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Top Pick Of The Week

January 24, 2006

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cherry jam
Wild Sloe Plum with Juniper jam: produced in fall-winter but delicious year-round. Photo by Melody Lan.

Jammin’ With Tea Together

By the time you read this, four things will have transpired in the world of jam and THE NIBBLE.

THE NIBBLE editors will have just concluded three days at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, where we will have tasted hundreds of gourmet jams, jellies, preserves and marmalades.

We will have finished searching for additions to an upcoming article on the best strawberry jams in America. (Prior to the show we had already identified 80 and tasted 40.)

We’ll have shaken our heads a lot, because among all those jams, there’s not that much to write home about.

But we’ll have sent out this week’s NIBBLE, about a wonderful French artisanal jam maker. It will have reminded us that there’s always a payoff in our constant search for “the best of the best” gourmet and specialty foods.

Tea Togethera tiny company started by a filmmaker turned jam maker and her New York-based business partner—has perfected the historic, artisanal traditions of French jam- and marmalade-making. Production takes place in an atelier in St. Remy au Bois, in the north of France.

All of Tea Together’s products—jams, marmalades and chutneys—are made with fruits, spices and herbs in season, which is what heightens their appeal to fine chefs and hoteliers concerned with using only stellar-quality products. It is the jam served at such palaces of culinary perfection as Paris’ Ducasse, London’s Park Lane and St. James’ Club, Geneva’s La Reserve and Hong Kong’s Ritz Carlton.

You too can experience sensations like Orange with Garden Angelica marmalade, Wild Sloe Plum with Juniper jam, and Mirabelle with Mead chutney. We sampled Summer Pudding with Vanilla Pod jam, made with blackcurrants and redcurrants, on our morning croissant and were jolted awake by its earthy depth of flavor. We liked it just as much glazed on grilled duck breast and alongside bites of our Pâté Forestière, and relied on it as an ice cream topping when we needed to create a quick, special dessert. On the savory side, we tried Pear with Cardamom chutney with a lovely round of Petit-Reblochon and on a Black Forest ham sandwich—and even got carried away enough to slather it on an herbed turkey burger at dinner. Fine preserves also make great condiments on a cheese plate (click here for our Guide to Cheese Condiments). You can put any of the chutneys on top of a wheel of brie and microwave it for 30 seconds. Voilà: Party Brie.

Clearly, jam is not just for breakfast anymore, especially when it’s an artisanal jam that avoids the cloying sweetness of mass-marketed (and, unfortunately, quite a few specialty) products. What you won’t find in the Tea Together line is the obvious presence of sugar. All of the jams use 60 percent fruit to 40 percent sugar. If you’ve purchased a berry jam, it’s berries you taste: fruit comes first. (That’s how it should be with every specialty jam. It isn’t, alas.)

The 60:40 ratio also conserves the jam without the need of pectin to set, firm and gel. Why doesn’t everyone do this? Because sugar is cheaper than fruit, and some people actually prefer that cloying taste. Since so much of the caloric content of jam is the sugar (there aren’t many calories in berries), switching to a quality product like Tea Togethers is one way to have your jam and eat it too.

At the right, Plain Strawberry (it merits a name change—at least, to Strawberry).

Croissant

All of Tea Together’s fruit is exclusively organic or wild, gathered from local growers and chopped by hand. Measurements are carefully dosed by hand, cooking times are judged by eye, and there’s nary a nod to technology. This is truly a small-batch, handmade product, and of course, it’s completely preservative-free.

Tea Together faithfuls prize the clear vibrancy of flavor. Flavors are seasonal, of course. While the products have a long shelf life and you can find Summer Pudding with Vanilla Pod at the store in the middle of winter, it is only made in June and July. You can enjoy Provençal Fig with Rum all year round if you plan your purchases, but it is only made in October through December.

Perhaps the point is, as this cornucopia of riches shows, you should glide along with the seasons as Tea Together does. Once you try one flavor, you’ll want to taste them all. Each is assigned a number that’s featured prominently on the front of the jar so you can keep track; there are about 30 varieties in the line. This requires a cooperative retailer who keeps the shelves appropriately stocked, or contacting Tea Together directly at its New York headquarters. Lemon With Earl GreyAnd there’s a lot to keep track of:

  • Marmalades include classic Orange, Lemon, Lime, and fancier versions with Cinnamon Quill, Earl Grey Tea, Elderflowers, Ginger, and Green Cardamom. Seasonal varieties include the basic citrus flavors with Angelica, Blackcurrant, Garden Angelica, and Lavender Leaf.
  • Jams are the most seasonal: only Blackcurrant and Pure Raspberry are shipped year-round. The various seasons bring Apricot with Lavender Leaf; Blackberry/Elderberry and Ginger, Damson Plum; Rhubarb, Lemon and Angelica; Quince Jelly with Chili and Spices; Wild Sloe Plum with Juniper, and more.
  • The Chutney group is available year round—although what Tea Together calls chutney is more of a preserve or conserve for tea at the Ritz than anything to serve with an Indian dinner: Cherry with Almonds, Mirabelle with Mead, Greengage with Walnuts, Pear with Cardamom and Star Anise.

Spread Sheet

The difference among these spreads is largely one of consistency, and for the first three, standards are established by the Food and Drug Administration so consumers will know what they’re buying.

Jelly is a clear, bright product. It is generally made by cooking fruit juice and sugar with pectin as a jelling agent and lemon juice as an acid to maintain a consistent texture. Jelly is firm and will hold its shape (it “shakes”). Generally, jelly contains no pieces of fruit, although specialty jellies, like pepper jelly, may include pieces of jalapeño or other pepper.

Jam is made from crushed or chopped fruit cooked with sugar, and often pectin and lemon juice. Jam can be a purée of fruit or have a soft pulp, but it does not contain chunks of fruit.

Preserves are fruit cooked with sugar to the point where large chunks of fruit or whole fruit, such as berries, are suspended in a syrup base. The texture of preserves is not smooth like jelly or jam.

Marmalade is a soft jelly, often citrus-based, that includes both the flesh and peel of the fruit suspended throughout the jelly base. The bitterness of the peel offsets the sweetness of the jelly.

Conserve is a mixture of more than one fruit, often with added nuts and raisins, that is cooked until it becomes thick. It is used as a spread for breads, pastries and meats, and in the latter use is closest to chutney.

Chutney is a spiced condiment of Indian origin (chatni is the Hindi word for strongly spiced) made of fruit or vegetables. It is typically served as an accompaniment to food, not as a spread. The spice level can range from mild to hot, and the consistency from a fine relish to a preserve or conserve. Fruit chutney consists of chopped fruit, vinegar, spices and sugar cooked into a chunky sweet-tart-spicy mix: according to one explanation, it “blurs the Western distinction between preserves and pickles.”

Fruit Butter, such as apple butter or prune butter, is fruit purée or pulp combined with sugar, lemon juice and spices, slowly cooked down to a smooth consistency. The “butter” refers to its spreadability: there is no actual butter in the product.

Fruit Curd is a creamy spread made with sugar, eggs and butter, generally flavored with citrus juice and zest.

Fruit Spread is generally a reduced-calorie product made with fruit juice concentrate and low-calorie sweeteners replacing all or part of the sugar.

In 2005, Tea Together was among 1500 artisanal French products selected for inclusion in the first edition of the Hachette gourmet guide, Guide Ferniot Hachette des Bon Produits. But even more important, it was chosen as one of their 44 special Coups de Coeurs, or Favorite Things. The French love to pair the chutneys with foie gras.

Until recently it wasn’t easy to find Tea Together outside of big city specialty stores, but now there’s online distribution, so anyone can take tea together with some of the best jam you’re likely to taste—even if you make your own.

—Rowann Gilman & Karen Hochman

TEA TOGETHER

Jams, Marmalades & Chutneys

Certified Organic by Ecocert France

  • 11-Ounce Jar
    $12.00

To purchase contact Tea Together.

E-Mail: usa@teatogether.com

Telephone: 1.212.677.6512

TeaTogether.com

Gift Pack
Little things make a big difference: just as there are good croissants and great croissants, there are good jams and great ones. Shown above: Gift Box Sampler.

 

Brew Fine Loose Tea The Neat Way: With Built-In Infuser Baskets

 

Tetsubin Teapot Stoneware CH'a Teapot stainless tea pot
Japanese Tetsubin Teapot. This 22-ounce cast iron, porcelain-lined teapot from Joyce Chen has a beautiful maple leaf design. The cast iron keeps the tea hot, and the stainless steel infuser basket cleans easily. $74.95. Click here for more information or to purchase.
Stoneware CH'a Tea Teapot. We love the Asian-influenced modern design of this 52-ounce stoneware pot. Matching dessert plates, tea bowls and tea mugs are available. $12.74. Click here for more information or to purchase. Round Belly Teapot. This is beautifully polished 18/10 stainless steel pot holds 42 ounces—enough for a party of six. It‘s as lovely as silver but better, since you don’t have to keep polishing! $44.95.Click here for more information or to purchase.

Preserve The Tradition

Preserves Tea at the Ritz The Breakfast Book
Preserves: The Complete Book of Jams, Jellies, Pickles and Preserves, by Catherine Atkinson. If you’d like to try your hand at making your own jams, jellies and preserves from fresh fruit, Atkinson provides techniques and recipes. You could become the next Tea Together! $23.10. Click here for more information or to purchase. The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea, by Helen Simpson. With Tea Together preserves, you can give the best teas. The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea captures the essence of this British tradition, providing the rules of the ceremony and more than 50 recipes. $10.50. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. If you want to be known for your breakfasts, this book is the classic reference work: 288 recipes for traditional favorites, new approaches to old dishes, and more than 40 breakfast menus that show why the first meal of the day can be the best. $13.60. Click here for more information or to purchase.

 

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to jam-lovers, breakfasters, brunchers and those who love to take tea.

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ABOUT THE NIBBLE™. THE NIBBLE, Great Food Finds™, is an online magazine plus newsletters about specialty foods and the gourmet life. It is the only consumer publication and website that focuses on reviewing the best specialty foods and beverages, in every category. The magazine also covers tabletop items, gourmet housewares, and other areas of interest to people who love fine food. This e-mail from the editors features the Top Food Pick of the Week. You can read the complete magazine and past issues at TheNibble.com.

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