We Love Jam

we love jam blenheim apricot

The imaginary, idealized version of me makes really good jam.

This imaginary me has a lot of skills (such as making jam) that the real me does not, in fact, possess.  To be fair, it’s not that I can’t make jam, it’s more like I never get around to actually doing it.  I’m great at picking out the fruit, but somehow it always disappears before the actual jam-making process begins.  Periodically, people send me jars of jam, presumably in sympathy for my lack of focus in this particular endeavor, or possibly in an attempt at inspiration.  Either way, while their generous gifts have yet to galvanize me into bona fide jam-making activity, they have enabled me to try out some truly amazing stuff.

One jam I won’t be making is apricot, because the guys over at We Love Jam have got this one completely covered.  Before I tasted it, I would never have said my favorite jam in all the world would be apricot, but there it is.  You know something is pretty special when you weren’t all that excited about it before you tried it, and after it becomes the standard by which all others are measured.

This jam is made from just three ingredients – organic apricots, cane sugar and spices.  I have no idea what the “spices” are, and I suspect, sadly, that I never will.  We Love Jam states they use “trace spices…to accentuate key flavors in the fruit” and whatever that proprietary mix is, it works perfectly.  For this jam, they use only freshly-picked Blenheim apricots (never frozen), which allows them to skip the use of pectin, resulting in a jam with a  juicy, thinner consistency and an intense, vibrant flavor.  It is fabulous slathered on toast, croissants or biscuits, but a person with limited restraint could easily eat it straight from the jar with just a spoon.  Oops, I have.  And it is wonderful.

Just two guys make all this jam, plus their other products.  Everything is made in small batches, labeled by them, and shipped by them.  Sometimes, they’ve even picked the fruit!  Eric and Phineas clearly really do love jam, and it shows (plus, they have to be pretty indefatigable, dedicated guys).  However, since this is a two-person operation, and they only produce according to the season, some things may be sold out or have a waiting list. Order early.  Even if you have to wait for your item, trust me, it will be worth it.  You can check out all their goods, here.  There also have a handy list of retailers, where you can buy a limited selection of their products, here.

This year, I’m ordering a few extra jars of the apricot jam.  Rattling around in the back of my mind is the idea that it would be just perfect for an apricot version of Dorie Greenspan’s Classic Jammers.

As soon as my jam arrives, I’m on it.  I just know this is going to be good.

Crochet Pot Holders

Fall has arrived. Officially.

Although it isn’t going to dip down much below 100 ℉ during the daytime for awhile, the nights will soon begin to cool off, bit by bit.  Here in the desert we will still enjoy warm days with sunshine and swimming and well, summer, for longer than most, but after sundown things will slowly segue into more of what I refer to as “oven-friendly temperatures.”  It is a subtle seasonal shift – not at all like the autumn of cooler climes.  No changing leaves or coats in sight, just a refreshing breeze in the evenings.  In other words, good baking weather.

This year, I have aspirations to try my hand at a few things I’ve not made before –  a danish kringle, mini dessert soufflés, baked alaska (gasp), a traditional cassoulet, a few savory baked puddings, cinnamon buns, croissants, and several different kinds of bread.  I know, I can’t believe I’ve never made cinnamon buns either, but there it is.

In celebration (and preparation), I broke out my new pot holders, gifted to me by my mother, who is a crocheting fiend.  This particular group reminds me of creamsicles, sans the drippy part.  I love how she mixes up the patterns, so that each one is a little different – a chevron, a stripe and a color-block.  She’s clever that way.  Plus, she knows I will use the pot holders much more than any scarf or cap she might send my way.

Whether vintage or newly-crafted, crochet pot holders seem to be popping up all over. Finally, a trend I can get behind!  Although I have my own little stash, that doesn’t stop me from admiring more of these handmade gems, here and there. Below is a round-up of five that have recently caught my eye.

One:  Black and white simplicity by textile artist Renilde de Peuter via Remodelista, here.

Two:  Celestial blue grouping, also by Belgian artist Renilde de Peuter via Remodelista. More on Renilde and her label, At Swim Two Birds, here.

Three:  Kitsch and character to spare – and just a bit spooky.  Fringe-eared owl via Sew Lucky Boutique, here.

Four:  Vintage offbeat floral in a sunshiny spectrum via Quirky Quriosities, here.

Five:  Turquoise and unbleached cotton result in rustic elegance via Divisions T Designs, here.

Lastly, I’m mesmerized by this stunning kaleidoscopic installation from conceptual artist Ana Tuominen (via Things Bright, here), which manages to elevate the everyday pot holder into a magnificent mosaic.  Simultaneously gorgeous and contemplative.

Nothing inspires creativity, in the kitchen or elsewhere, like a thing of beauty.

Happy autumn baking adventures!

Juice Maids

Last week, I was in the Los Angeles area for a family event and spent some time in Pasadena.  After a few hours and tons of walking, my bag-carrying sidekick and I popped into Intelligentsia, intent on grabbing a couple quick, iced pick-me-ups to go.  While waiting for the coffees, I poked around in their refrigerated case and discovered the cold pressed juices from Juice Maids.  I’m halfway wishing I hadn’t seen that juice, because I’ve been obsessing about it ever since.  But I’m a sucker for fresh watermelon juice, and this one was their No Sleep Till Brooklyn (watermelon and lime). Sublime.

That juice was so seriously amazing, it was gone in a flash.  How I wish I had bought a few more jars so I could have tried some of the other flavors!  The next morning,  I jumped online to find out where to get my fix, as I was now nowhere near Pasadena.  A little quibble here about the Juice Maids website – there is no index of the retailers that carry their products.  Thwarted, sigh.  A few days later and back at home in the desert, I was still thinking about the juice, but found that currently, delivery is only available in the immediate LA area.  Double sigh.  I began to reason that a two-hour drive for juice was not really that far.  Crazy, right?

Except this juice is just that great.  What makes it so special?  Well, they source the best organic produce and then utilize a Norwalk Juicer to extract the juice, without  heat, which yields raw juice of a very fine quality and exceptional taste. Their site claims it will “knock your socks off”, and they totally delivered on that promise. The juice I sampled was simply outstanding.

Juice Maids are big on their custom cleanses.  They’ve got three – the Heavy Metal Detox, the Classic Rock Cleanse and the Baby Blues Cleanse.  If you’ve never done a cleanse before, this is a fuss-free way to try it.   In addition to the juices and supplements, you’ll get phone and email support from their resident expert, Danielle.  If you aren’t looking to do a cleanse, but just want to partake of some fabulous juice, you can order a crate to try them out.  With three crates to choose from, you’ll have your pick of eight 16-ounce or four 32-ounce juices or nut milks.  The juices come packaged in reusable mason jars with clever kraft labels, tucked inside crates that are also reusable.  Smart and eco-friendly.

This may be contrary to the general Juice Maids cleansing mission, but as a “detox in order to retox” kind of gal, I’ll readily admit that I’m into the juice primarily for the superior taste, and to use them as cocktail mixers.  If I can feel even the teensiest bit virtuous while imbibing in deliciousness, well then, bonus (yes, extra points are awarded).

Their menu is divided into four main sections – Greens, Veggie, Nut Milks & Smoothies, and Sweet.  Due to our household No Nuts! Ever! policy (which is pretty stringently enforced) those containing nuts are off my list, but each of their categories offer plenty of variety.  Juice Maids have been creative with the names of their juices, too, which adds a fun little twist to the mix. Perfect Day, anyone?  View their full menu to pick your favs, here.  

The following is a list of the eight juices I hope to be bringing back from my next trip, and the spirits I’ve planned on pairing them with.

  1. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – tomato, celery, horseradish, tamari, worcestershire powder, cayenne, salt, lemon [pairing with pepper-infused vodka]
  2. Gold Dust Woman – pear, ginger [pairing with rye whiskey]
  3. Sun Zoom Spark – berry, plum, pineapple [pairing with cachaça]
  4. She’s Like a Rainbow – strawberry, apricot, peach, orange, mint [pairing with champagne]
  5. Astral Plane – cherry, apricot, pineapple [pairing with vodka]
  6. No Sleep Till Brooklynwatermelon, lime [pairing with light rum]
  7. Butterfly Collector – strawberry, watermelon, cantaloupe, plum [pairing with tequila]
  8. Black Betty – blackberry, peach, orange [pairing with gin]

It’s completely likely that after all of this cocktail experimentation, I’m going to need a cleanse.

Update:  Juice Maids temporarily closed in December 2012, but recently announced a new partnership with Juice Served Here to include brick-and-mortar shops.  Updates can be found here.