Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jammin' with June

Whew, this has been a busy two weeks! All fun, all good, but it's also good to sit down to write a blog post or two while the washer sloshes through the mountain of dirty clothes that result from back-to-back weekends of pleasure with no drudgery in between. August is always like this, it seems.

One of the very best experiences of this August has been my conserve class at June Taylor's Still Room in Berkeley. In her clean and airy kitchen that is bathed in natural light and stocked with no-nonsense equipment, with a unique hands-on teaching style June showed the 10 or so students from as far away as Tennessee and Seattle and as close as next door how to prepare, cook and jar up delightful jams from a variety of fruits. We worked on Dapple Dandy pluots, cutting up the fruit ourselves, learning how to measure, macerate, mix and cook, as well as lots of tips for making the work go easier.

June's own conserves use minimal sugar, allowing the fresh flavor of the fruit to shine. She became interested in how to preserve the rich harvests of spring and summer and that interest launched her thriving business twenty years ago. She sells at farmer's markets and via the internet so you can get some of your own, and you will want to do so, I promise. I endorse her lovely work without reservation - but a word of warning to most of my friends and family who may be reading this - you can expect to get jam from me for all subsequent birthdays and Christmases, so plan accordingly!

At the very end, when we each had a jar of still-warm jam that we made ourselves to take home with us, June treated us to a tasting of about a dozen different strawberry jams, some industrially and others artisanally made. Many of the industrially produced jars had more sugar than fruit and some even featured the dreaded "high fructose corn syrup" demon. I learned that a simple sniff easily separated the tasty ones from the ones so loaded with sugar that they tasted flat and uninteresting. Read the ingredients - if sugar comes first or you can't smell the essence of the fruit, pass it by.

June mixes carefully selected seasonal fruit from sustainable, organic growers with all different kinds of herbs, as you will see when you visit her website. She inspired me to do some experimenting of my own - my peaches are ripening fast and I'm thinking peach jam with wild fennel seeds. Any suggestions?

Needless to say, I enjoyed the class very much and felt it was well worth the price of admission. June is frank and funny, a skilled teacher and an experienced cook. If you are wondering how to get started and feeling a little uncertain about the whole mystery of conserving fruit, you couldn't find a better teacher to guide you through your first experience.

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Blogger Kailyn said...

Peach? Hmmm. For some reason I keep thinking a little basil.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009  
Blogger julie said...

i LOVE June!! Used to work with her at Rockridge Market Hall. She is so lovely and creative...I try to visit her whenever I'm at the Saturday Ferry Building market.

Thursday, August 20, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Kailyn, hmmmm, interesting idea!

Julie, yes, she's a delight. Never stops learning and experimenting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009  

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