many of the aperitivo recipes can be made ahead, including grilled polenta and blue cheese, which also highlights the sweet heat of Murphy’s heirloom tomato and chili jam.
The polenta is cooled overnight and cut and grilled just before serving. “Adding spices, herbs — and in some of them quite a bit of alcohol — creates a product that is really versatile,” Murphy says.
“We’ve always paired them with cheeses and I love that part of it. But when you go past cheese, there are really endless options for what you can do with them.”
A trip to Paris initiated Murphy’s interest in preserves. She credits tasting Alsatian jam master Christine Ferber’s product as her “aha” moment.
Murphy started creating seasonal preserves in 2002, small-scale at first, “playing with flavours” using homegrown ingredients such as culinary herbs and heirloom tomatoes.
Today, she owns and operates The Preservatory and Vista D’oro Farms & Winery with her husband, Patrick. From June until late October, they have a dependable supply of fruit. Most of the fruit is picked at peak freshness and put into jars.
“Being able to create with what’s in your own backyard is pretty fulfilling,” she says. “(Jam making) is such a simple pursuit, but I find it super rewarding still.”
Lee Murphy, author of The Preservatory, grew more than 50 varieties of heirloom tomatoes one year. They are the undisputed star of this savoury tomato and chili preserve.