Disappearing Fruit, The Ark of Taste and The Good Stuff
My family moved around a bit when I was a kid, following my dad’s assignments at various air force bases. His last assignment before retiring from the military was in Merced, California. As soon as he retired he and my mother immediately moved our family to San Diego to live my mother’s dream, temperatures of 72 degrees every day, and near the ocean. That lasted about 8 months until we relocated to the Bay Area, chasing jobs for my parents. It was the late 1970’s and there were a lot of crises – gas, hostage, jobs. Moving to San Jose at that time, right before the tech boom, was a good move for them. Looking back now I remember there were still fruit orchards everywhere, mixed in between housing developments. Campbell felt like a little country town, farmy almost. Sadly, most if not all of those beautiful, fruitful orchards are now gone.
Blenheim Apricots used to be grown in abundance in the Santa Clara valley starting in the early 1900’s. By the 1960’s they started to decline. Blenheim’s are sweet and tart and are wonderful fresh or dried and in preserves, but they mature a little more slowly than other varieties. They also bruise easily. Because they are not ideal for shipping long distances they fell out of favor with growers and distributors. The decline has been so pronounced that they have even been placed on the ‘Ark of Taste’, a list of fruits, vegetables, animal breeds, cheeses, breads, and more that are in danger of disappearing in a generation or two. The list is created and maintained by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, a sister organization of Slow Food USA. Their mission is to promote agricultural biodiversity, environmental harmony and food for all. I’m paraphrasing a much bigger mission, and if you are interested I recommend you visit their site as well as Slow Food USA to find out all that they do and stand for. It's good stuff.
Back to Blenheim Apricots! The star in The Good Stuff Chili Apricot Jam in our August Farm to Fork in a Box. This jam is made with four ingredients; apricots, sugar, New Mexico chilies and lemon juice. That’s it. And it’s soooo good. It’s perfectly balanced, and not overly sweet. The chilies give a little zing at the end, but I wouldn’t call it spicy. Because this jam is made without commercial pectin, which is pretty icky, the process requires less sugar, allowing the fruit to come forward. How does one make jam without pectin? Simply cooking it a lot longer. Which is why it’s difficult to find commercial jams without it as an ingredient.
The Good Stuff is the creation of Janet McDonald, of Sacramento, California. She loves seasonal cooking and produce and making jam allowed her to extend those flavors into any season. She began sharing her jam with friends, and after hearing, ‘You should sell this stuff’ enough times, she did. She launched The Good Stuff in 2012. She comes up with all of her flavor combinations herself and like much like her, they are very practical, but elegant. No forced combinations that sound better than they taste. Perhaps her background in restaurant design influences her palate and passion? Janet sources all of her fruit from local family owned farms that are mostly or all organic, such as Otow Orchard in Granite Bay, Good Humus in Capay, Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova, Patrick's Berry Farm and Garden in Camino. and Terra Firma Farm in Winters These small farms that are growing these difficult to find, and possibly in danger of extinction, varieties are the real heroes. Without these farms committed to these varieties, our plates would be sadly boring and tasteless. The Good Stuff starts with the best stuff.
All her jams are delicious and can be used in a variety of ways from spreading it on toast to mixing in yogurt. We love it on a creamy cheese, served with crackers. Janet gave me a hint of a way to use the jam – spread it on the bottom of the crust before you add your fruit for a little surprise in your next pie. If you want to go all out, put it on some vanilla ice cream, crumble some Almond Biscotti on it and drizzle a teaspoon of Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar on top!
Meet the Maker - janet McDonald of The Good Stuff and learn more about her jams by watching our video.