I got an email from some friends recently looking for locally-made jam. They were specifically looking for wee little jars to give out as favours at their upcoming wedding, but as I thought and thought and thought about it, I was having a hard time coming up with anything more than Greaves in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is where they got the idea for wee little jars in the first place.
When most of us think of jam we either head for our favourite supermarket brands or else to the pantry for a jar of homemade. After all, nothing compares to Grandma’s. But the area in between is a grey one. Jams, jellies and preserves that don’t fit into the homemade or supermarket versions often get lumped in with luxury consumables; the kind of thing you’d enjoy if someone gave you a gift basket of the stuff, but not something that you’d necessarily seek out for yourself.
Which is a shame, especially when we’re talking about products made from local fruit, since the abundance of berries and stone fruit available in Southern Ontario each summer is some of the best in the world.
Local jams and preserves are obviously more readily available during the peak season when farmers come to market or set up roadside stands on their property, and jams, as well as fruit pies can be found at most farmers’ markets. But there are many options out there, even now in late March.
Culinarium (705 Mount Pleasant Road) stocks a variety of local jams and preserves, including the aforementioned Greaves. They also carry lines from Manitoulin Island’s Hawberry Farms; sugar-free preserves from Harvest Crafters; and a line of jams made especially for the St. Anne’s Spa in Haldimand Hills. One of the most interesting lines at Culinarium is called From These Roots where jam artisan Krista Harrington blends herbs and flowers that she grows herself with different Ontario fruit for preserves and jams such as apricot honeysuckle, or black currant and wild violet.
Harrington and her jams will also be at the One of a Kind Show this coming week from April 1st to 5th at the Direct Energy Centre. Other local jam and preserve makers taking part include Henderson Farms, and Tracy’s Wine Jellies.
Farmers’ markets may also have vendors selling jams and preserves. The folks from Forbes Wild Foods can be found on Thursdays at Dufferin Grove Organic Market (875 Dufferin Street), and at the Green Barn Farmer’s Market (601 Christie Street) on Saturday mornings. There are also some stone fruit and berry farmers at the Green Barns market who might also offer jams and preserves, but the vendors are not the same every week and I’m not able to find active websites to confirm their offerings.
Those who can wait until market season gets into full swing might enjoy some of the jams from Andrew’s Scenic Acres, who can be found at the markets at Nathan Phillips Square and Metro Hall. Or head to the farm store in Halton Hills where you can not only buy their jam but their award-winning fruit wines.
Viva-Tastings is also starting to offer jams and preserves at their booth at the St. Lawrence Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Currently they have meyer lemon marmalade, figgy jam and savoury mango coulis, but chef/owner Karen Viva-Haynes tells me they have plans to create other products based on local fruit as the season rolls out – watch for rhubarb and currant salsa, a variety of pickled products (fiddleheads, ramps, asparagus), and then a variety of fruit preserves once summer arrives.
Last but not least, I should mention that the owners of Marvellous Edibles (120 Laird Drive) also run a farm, and make their own jams and preserves to use and sell in their restaurant. They do a booming business at Christmas, but if you drop by for some of their scrumptious food, check the shelf near the back by the cake display for a selection of their preserves.