Pre­serv­ing good­ness in a jar

Farmer of­fers tips on mak­ing pre­serves with pro­duce in its prime

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - LIFE -

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.”

JANIS NICOLAY PHOTO

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.

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