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Archive for Jam/Peanut Butter

TIP OF THE DAY: Cheese Spreads, Cheese Condiments

Fig Spread With Cheese

Bonne Maman Fig Spread

Top: Crostini with Brie, Serrano ham and Fig Spread (photo courtesy Favor The Moments). Bottom: Enjoy trying the different spreads with different cheeses (photo courtesy Bonne Maman).

 

What’s a cheese condiment? What’s a cheese spread? you may ask. Here’s the food nerd explanation:

  • Cheese spread is one of the sweet cheese condiments.
  • A condiment is an auxiliary food product that adds flavor to another food.
  • “Condiment” is first found in print in French around 1420, and derives from the Latin condimentum, spice.
  • Mankind has been enjoying condiments for much longer, even before the dukkah of ancient Egypt the ancient Romans’ beloved fish sauce, garum.
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    Chutney, ketchup, mustard and pickle relish are examples of condiments that enhance burgers and franks. Although you may not think of them as such, fudge sauce, marshmallow cream and whipped cream are ice cream condiments.

    Given America’s growing familiarity with fine cheeses, here’s an…

    INTRODUCTION TO CHEESE CONDIMENTS

    What is the difference between a mostarda and a mustard? Why would you put honey on cheese? Can you use the same condiments on a log of fresh goat cheese and an aged Gouda?

    Cheeses are wonderful on their own, but cheese condiments can bring out their nuances. Similar to wine pairings, the flavor and age of the cheese are taken into account when deciding on pairings.

    We have an elaborate chart of cheese condiment pairings, from aged balsamic and mustard to sweet condiments such as chutney, honey and preserves.

    Cheeses served with sweet condiments make delicious appetizers, desserts and snacks.

    Take a look at the newest cheese condiments in town: three fruit spreads from premium jam, jelly and preserves company, Bonne Maman. They are all natural, non-GMO and certified kosher by OU.

     
    MEET THE NEW CHEESE SPREADS FROM BONNE MAMAN

    First, a word about “spreads.”

    There are different types of fruit spreads, including chutney, jam, jelly, preserve and others.

    Aside from the jam and jelly group, some people hear “cheese spread” and think of like Port Wine Cheddar. Not here.

    As regards jam, in the U.S., “fruit spread” is generally a reduced-calorie product, replacing all or part of the sugar with fruit juice concentrate and low-calorie sweeteners. Not the case with Bonne Maman.

    The new spreads from Bonne Mamam are very thick and concentrated preserves that don’t run or dribble: They stand firm, enabling you to use them in more ways. The flavor, too, is more intense—glorious, in fact. It was all we could do not to eat them directly from the jar. (Well, maybe we did.)

    The best pairings are the ones you like. We’ve made some suggestions, but let your palate be your guide.

     

    Black Cherry Spread Cheese Pairings

    Tart cherries pair well with both sharp and creamy cheeses. We pair it with goat cheese, Brie and Camenbert.
     
    Purple Fig Spread Cheese Pairings

    This one is easy: Fig pairs well with all types of cheese.
     
    Quince Spread Cheese Pairings

    For centuries, membrillo, quince paste, has been the classic condiment for aged Spanish cheeses. Cabrales and Manchego are most often found in the U.S., but your cheesemonger may also have Idiazabal, Roncal, Zamorano and others. Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano, with nuances similar to Manchego, pairs well; so does aged provolone. The nutty Swiss mountain cheeses are also a match: Appenzeller, Emmental (with the big holes called eyes), Gruyère* and French Comté.
     
    NEXT STEPS

    Plan a cheese tasting with fruit spreads and other condiments. Your family and friends will love it!

    As of this writing, you can download a $2 coupon on the Bonne Maman website.
     
    PARTY FAVORS

    Looking for small Mother’s Day gifts or party favors? Jet.com is currently selling a six-pack with free shipping.

    The spreads are also available at retailers nationwide.

     

    Quince Spread

    Bonne Maman Purple Fig Cheese Spread

    Top: Quince Spread atop a pyramid-shaped cheese (photo courtesy Taylor Takes A Taste). Bottom: A jar of Purple Fig Spread (photo courtesy Jet.com).

     
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    *Switzerland has produced Gruyère for hundreds of years, but after an appeal to the EU, France was also allowed to use the name. French Gruyère must be made with tiny eyes—“between the size of a pea and a cherry”—to distinguish it from the original.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter

    Peter Pan Peanut Butter

    Peter Pan’s Simply Ground is part creamy, part crunchy. Photo courtesy Mastercook.com.

     

    Something great has happened in the world of peanut butter. Peter Pan has introduced all natural Peter Pan Simply Ground Peanut Butter.

    What’s new about that, you ask? While there’s plenty of all-natural peanut butter on store shelves, Simply Ground is delightfully ground.

    Its unique texture lies between creamy and crunchy, reminiscent of finely home-grouund PB. It spreads easily and evenly and is universally useful for everything from sandwiches and soups to baking.

    There are two varieties, Original and Honey Roast, the latter with a touch of real honey. There’s not a big flavor difference; eating the peanut butter straight from the spoon is a nuanced experience. The main difference is 3g sugar per serving versus 6g sugar per serving.

    It’s a winner! National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day is April 2nd, so head to the nearest store.

    FOOD TRIVIA: Peanut butter was developed by a physician to provide a protein food to people who lost their teeth and could no longer chew meat. Here’s the history of peanut butter

     
    RECIPE 1: KING OF MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH

    This recipe is from Chef Spike Mendelsohn, owner of D.C. restaurant Béarnaise, a Top Chef contestant and consulting chef for Peter Pan Simply Ground.

    Ingredients For 4 Sandwiches

  • 8 slices country bread
  • 1/2 cup Peter Pan Simply Ground Original Peanut Butter
  • ¾ cup banana slices
  • 8 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cooked
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 4 teaspoons butter
  •  
    For The Topping

  • 1 cup blackberry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon water
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the blackberry topping: Combine the preserves and water in a pot add heat, stirring, until smooth. Serve on the side

    2. SPREAD the bread with peanut Butter; fill with bananas and bacon to make 4 sandwiches. Press the edges of sandwiches together to seal.

    3. HEAT a large skillet, add the butter and melt over medium heat.

    4. WHISK the egg, cinnamon and milk in bowl until well blended. Add the sandwiches, one at a time, turning to evenly moisten the bread.

    5. ADD the sandwiches to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

    ABOUT THE MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH

    A Monte Cristo is a fried ham or turkey sandwich with cheese. It’s an American variation of the French Croque Monsieur sandwich.

    Traditionally, the sandwich is dipped in batter and deep fried, but there are regional variations. In some regions of the U.S. it’s just grilled; in others, French toast is used as a base, with cheese melted under a broiler.

    In this version, the sandwich is fried like French Toast.

    Monte Cristo sandwiches originated in southern California; the earliest reference is printed on a 1941 menu from Gordon’s restaurant in Los Angeles and a recipe was published in the 1949 The Brown Derby Cookbook. The sandwich became very popular in the 1950s-1970s.

    Check out the different sandwich types in our Sandwich Glossary.

     

    Peanut Butter Monte Cristo Sandwich

    Peanut Butter Wraps

    Top: Spike Mendelsohn’s re-interpretation of the Monte Cristo Sandwich. Photo courtesy Peter Pan. Bottom: PB&J Lettuce Wraps. Photo courtesy CoffeeandQuinoa.com.

     

    RECIPE 2: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY LETTUCE WRAPS

    The recipe is adapted from Crofter’s Organic.
     
    Ingredients For 2 Servings, 4 Wraps

  • 4 spring roll wrappers
  • Boston lettuce or romaine leaves
  • 4 spring roll wrappers
  • Peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
  • Mango or apricot fruit spread
  • Optional: 1/4 cup lightly crushed peanuts—raw, roasted, honey or spicy
  • Optional: peanut dipping sauce (recipe)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the spring roll wrappers by softening in hot water, one at a time to avoid sticking.

    2. SPREAD a teaspoon of peanut butter over each, followed by a teaspoon of fruit spread. Sprinkle the optional crushed nuts over the fruit spread.

    3. WRAP the lettuce over the spring roll wrappers. Cut if desired and serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 25+ Uses For Apple Butter

    We were recently searching for something in the back of a friend’s pantry—at her request—and came across a jar of apple butter that looked past its prime. We checked the date. Yep, way gone.

    “Do you know you have expired apple butter?” we queried. “Oh that,” she replied. “Someone gave it to me years ago and I didn’t know what to do with it.”

    Apple butter is not butter, we explained. It’s a fruit spread so creamy, it spreads like butter. There’s no dairy in it. Think of it as creamy apple jam.

    Today’s tip is for anyone who needs suggestions for using apple butter, and for those who want to make their own from the fall crop of just-picked apples. There’s a slow cooker recipe below.

    WHAT IS APPLE BUTTER?

    Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce, as dense as a spread. While the skins are used, since the apples are cooked to a point where the sugar in the flesh caramelizes and the flesh turns brown, the color of the apple doesn’t make a difference.

       

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    Ready, set spread your delicious homemade apple butter. Photo courtesy TasteOfHome.com.

     
    THE HISTORY OF APPLE BUTTER

    In the Middle Ages, the first monasteries with large fruit orchards began to appear in Europe. Apple butter, developed at that time, turned out to have a long shelf life (due to the concentration of sugars). It was an ideal way to conserve part of the apple crop.

    Villagers made their own apple butter, and a popular bread spread was born. As imported spices became more affordable, apple butter was enhanced with allspice, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.

    Fast forward some centuries to the colonization of North America: Housewives brought the technique for making apple butter with them. In the 1700s, the German Rhinelanders and Moravians who settled into the Blue Ridge Mountains, especially in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, “really honed apple butter-making to a deliciously fine art.” (Source: FoodTimeline.org.)

    In the 1800s, another German immigrant group, the Pennsylvania Dutch (a misspelling of Deutsch), established the tradition in southeastern Pennsylvania. In the latter half of the century, with the invention of the Mason jar, apple butter was “put up” by even more households. These days, you can freeze it.

    Apple butter’s popularity declined in the 20th century, with the proliferation of store-bought brands of jam and jelly providing a wide variety of fruit options year-round.
     
    WHAT KIND OF APPLES SHOULD YOU USE?

    You can use any apples, but soft apples work best because they cook down the fastest. Choose one (or more) of these varieties, and you’ll have apple butter in no time:

  • Braeburn
  • Cortland
  • Fuji
  • Gravenstein
  • Jonamac
  • Jonagold
  • Ida Red
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    WAYS TO USE APPLE BUTTER

    Breakfast

  • On oatmeal
  • On toast or biscuits
  • On pancakes and waffles
  • As a topping for yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Muffin surprise (cut a channel, scoop out and fill, replace the top)
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    Lunch

  • Panini: ham or turkey, brie or cheddar (or other cheese), apple butter
  • Sandwich spread, including with cheese: grilled cheese, cream cheese, semihard cheese
  • PB&AB, or instead of the PB, apple butter with almond butter and sliced bananas
  • Turkey burger
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    apple_butter-gift-espressoandcream-230

    All you need to turn apple butter into a homemade gift is a ribbon! Photo courtesy EspressoandCream.com.

     

    Dinner

  • As a condiment for pork chops or roast
  • In barbecue sauce (recipe)
  • In a baked potato with sour cream or yogurt
  • Instead of applesauce
  • Ham glaze
  • Sauce for chicken
  • On baked sweet potatoes, or as a dip with sweet potato fries
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    Dessert

  • A cup of apple butter as dessert, with heavy cream or whipped cream.
  • Crepe filling, topped with cinnamon sugar (substitute tortillas for crepes)
  • Warmed or melted over vanilla ice cream and garnished with pecans
  • Cookie sandwiches
  • Baking†
  • Loaf cake sandwiches
  • Snack

  • On crackers
  • On a spoon, right from the jar
  • In a smoothie*
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    RECIPE: SLOW COOKER APPLE BUTTER

    Because the apples cook for a long period, this is a recipe best made in a slow cooker. Plan to start cooking early in the morning. For gifting, use 8-ounce Mason or Ball jars, or other attractive jars. Note that the apple butter won’t have any preservatives, so should be refrigerated or frozen. This recipe is courtesy Taste Of Home.
     
    Ingredients For 4 Pints

  • 5-1/2 pounds apples, peeled and finely chopped (we kept the peel on)
  • 4 cups sugar‡
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the apples in a 3-quart slow cooker. Combine the other ingredients, pour over the apples and mix well. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.

    2. REDUCE the heat to low; cover and cook for 9-11 hours or until thickened and dark brown, stirring occasionally. Stir more frequently as the spread thickens, to prevent sticking.

    3. UNCOVER and cook on low 1 hour longer. If desired, stir with a wire whisk until smooth.

    4. SPOON into jars or freezer containers, leaving a half inch of space at the top. Cover and refrigerate or freeze.
     
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    *Freeze apple butter in an ice cube tray; blend frozen cubes with almond milk and banana, with spices to taste.

    †You can use apple butter like applesauce, as a replacement for oil, eggs and butter, in most baked good recipes. Like applesauce, it provides sweetness and moistness in breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, pancakes and waffles. Look for tested recipes.

    ‡You can cut back on the sweetness, or try one batch and then adjust it.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Smucker’s Fruit Spread With Honey

    triple-berry-cheese-spread-230

    Mix with cream cheese, feta, cream cheese
    and adobo sauce for a sweet heat spread.
    Photo © The J.M. Smucker Company.

     

    A few years ago, the Orchard’s Finest line from Smucker’s tickled our palate and became a favorite bread spread.

    Now, the Smucker’s team has charmed us with a new line: Fruit & Honey fruit spreads, sweetemed with honey instead of sugar. And it’s just enough honey to sweeten, but not be too sweet. One tablespoon has just 35 calories.

    You also taste the honey in each bite. It’s a really nice departure from sugar-sweetened jams, and well worth trying. Even the shape of the jar is alluring.

    In addition to toast and PB&J or PB&B sandwiches, the Smucker’s shows how to create delicious and very easy recipes.

  • Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Blueberry Lemon Fruit Spread. Swirl it into slightly softened frozen yogurt in this easy recipe. Or, mix with cream cheese and yogurt or sour cream and spoon into graham cracker crusts for no-bake cheesecake tarts.
  • Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Strawberry Fruit Spread. Stir it into balsamic dressing for this quinoa, mixed greens and grilled chicken recipe.
  • Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Triple Berry Fruit Spread (a blend of blackberries, blueberries and strawberries). Mix with cream cheese, feta, chiles and adobo sauce for a sweet heat spread. Recipe.
  • Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Tropical Fruit Spread (peaches, mango, and passion fruit). Make a smoky mango salsa with black beans, fruit spread, lime juice, cilantro and paprika and serve it with tortilla chips or atop chicken. Here’s the recipe.
  •  
    How many more ways can you use fruit spread? See our list below.

    Smucker’s Fruit & Honey fruit spreads are available at Walmart, Target, Publix and Safeway and other retailers nationwide. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is $3.49 for a 9-ounce jar.
     
    WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JAM & FRUIT SPREAD?

    The difference is in the level of sweetness. Some jams can be cloyingly sweet. A good fruit spread isn’t.

    Jam consists of chopped, crushed or puréed fruit cooked down with sugar—a recipe as old as refined sugar. Fruit spread began to appear in the 1970s as a reduced-calorie product, made with alternative sweeteners such as juice concentrate. The honey in Smucker’s fruit spreads makes it so superior to others we’ve tasted.

    There are distinct differences between chutney, conserve, jelly, jams, marmalades and the other types of sweet spreads. Take a look.
     

    MORE WAYS TO USE FRUIT SPREAD OR JAM

    In Breakfast Dishes

  • Hot cereal. Use a dab instead of sugar.
  • Pancake and waffle topping. Substitute for syrup.
  • Yogurt. Add to cottage cheese or to plain yogurt, to make fruit yogurt.
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    At Lunch

  • Grilled cheese. Sharp cheeses like blue cheese and Cheddar are perfect pairings for jam or fruit spread. Grill with the cheese or serve it on the side as a condiment. For more flavor, use rye or a textured whole grain bread.
  • Salad dressing. Warm a spoonful and whisk it into salad dressings.
  • Sandwich spread. Spread on bread with a filling of cheese, ham, lamb, poultry or roast pork. To cut the sweetness, you can mix it with mayonnaise or plain yogurt.
  •  

    Appetizers/Snacks

  • Canapés. Top a cracker or slice of baguette with cheese, ham, turkey or other favorite and a bit of jam or fruit spread.
  • Cheese condiment. Wonderful with a cheese plate (more cheese condiments) or atop a baked Brie. Make the popular appetizer of jam poured over a brick of cream cheese or a log of goat cheese, served with crackers.
  • Dipping sauce. Mix in a small bowl with sriracha or other hot sauce, a hot chile and vinegar. You can also make a dip with fresh grated ginger and soy sauce.
  • Pepper jelly. Mix in some red pepper flakes, dried or fresh minced chipotle, jalapeño or other chile (the different chile types).
  • Pretzel or breadstick dip. Mix with Dijon or other mustard. For a sweet-and-hot profile, add some hot sauce.
  •  
    Dinner

  • Meat glaze. Particularly delicious on poultry and pork. Mix with fresh herbs and garlic.
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    One of four flavors of the Fruit & Honey fruit spreads. Photo © The J.M. Smucker Company.

  • Sauce for meat and seafood. Use with wine or vermouth to deglaze the pan. Add some to the pan while you’re cooking chicken, pork chops, fish, scallops or shrimp and let the flavor coat the meat.
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    Dessert

  • Cheesecake. Fine jam makes a wonderful topping or a condiment on the side.
  • Cookies. Thumbprints and rolled cookies with a jam swirl are classics.
  • Crêpe filling. Delicious plain or with fresh goat cheese or mascarpone.
  • Dessert sauce. Mix with plain or vanilla yogurt or sour cream.
  • Ice cream and sorbet topping. Crown a scoop of sorbet. Lightly warm the jam so it flows like a sauce over ice cream.
  • Layer cake filling. A coat of jam between the layers is a classic: Think Sacher Torte! Apricot or raspberry jam is delicious with chocolate cake; any flavor works with lemon cake.
  • Tarts and tartlets. Fill tart or tartlet shells with jam. Top with a dab of crème fraîche, Greek yogurt, mascarpone or sour cream. Or, blend with cream cheese for a cheesecake-like tart.
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Unconventional Valentine Treats

    You don’t have to give chocolate or cupcakes on Valentine’s Day. In fact, some people may prefer a less conventional gift. Think outside the [chocolate] box.

    As a smaller gift to bring to pals at the office, we particularly like red berry jam. You can go for a pricey artisan brand, or look for an organic brand like Santa Cruz Organic Seedless Red Raspberry Fruit Spread.

    We love raspberry jam, but not the seeds. So we were very happy to discover Santa Cruz Organic’s Seedless Red Raspberry Fruit Spread. Not only is it seedless, it’s thick and lush with raspberry flavor. As a fruit spread, it’s also lower in sugar than most raspberry jams (and 40 calories per tablespoon). You taste the fruit, not the cloying sugar. (Here’s the difference between fruit spreads, jam, preserves, etc.)

    The fruit spreads are also made in Apricot, Blackberry Pomegranate, Concord Grape, Mango and Strawberry. In addition to being certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO, the line is certified kosher by OU. Look for it at natural food markets or online.

     
    KETCHUP FOR YOUR VALENTINE?

     

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    A quality jar of strawberry or raspberry jam says “Be My Valentine.” Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

    On the savory side, look for something red and spicy. It could be a jar of artisan arrabiata pasta sauce, or something as much fun as sriracha ketchup.

    Lee Kum Kee, maker of terrific soy sauce, has added Sriracha Chili Ketchup to its line. It gives the ketchup lover another dimension of flavor and heat on burgers and fries, and in spreads and dips. We think it’s a great “guy gift.”

    Look for it in the Asian products aisle at your supermarket, at Asian markets or online.
     
    For a more generous gift, a bottle of red wine is always welcome, or a pink rosé.

    Personally, we’d like a jar of red caviar.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fig Jam, Fig Chutney & More Figgy Condiments

    Figs are hot and dry weather fruit—famously enjoyed for millennia in the Middle East, where it’s hot year-round.

    In the U.S., figs grow in zones 8-10 (most of our figs are grown in California. They have two seasons: a shorter season in early summer and a second, main crop that starts in late summer and runs through fall.

    Fig trees cannot withstand temperatures much below 20°F, and so are not grown in most of the Midwest and in the Northeast.

    dalmatia-fig-spread-thekitchn-230

    Dalmatia Fig Spread. Photo courtesy
    TheKitchn.com. Here’s their review.

     

    So depending on your residence, you won’t find fresh figs; but you can console yourself with a jar of fig jam or chutney.

    Beyond spreading it on toast, here’s what you can do with it, courtesy of FrenchFarm.com,

  • Use it as a glaze for meats, especially duck and pork.
  • Mix it in with pan juices to make a sauce.
  • Add it to a red wine vinaigrette to make a spectacular salad dressing.
  • Pair it with cheese—our favorites being blue cheese , goat cheese, bleu or camembert on crostini.
  • Use it as the center of humbprint cookies.
  • Spoon it over cheesecake.
  • Add it to cheese and charcuterie plates.
  • Garnish a flatbread pizza made with prosciutto, Gorgonzola cheese and arugula.
  • Use it as a topping for ice cream.
  •  

    You can find Dalmatia Fig Spread (photo above)at many supermarkets, and other fig jams and chutneys at most specialty stores. But The French Farm has the biggest selection of fig condiments we’ve seen, any of which would make a lovely small gift or stocking stuffer for a foodie. The choices include:

     

  • Black Fig Jam (from L’Epicurien), to spread on toast, pastries, waffles, or to enjoy with cheese.
  • Confit of Figs & Black Olives (L’Epicurien), a spread of sweet white figs and savory black olives that can dress up just about anything. Pair with cheese or use as a sandwich spread.
  • Fig & Balsamic Vinegar Confit (L’Epicurien), delicious on a sandwich or on a cracker with goat cheese, or as a condiment with foie gras.
  • Fig & Grape Jam (from L’Epicurien), a delightful balance of juicy grape and earthy fig, spread some on toast or breakfast pastries.
  • Fig & Walnut Confit (from L’Epicurien) is perfect with goat cheese or on a slice of toasted baguette.
  • White Fig Jam (from L’Epicurien), more delicate than the black fig jam, is delicious on top of a slice of toasted baguette, with a slice of Cheddar on a crostini, or on a breakfast pastry.
  •  
    But fig condiments don’t stop at jam. Check out the other options:

     

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    Mustard with fig. Photo courtesy The French Farm.

     

  • Fig Mustard (from L’Epicurien), can be paired with cured meats, ham, roasted or smoked turkey, cheddar cheese, roast pork or a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Grape Must Vinegar with Fig (from Il Boschetto) is freshly pressed grape juice that contains the skins, seeds and stems. The mixture is simmered with the addition of vinegar made from Tuscan red wine, into a rich balsamic-like syrup that is stunning over fish, fresh salads, and desserts.
  • Red Wine Vinegar With Fig (from Edmond Fallot), great for salad dressing, marinades, or sauces. Try it on a goat cheese-stuffed chicken breast with braised greens.
  • Spiced Fig Chutney (from L’Epicurien), both sweet and savory and perfect for a cheese board, charcuterie plate or a chicken or turkey sandwich.
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    A BRIEF HISTORY OF FIGS

    The edible fig was one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans. Fossils dating to about 9400–9200 B.C.E. in the Jordan Valley predate the domestication of barley, legumes, rye and wheat, and may thus be the first known instance of agriculture. Some botany historians propose that the figs may have been cultivated one thousand years before the next crops (wheat and rye) were domesticated.

    Much later in time, figs were a common food source for the Romans. Cato the Elder, in his De Agri Cultura, lists several strains of figs: the Mariscan, African, Herculanean, Saguntine and the black Tellanian. In addition to human consumption, figs were used, among other things, to fatten geese for the production of a precursor of foie gras.

    In ancient times, figs were cultivated from Afghanistan to Portugal to India. From the 15th century onwards, they spread to Europe and later, to the New World. [Source]

      

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    STOCKING STUFFER: Stonewall Kitchen Maple Bacon Jam

    Here’s a spot-on holiday gift for anyone who loves bacon. Bacon jam is a sweet and savory combination that adds a little something extra to most of the foods you eat—breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

    You can spread it on toast or waffles at breakfast, enjoy it on a sandwich, serve it as a condiment with your protein at dinner or mix it into the pan juices to create a delicious sauce. Enjoy it as a cheese condiment.

    For entertaining, use it to make quick canapés with a bit of cheese, meat or poultry.

    While you can make your own bacon jam (a link to our recipe is below), you can also buy it.

    Stonewall Kitchen makes theirs from cane and brown sugars, apples, shallots and yellow onions, vinegar and bacon. We had a taste at a trade show earlier this year and put it on our list of stocking stuffers.

    An 11.75-ounce jar is $7.95 at StonewallKitchen.com.

     

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    A delicious sweet and savory jam. Photo courtesy Stonewall Kitchen.

     

    MAKE YOUR OWN BACON JAM

    Here’s our own recipe for bacon jam.

      

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    PRODUCT: Chad’s, The Best Raspberry Jam?

    Utah’s Bear Lake is a beauty: a natural freshwater lake on the Utah-Idaho called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its turquoise-blue color.

    Although the lake lies relatively near the Oregon Trail, which was traveled by many pioneers between 1836 and the 1850s, it seems that none of traveled south enough to find the lake. It wasn’t until 1863 that Mormons settled in the Bear Lake Valley, home to some Shoshone tribes.

    Fast forward 150 years or so: The area has become famous for its delicious red raspberries. A Raspberry Days festival is held in Garden City to celebrate the harvest of raspberries, generally during the first week of August. The raspberries are sweet and plentiful.

    So we almost kicked ourselves when we found a box of Chad’s Raspberry Kitchen products tucked away, forgotten in a storage area. Boy, are they delicious!

    First up was the Raspberry Jam, the company’s best seller. It’s one of the best raspberry jams we can remember: solid fruit that falls apart into jam during cooking. Chad’s cooks the whole berries with natural fruit pectin and sugar, “the way your grandmother would make it” (or at this point, Chad, our great-grandmother).

     

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    Great rapsberry jam at a great price. Photo courtesy Chad’s Raspberry Kitchen.

     

    Sustainably farmed located in Laketown, Utah (population 248 at the 2010 census), all natural and preservative free, Chad’s other products include:

  • Raspberry Jalapeño Jam, the classic raspberry spiced up with jalapeño chiles.
  • Seedless Raspberry Jelly.
  • Raspberry Honey, made by bees from the nectar of the raspberry blossoms.
  • Raspberry Syrup, for pancakes, ice cream and other desserts and to make raspberry iced tea or lemonade.
  • Raspberry Salsa, raspberries mixed with a tomato based salsa to create a sweet salsa for dipping or garnishing grilled meats and seafood.
  • Gift box assortments.
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    Everything is very well priced at $4.99 (the honey is $5.99), and they’re more delicious than products selling at twice the price. Chad’s is a great idea for holiday gifting.

    Get yours at ChadsRaspberryKitchen.com.

      

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    PRODUCT: Jam For Inspector Clouseau

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    Jam in covert gift packaging. Photo courtesy Dept. Of Sweet Diversions.

     

    With popular television franchises like CSI, Law & Order and NCIS, detective culture has finally seeped into specialty food.

    The perps (actually, they’re the good guys) moved from Europe to Los Angeles to form their artisan jam agency (“a top secret covert organization”).

    Agent Copperpot hails from France, where she learned the craft of small batch jam making from both of her grandmothers. Chester Pinkerton, born and raised in Switzerland, is a professional illustrator.

    They created the Dept. of Sweet Diversions with a primary objective “to create delicious little diversions so you can treat yourself to something truly special.”

    Otherwise stated, their goal is to elevate the art of preserving to inspire people to try new fruit and flavor combinations.

     

    They source local organic and/or sustainably grown fruit in bountiful southern California, and make jams, jellies, marmalades and fruit butters. (Check out the different types of jam and other spreads.) Most of the ingredients come from farmers markets within a 12 mile radius of their kitchen.

    The jam is made by hand in small batches using traditional techniques. Each flavor features organic ingredients and is completely free of preservatives. Nothing is processed (even the pectin is homemade).

    The pair are quick to note that “Breakfast isn’t the only meal of the day that should feature jam, it’s just the first!”

    Their jams pair exquisitely with fine cheeses, mixed into cocktails and served as a condiment with fish and meat dishes. But don’t stop there: Here are 20 of THE NIBBLE’s favorite ways to use fine jam.

     

    The current line consists of eight choices, available plain or in “covert” gift packaging.

  • The Cocoa Caper: orange jam with dark chocolate. Enjoy it on a crêpe.
  • The Grand Scheme: strawberry jam with Grand Marnier liqueur. Pair it with brioche.
  • Master of Disguise: tomato jam infused with basil. Pair it with burrata cheese.
  • Mr. Bartlett’s Stepchild: pear jam with ginger and acacia honey. Pair it with Cheddar.
  • Operation Peppercorn: strawberry jam with balsamic vinegar & the refined heat of black pepper. Pair it with goat cheese or Brie.
  • The Return of Mr. Bartlett: pear jam with vanilla bean and chestnut honey. Pair it with blue cheese or top French vanilla ice cream.
  • The Sanguine Seduction: blood orange marmalade with vanilla bean. Enjoy it on toast.
  • The Suite Surprise: apple butter sweetened with agave. Enjoy it on a peanut butter sandwich.
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    We devoured the contents with a spoon! Photo courtesy Dept. Of Sweet Diversions.

     
    We received samples of Master of Disguise (tomato jam), Operation Peppercorn (strawberry balsamic), The Return of Mr. Bartlett (pear jam) and The Sanguine Seduction (blood orange). We’ll be ordering more of the delicious blood orange marmalade and tomato jam. We demolished the contents with a spoon!

    And we’ll be trying more flavors, too. A six-ounce jar is $12, or $14 with Top Secret gift wrap.

    Discover more at Dept.OfSweetDiversions.com.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Blake Hill Preserves

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    One of the exquisite marmalades. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Blake Hill Preserves is an artisan chutney, jam and marmalade producer based near historic Grafton Village in Vermont’s Green Mountains. There, a gifted duo traditionally crafts all-natural chutneys, jams and preserves with sophisticated modern, bright, fruit-forward flavors and marvelous textures. You can see the difference, even before you taste it.

    Each small batch is slow-cooked by hand, carefully layering the ingredients to concentrate intense, fresh flavors. All of the ingredients are top quality ingredients, many organic. The line is certified kosher by OU.

    One weekend in 2009, Vicky, a third-generation English preserve maker, turned a bumper crop of wild blackberries growing on Blake Hill Farm into 70 jars of glistening jam. A friend sneaked a jar to the local grocery store and returned an hour later with Vicky’s first jam order; Vicky and Joe Hanglin formed Blake Hill Preserves and have been pleasing demanding palates ever since.

    Joe, who grew up in Gibraltar with British, Spanish and Italian ancestry, brings his culinary heritage to the line of chutneys, some of which are made with fruits, vegetables and spices inspired by Moroccan tagines and the flavors of the Middle East.

     

    We were thrilled with the samples they sent us, and recommend them to all for personal enjoyment and gifting.

    The 200-year-old farm, purchased in 2004, came with meandering old stone walls, beautiful wooded trails and an abundance of wild blackberry and raspberry bushes. Vicky and Joeadded blueberries, gooseberries and blush-pink rhubarb, all of which are use to make the wonderful spreads.

    Since everything is made in small batches, so flavors can sell out. But today, you can purchase this cornucopia of exquisite products:

    CHUTNEYS

  • Apricot & Fresh Orange
  • Cranberry, Apple & Mulling Spices
  • Middle Eastern Date & Red Chile
  • Moroccan Plum & Fennel
  • Rhubarb, Apple & Ginger
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    JAMS

  • Blackberry & Rhubarb
  • Blueberries & Summer Plum
  • Perfectly Plum
  • Raspberry & Hibiscus Flower
  • Strawberry & Rhubarb
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    MARMALADES

  • Fresh Seville Orange
  • Grapefruit & Lemon
  • Lemon, Lime & Aged 100% Agave Tequila
  • Orange & 10-Year Single Malt Whisky
  • Orange, Lime & Ginger
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    The products are completely natural, low sugar, low salt, gluten free and fat free. Beyond spreads, they are delicious with cheese plates, with grilled paninis and other sandwiches, as condiments for everything from barbecue to winter stews, as dessert toppings and much more.

     

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    Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    At $7.49 per jar, these are wonderful gifts—and when you gift yourself with a selection, you’ll be spoiled forever. Say the owners, “It takes up to 13 ounces of fruit and vegetables to fill every 13 ounce jar!”

    Get yours at BlakeHillPreserves.com.

      

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