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Top Pick Of The Week

July 26, 2006

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Frog Hollow Farm conserves
Top to bottom: Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Asian Pear Chutney and Apricot Conserve. They may be condiments, but they are first and foremost, farm-fresh fruit. Photo by Melody Lan.
WHAT IT IS: The most delicious organic fruit conserves, marmalades and chutneys.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Incredibly thick to the point of being more fruit than spread.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Exceptional flavor, texture and goodness, evocative of an era when homemade products were commonplace. Today, most people never see fruits “put up” like this.
PURCHASE AT: FrogHollow.com


Frog Hollow Farm Conserves:
Kiss This Frog

CAPSULE REPORT: We almost didn’t discover Frog Hollow Farm conserves and chutneys at the Farmers Market in San Francisco. It was closing time and all the farmers at the Ferry Building were packing up to leave. Thankfully, the engaging “Farmer Al” Courchesne stopped to let us taste all of his exceptionally thick and chunky fruit condiments. You can tell from looking at just three of the nine in the photo at the left, what a happy serendipity that was.

There is joy in Jamville—along with delicious pastries and shipments of fresh fruit—thanks to a dedicated group of organic farmers in the East Bay. The conserves, marmalades, chutneys and pies—like our grandmother used to make—would have made us weep with joy, if we hadn’t been so busy eating. Read the full review below.

  • For reviews of more of our favorite jams and jellies, click here.
  • For the table of contents of the July issue of THE NIBBLE online magazine, plus the back issues archive and our most popular articles, click here.
  • All of the Top Pick Of The Week newsletters are permanently archived on TheNibble.com, in chronological order and by product category.

Try It Yourself!

Preserves Mes Confitures Jamlady Cookbook
Preserves: The Complete Book of Jams, Jellies, Pickles and Preserves, by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew. If you’d like to enjoy—and impress guests with—your own homemade preserves from the fruits of summer and fall, or make chutneys to warm cold winter nights, this book is a good starter. It’s beautifully photographed with more than 150 recipes, plus tips on how to vary the recipes to utilize seasonal ingredients. Click here for more information or to purchase. Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber, by Christine Ferber. Ferber’s unusual jams and jellies have an international following (Alain Ducasse, who wrote the foreword, serves them at his restaurants). Dozens of recipes, organized by season, include Black Cherry with Pinot Noir, Greengage and Mirabelle Plum with Mint, and several with chocolate. Not for beginners, but a must for any jam maker. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Jamlady Cookbook, by Beverly Ellen Schoonmaker Alfeld. An organic farmer who sells her wares at Chicago’s farmers’ markets, Alfeld shows how easy it is to “put up” nature’s bounty, creating several hundred homemade jams, jellies, butters, chutneys and relishes. Although not exactly a book for beginners, a chapter on processing methods and general troubleshooting, and one on pH measurements, are thorough. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Kiss This Frog: Frog Hollow Farm Conserves, Chutneys, Pastries & Fresh Fruit

INDEX

 

MaspAbout 50 miles west of San Francisco’s Ferry Building, the venue for one of the country’s most visited farmers’ markets, lies Contra Costa County, home to one of its regular vendors, Frog Hollow Farm. Contra Costa County is the terrain of well-known communities such as Concord and Walnut Creek; but if you keep heading east, to the deep clay loam of Brentwood, you’ll find the Frog Hollow Farm orchards where “Farmer Al” and Rebecca Courchesne, Sarah Coddington and their team grow organic apricots, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, pluots and plums. They’re committed to “growing the best fruit anyone has ever experienced,” and if you never do more than taste their conserves and chutneys, you will be convinced that they deliver on the promise. In addition to fresh fruit and spreads, they bake wickedly good pies and tarts—the kind you can’t stop eating. Everything is made on the farm with fruit plucked from their orchards.

Spreads & Chutneys

The tree-ripened fruit is turned into chunky conserves, marmalades and chutneys that are evocative of long ago when farm wives stirred fruits in big pots and made honest food that needed no pretense to be glorious. One senses no sugar, just the fruit. The textures are astounding, ranging from “intensely thick” at the low end to “whole fruit,” as in the case of the Cherry Conserve, which resembles a jar of whole cooked cherries with a wee bit of syrup to remind you that they can be put on bread (you can see them in the photo below). There are some nice products around in the jam category, but we haven’t seen anything quite like these.

  • Conserves. The Peach Conserve, which is the best-seller (but, we feel, no more splendid than the closely-related Apricot and Nectarine), is described as 80% peaches and less than 20% sugar. This must make the Cherry Conserve about 90% fruit.
  • Marmalades. Two marmalades, Meyer Lemon and a  limited-edition Navel Orange, are even more dense, providing one’s money’s worth of fruit and peel. These are not sweet, syrupy, familiar marmalades, but chunky, rough-cut versions that a chef at a fine contemporary restaurant might make to garnish fish, pork, lamb or poultry. Both are full of zingy citrus, and are pretty exciting.
  • Jelly. There’s also a Blackberry Jelly. We didn’t taste it, but based on the rest of the family, we’re willing to vouch for it.

Peach and Cherry ConservesHuge chunks of peach and whole cherries
make stunning conserves.

  • Chutneys. There are many types of chutney. Frog Hollow Farm’s Peach and Asian Pear Chutneys are sweet-and-sour, mildly spicy condiments as chunky as the conserves, but with added flavors and textures. Peach, with chiles, ginger and vinegar, is a tangier version of the luscious Peach Conserve. You could still serve it with a scone or a pancake, as one might enjoy spicy preserves; and we liked it as a topping on peach sorbet (it would work with citrus sorbets, vanilla and peach ice cream too—experiment!). Asian Pear moves into serious chutney territory: a dense fabric of almonds, currants, dates and ginger root. It was perfect on a turkey sandwich; with goat cheese and crackers as a snack and hors d’oeuvre; partnered with a pork chop and roast chicken; and on top of rice.    Back to Index

What’s A Conserve? What’s A Chutney?

“Conserve” can refer to a mixture of more than one fruit, often with added nuts and raisins, that is cooked until it becomes thick. Some producers, like Frog Hollow Farm, refer to a thickly-stewed preserve as a conserve.

Check out Spread Sheet: A Glossary of Jelly & Related Terms in the July issue of THE NIBBLE™ online magazine for the differences between jellies, jams, preserves, conserves, chutneys and more.

How To Use Them

Orange Marmalade
Navel Orange Marmalade


If you need small glass ramekins like this
versatile, 1-1/2 ounce size, which fits on any
plate, click here. They work for serving chutneys,
jams or mini-servings of compotes.

 

Back to Index

To think of these conserves and marmalades as bread spreads would be limiting them indeed. While the tangy chutneys are traditional complements to savory dishes, the sweeter conserves are meant to accompany meats and pastries as well as breads. We’d use them:

  • With eggs, pancakes and yogurt
  • With poultry, pork, lamb, fish and charcuterie
  • To accessorize frozen desserts, pound cakes
    and puddings

Like any good condiment, there’s not much you can’t do with the conserves, especially since these have so little sugar and so much natural cooked fruit flavor. In fact, it’s easy to think of them less as a condiment and more of a fruit compote*. You can easily add a ramekin of them to a plate at any course, to be eaten as a side of cooked fruit.

*A compote is fruit that’s cooked (or “stewed”) in a sugar syrup. Generally, stone fruit is used—apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and/or plums. Dissolve 4 tablespoons of sugar in 2-1/2 cups of water in a saucepan over low heat; then boil for 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice and the grated rind of half a lemon and remove from the heat. Add the quartered fruit (cut smaller if you prefer—leave cherries whole but pitted), bring slowly to a boil, and simmer until tender, stirring so that all fruit is covered in syrup. Serve at room temperature—traditionally unadorned in a glass dish.

Pastries

Peach TartlettesSome of the ripe orchard fruit goes into pies and tarts—and the bakers at Frog Hollow Farm turn out an excellent, flaky and buttery puff pastry. Our peach pie, which arrived frozen, was the best peach pie we’ve ever had—both hot out of the oven and cold the next day. Since peach is Farmer Al’s favorite fruit, there’s plenty of variety at the “bakery”—turnovers, tarts, galettes—but there are also choices in apricot, blackberry, cherry, plum and whatever else is in season.
Photo at right, Peach Tartlettes.

Good savory pastry is found too seldom these days, generally in hors d’oeuvres or a ham and cheese croissant. Frog Hollow Farm makes an assortment of turnovers with card-suit cutouts (clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades) that hit the spot for a light lunch, a first course or an elegant snack (serving them at a card game is an obvious choice). Flavors include Black Forest Ham and Gruyère, Leek and Mushroom, Butternut Squash and Spinach, and Carnitas, spicy shredded pork with roasted pasilla chilies and caramelized onions. The turnovers can be purchased individually in sets of 3, or the entire group can be bought in a sampler. Our personal favorites are the vegetable varieties.     Back to Index

Peach Turnover Peach Frangipane Galette Leek and Mushroom Turnover
Peach Turnover
Peach Frangipane Galette
Leek and Mushroom Turnover

Fresh Fruit

Frog Hollow Farm also sells the same great fruit that goes into the conserves and pastries in its fresh-picked state. You can purchase 6 or 12 pieces, a sampler pack or a Cornucopia of California Harvest “club” membership.

PeachesWith the Cornucopia of California Harvest, the discriminating (and well-heeled) fruit-lover can enjoy three to twelve months of deliveries of California’s finest fruit. During Frog Hollow Farm’s own fruit harvest, members receive “the best of the best” from their orchards. When the Frog Hollow Farm harvest is over, the staff searches California for the best seasonal organic fruit from the best growers. Summer is filled with Frog Hollow Farm’s apricots, peaches and nectarines. Fall generally includes heirloom apples, pears and pomegranates; winter may bring Satsuma tangerines, and persimmons; and in spring, California grapefruit, navel oranges and cherimoyas.

The Legend Of Frog Hollow

The “Legendary Fruits” tag line on the labels of the conserves, shown in the photo below, might give some pause. Isn’t a legend a story that is passed down from generation to generation? Farmer Al just began cultivating the land in 1976.

Today a legend can be anything whose fame promises to be enduring, even if the generations have not yet passed. Thus, while someone might speak wistfully of his grandmother’s preserves in the old sense of the word, if your grandmother couldn’t boil water, you can enjoy the legendary fruits of Frog Hollow Farm (and buy some for your friend). If that’s not reason enough, Alice Waters serves the fruit at Chez Panisse, Jonathan Benno uses it at Per Se, and White House pastry chef Bill Yosses credits Frog Hollow peaches with helping him land his job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

—Karen Hochman
Updated October 2007

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves jam, chutney, having guests for brunch or tea, is in search of great fresh fruit and/or has gift lists.

FROG HOLLOW FARM

Conserves, Chutney, Pastries & Fresh Fruit

Certified Organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)

  • Conserves & Chutneys
    Individual Jars $6.00 to $8.00
    3-Pack Sets $15.00 to $18.00
  • Pastries
    Tarts and Pies
    $11.00 to $58.00
  • Fresh Fruit
    $24.00 and Up
  • Cornucopia of California Harvest
    $180.00 and Up

To purchase online, visit FrogHollow.com
or telephone 1.888.779.4511

Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.

Back to Index

Jars of Jam
Spreads of legend: some of the Frog Hollow Farm
family of fruits.


Read about some of our other
favorite products in the
Jams Section, and also check out:



Jam Jars

Pear Jam Jar Footed Jam Jar  
Silverplate Jam Jar. This charming jar, silverplate over a glass insert, can be used three meals a day to serve preserves, condiments or dessert toppings. Approximately 4" in diameter by 5" high; includes spoon. Click here for more information or to purchase. Crystal Footed Jam Jar. This 6" jar is so elegant, it belongs in a Merchant-Ivory film. Light reflecting through the crystal will make the beautiful colors of jams and preserves look even more glorious. Click here for more information or to purchase.  

Find Frog Hollow Farm Products At Farmers Markets

If you’re in Northern California, visit Frog Hollow Farm at these farmers markets:

  • Berkeley: Center at MLK, Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., January through December;
    Derby at Milvia, Tuesday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., January through December; Shattuck Avenue, Thursday 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., January through December
  • Danville: Railroad, in Andronico’s parking lot, Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May through November
  • San Francisco: Ferry Plaza, Saturday 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., January through December; Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., May through October
  • Santa Cruz: Downtown Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., May through September

Back to Index

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