Making jam in a hot summer kitchen can be one of the stickiest, sweatiest, most miserable jobs ever. But opening a jar in the doldrums of winter, and tasting the ripe, sweet moment of strawberry, peach or plum perfection makes any amount of suffering instantly forgotten.
Why not enjoy the fruits another’s labor?. BiteClub seeks out sweet and savory preserves that always taste like summer.
It seems fitting to start with Leon Day, who introduces you to his products not with just a story, but a ripping-good tale. As in: “While I was traveling with the nomads in the Sinai desert..” goes the pitch to his Heaven’s Necter (sic), a tonic made from squeezing four pounds of dates into 12 tiny ounces of distilled perfection.
Not into dates? No worries. Day produces more than 100 different jams, jellies, chutneys, sauces and miscellaneous condiments, many of which he sells each Saturday at the Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market, and on Sundays and Thursdays in Marin. You can taste through as many as your sweet-tooth will allow. Each visitor to the stand gets a plastic spoon onto which tiny squirts and squeezes of his goods fall. Some of the most popular flavors: A sweet-tart strawberry cranberry jam, pear-ginger-vanilla jam, peanut satay sauce, a teriyaki-esque Pacific Gourmet sauce and Major Day’s mango chutney.
Day, who was once part of the Grateful Dead entourage, has been making his condiments since 1983, when — or so the story goes — he took over the kitchen of an Indian restaurant and improved upon their chutney. Twenty six years later, he continues to tinker and experiment with new flavors, adding to his ever-expanding universe condiments. Each with its own story. chutneyman.com, or at the Saturday Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market, 8am to noon.
Fig Pantry: Local restauranteur Sondra Bernstein has expanded her figgy empire with a line of conserves, chutneys and jams loaded with ripe Black mission and calimyrna fruit. Top sellers include apricot fig chutney, dried fig compote and black mission fig jam. Available at thegirlandthefig.com or 110 West Spain St., Sonoma, (707) 938-2064.
Artisan Preserves: Elissa Rubin-Mahon finds some of the rarest heirloom fruits in Northern California from small orchards, wineries, unsprayed open spaces and even private homes for her micro-batched artisan preserves. With the precision of a fine artist, she hand-cuts and kettle cooks the fruits without additional pectin (a thickener). Available at artisanpreserves.com. Honey-fig preserves at Quivira Winery (whom she sources fruit from), 4900 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg.
DaVero: Though they’re best known for olive oil, Ridgely and Coleen Evers also produce rich preserves from their Healdsburg estate including caramel apple butter, green tomato conserve, Indian Red Peach preserves, meyer lemon curd, plum and peach jam and Satsuma-mandarin marmalade. Available at the Healdsburg and Santa Rosa Farmer’s Markets on Saturday, Marin Farm Market on Thursday and Sunday or at davero.com
Tierra Vegetables: From sweet and mild strawberry chipotle to flamin’ hot jalapeno, this Windsor farm boils down and bottles up some of its best chiles into Tierra Chile Jams. tierravegetables.com at at the farmstand, 399 Business Park Ct., Windsor.
Gabriel Farm: Fourteen acres of organic Sebastopol orchards grow asian pears, persimmons, plums and apples that are a favorite of the U-Pick crowd. But to savor the flavor year-round, the family also makes Asian Pear & Ginger Conserve and Asian Pear, blackberry and lavender conserve. gabrielfarm.com.
Dry Creek Peach & Produce: It’s a stunning moment when one eats a peach that actually tastes like, well, a true peach. This Dry Creek farm has long been a destination for stone fruit affectionados, but you can — for a very limited time — get their fresh peaches and organic jam at the Saturday Santa Rosa farm market or through August at 2179 Yoakim Bridge Rd, Healdsburg or drycreekpeach.com
Philo Apple Farm Stand: The first signs of fall mean a trip to Mendocino’s legendary Apple farm for bags of heirloom apples and luscious apricot, plum and strawberry jam. philoapplefarm.com, 18501 Greenwood Rd., Philo.
Kozlowski Farms: There’s no denying the broad appeal of this berry-licious farm that now boasts national distribution of their Sebastopol jams and jellies. Available at G&G Markets and online at kozlowskifarms.com