Harvest Song Preserves
Armenian Preserves From Mt. Ararat
CAPSULE REPORT: When there’s a chill in the air and the days are shorter, one can find consolation in the fruits of the fall harvest. Harvest Song’s old-style European preserves, using recipes from the days when sugar was used sparingly, are imported from Armenia, where farmland and labor are still affordable. That means a large jar is just $8.00. And unlike the same old, same old, there are interesting variations not easily found here.
The complete Harvest Song review is below. If you’d like to try your own hand at preserves and pickled walnuts, here are some excellent books.
There are people who enter the specialty food business through special callings. James Tufenkian, founder of Tufenkian Artisan Carpets, is the world’s leading designer and supplier of Armenian and Tibetan rugs. An American of Armenian grandparentage, he wanted to use his business skills to help Armenia’s economic revival. Harvest Song Ventures, his year-old company with co-founder and native Armenian Sylvia Tirakian, introduces indigenous Armenian products to the United States. At the 2006 Summer Fancy Food Show®, their Apricot Preserve was chosen as Outstanding Jam, Preserve, Spread or Sweet Topping by the NASFT* jurors among all entrants in the show.
*The National Association of Specialty Food Trades, NASFT.org, presents the Fancy Food Shows uniting manufacturers of specialty foods with retail buyers and distributors. Map of Armenia from the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook, public domain.
The Republic of Armenia, a former Soviet Republic, is landlocked in the southern Caucasus mountains. If one knows Armenia only by its preserves, one can’t help but envision a beautiful country where the land yields magnificent fruit—the way fruit used to be grown in our own country, before it was hybridized to be shelf-durable at the expense of flavor. You can visualize the proud Armenian farmers bringing in the harvest, and farm wives making small batches with recipes handed down through generations. You don’t need printed material to paint the picture. With just one taste, your eyes open wide and you see the whole history of these amazing preserves. One wants prosperity for Armenia, but not the kind that produces so many of the indistinct products made on our own shores.
The story becomes even more melodious when one discovers that Harvest Song Foods are grown in the valley of Mount Ararat (photo at right), with bubbling springs and a history as old as the Book of Genesis. The twin-peaked Mt. Ararat (their outline is used in the company’s logo) is said to be where Noah’s Ark came to rest when the Great Flood receded, between the Great Peak and the Little Peak. The fruit in Harvest Song preserves has an exceptional past: according to the Bible, Noah descended from Mount Ararat and planted the very first fruit tree. Amid broad green pastures and expansive meadows covered in multicolored wildflowers, the fruits are grown at 1400 to 1800 meters above sea level, in pure air. The fertile land and clear spring waters give Armenian fruit a lush and succulent taste—you’ll notice it from your first spoonful of preserves.
With thirteen varieties, one has to start somewhere. Here are our favorites.
Quince Preserves. Quince is a tough fruit to deal with, literally and figuratively. That’s why it’s not often found on these shores. It can’t be eaten raw, and thus loses in economic popularity to fruits that can multitask. But that makes finding anything quince a greater pleasure. The taste of cooked quince is plum married to rose (quince is a member of the rose family)—not floral but sophisticated and masculine rose. This preserve is more jam-like: quince must be made workable in a purée. Small pieces of fruit, not necessarily visible to the eye, add texture. Dark caramel in color, it can be used as a spread, as a dessert sauce on ice cream, on a pate sandwich with foie gras mousse or chicken liver mousse, with cold poultry sandwiches, as a condiment on a plate with hot poultry, with waffles or pancakes. No matter how you use it, quince is a prince.
Walnut Preserve. These walnuts are preserved, but they’re not a jam. They’re whole, cooked, spiced nuts. It is not easy to find preserved walnuts—they’re a specialty of Armenia and Scandinavia, where they’re enjoyed with cheese. The preserved walnuts look like small plums: dark and gleaming. The taste is very special: the texture is like fruit, the flavor is spiced. They evoke the idea of the British sugarplum, which is a small, sugary candy but should be something more special, like this. No lover of fine foods should pass these up. They make a very special gift to food-loving friends. Make ice cream with them—cut them into pieces and mix them into vanilla, fig or caramel ice cream—or simply use them as topping.
Like fruit pastes (the classic Spanish membrillo and others), preserves make wonderful pairings with cheese. You can read our extensive article on cheese condiments and cheese and condiment pairings, but here are some specific suggestions for Harvest Song, chosen by New York’s cheese restaurant and cheese shop, Artisanal Fromagerie And Bistro. As with anything, do your own experimenting.
The large jars (18.9 ounces) encourage you to eat your fill. The tops are decorated in sun-dried rice paper from Katmandu, in the colors of the harvest—russet, green-gold and earth tones.
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