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Top Pick Of The Week

January 9, 2007

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Pierre Marcolini Confitures
A simply heavenly way to begin the year, or day: Pierre Marcolini’s confitures (jams). From top to bottom: Raspberry, Orange and Apricot. Photography by Naheed Choudhry.
WHAT IT IS: Jams from Belgium’s master chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Ultra-premium fruit, cooked and puréed with just 10% sugar and some pectin as thickener, the jams meet the highest standards of one of the greatest chocolatiers in the world.
WHY WE LOVE IT: How many ways can you say “Heavenly?” Each jar could be eaten as a dessert. But these unique-unto-themselves jams can also garnish meat, serve as sauces, even be made in soufflés.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier, 1.212.755.5150.


A Jubilation Of Jams

Some people think that only a food fanatic could wax poetic about a jar of jam. But those people have never tasted Pierre Marcolini Confitures. These creations of the great Belgian chocolatier are either the ne plus ultra of jam, or they create a new subcategory completely.

First, they have exquisite fruit flavor and only 20% sugar. (Even the finest jams, domestic or European, are 40% to 60% sugar.) The need for so little sugar here is a function of an exceptional producer sourcing exceptional ingredients. Second, the texture: spreadable velvet, the richness of a curd without curd’s calorie- and cholesterol-laden eggs and butter. Except for the Orange, which is a delicate marmalade, the fruits are puréed into a smooth and glossy consistency that you could eat like a pudding with a spoon. Given that these confitures are sweet, ripe fruits set with a bit of pectin, one could easily serve them as a new “fruit pudding” dessert. In fact, we have suggestions below for other ways to use these confitures beyond jams-on-bread. But first, jam-lovers everywhere should buy one of each flavor, feast and begin to wax* poetic themselves. Read the full review below.

*Wax is a verb that in older usage meant “to grow or become.” You can wax happy or sad; “the waxing and waning of the moon” refers to the increase in the visible portion of the illuminated moon as it grows through its cycle into a full moon.

Make Your Own!

Mes Confitures Preserving Memories Preserves
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. Click here for more information or to purchase.
Preserving Memories: Growing Up in My Mother’s Kitchen, by Judy Glattstein. This charming and instructive recipe book for jams, jellies and preserves reminds us that jam-making is a lovely way for parents and kids to cook together, and enjoy the results at home or as gifts. Recipes range from basic to sophisticated flavors. Click here for more information or to purchase.
Preserves: The Complete Book of Jams, Jellies, Pickles and Preserves, by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew. Enjoy—and impress guests—with your own homemade preserves from the fruits of summer and fall. Or, make chutneys to warm cold winter nights. Beautifully photographed with 150+ recipes, plus tips on how to vary them using seasonal ingredients. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Pierre Marcolini Confitures: A Jubilation Of Jams

INDEX

 

Look in the dictionary for “jubilation:” a feeling of, or the expression of, joy or exultation; a celebration or other expression of joy; the act of rejoicing. O.K., but over a jar of jam (or confiture, as it is known in French)?  Are we being hyperbolic?

No. Taste first and then jubilate, because if there are other jams/confitures on earth like Pierre Marcolini’s, his is the first of its kind we have encountered. It may be its own rare species, destined to be known to a privileged few—but you are one of them!

Pierre Marcolini is one of the world’s greatest chocolatiers—and also one of the most exclusive. Until very recently, you could only purchase his chocolates in Belgium. Now, there are boutiques in Moscow, New York and Tokyo—thanks to fans who ensured themselves a steady supply by entering into a business relationship to import it. We at THE NIBBLE are rabid fans of Pierre Marcolini chocolate (read our reviews of his divine chocolate bars and his gorgeous bonbons). We think his Champagne truffles are the best of the genre we have ever tasted. For his salt caramel spread, we swoon.

But the one thing he makes that has very few calories, and are enjoyed even by diabetics we know†, are the amazing confitures. Most premium jams are 40% to 60% sugar. Those sugary-sweet supermarket brands can be 70% sugar or higher (the sugar compensates for less-sweet and flavorful fruit). Pierre Marcolini’s jams are 20% sugar: 80% fruit, and better-tasting than anything you can imagine.

†If you’re diabetic, check with your healthcare professional.

The Man & The Magic

Almost everything Pierre Marcolini touches is magical. We say “almost,” because we haven’t had everything he produces, and we’ve never been to his Brussels flagship store to have his pastries (fine pastries, alas, cannot make it to us overseas in time to remain fine or fresh). We have had his sorbets at the New York City store: celestial!

What, one might ask, can make one strawberry or raspberry sorbet so much more memorable than the next? It’s the same thing that makes the confitures so special, the same thing that is the hallmark of every bonbon and truffle, every bar of chocolate, every caramel, every marshmallow made by Marcolini Chocolatier: vision and craftsmanship (i.e., talent), inordinately high standards and immaculate attention to detail.

The same chocolatier and patissier who travels the world to personally source the cacao beans and vanilla that he will make into couverture chocolate, also personally sources the fruit that will be made into jam. If you demand the best fruit in the world and are willing to pay for it, you’ll get the best fruit (and it is much easier to find exceptional fruit in Europe, where consumer demand for taste is still sustaining small growers, who care about producing the best). If you run a tight ship and train every staff member to do things exactly as you do them yourself, your customers will get the best products. Customers realize they’re the best, and are happy to pay for them.

Thus, while Pierre Marcolini Confitures cost twice what a jar of good jam does—$15.00 for a 7-ounce (200g) jar—it is an affordable luxury for any lover of fine food. To tell the truth, the New York store can’t even keep the jars on the shelves: The minute the inventory comes in from Belgium, it disappears into the arms of those who can’t live without it. Given how easy it is to spend $15.00 a week on lattes—or on one designer cocktail at a trendy bar—we each can decide what our weekly luxury should be. Before you decide, taste the confitures!

Pierre Marcolini
 
Pierre Marcolini: Time to make the confitures. Well, in this case, it’s time to make the chocolate—those are cacao beans. But the principle is the same: Buy the absolute best and make it flawlessly.

Flavors Of Confitures

You can have your jam and eat it too with Pierre Marcolini Confitures. Unfortunately, the label doesn’t list calories, but barely-sugared fruit will fit in to almost any diet plan.

Now to describe these confitures: They are so elegant, flavorful and silky that they could be used to fill the finest chocolates. The consistency is spreadable velvet, as rich as a curd (which, unlike jam, is made with eggs and butter—see our Jelly Glossary for the difference among jams, curds, preserves etc.). In addition to the beautiful fruit flavors, the texture is genius: a smooth purée of fruit that has been worked with meticulous technique to create a glossy, smooth-as-glass texture (you can see it in the the photo below). The spreadability also means you can use less.

A staff member of the Pierre Marcolini New York City store, who has been to Belgium and has seen the confitures in production, explains how each flavor is made: small-batch, in a kettle on a stovetop, “as my grandmother made them,” he says. The intense aroma of the fruit wafts up: It is a pleasure just to inhale the perfume of the cooking fruit.

The confitures currently are available in:

  • Apricot
  • Mango
  • Orange
  • Raspberry
  • Wild Strawberry
  • White Peach

The fabulous Passionfruit is currently out of production. We beseech Mr. Marcolini for its return! And new flavors will undoubtedly appear as appealing fruits present themselves.

Pierre Marcolini Apricot Confitures
You can see the smooth and glossy texture in the apricot and raspberry confitures.

Apricot (Confiture Fraîche de Abricot) looks like a thick butterscotch sauce: the little black flecks of vanilla tease the eye (in this one flavor, Mr. Marcolini adds Tahitian vanilla). The net effect is apricot with a tinge of butterscotch. It’s different from everything else in the line, which tastes close to the fresh fruit of its origin—but is altogether enchanting.

Mango (Confiture Fraîche de Mangue), along with Raspberry (Confiture Fraîche de Framboises), Wild Strawberry (Confiture Fraîche de Fraises Mara des Bois) and White Peach (Confiture Fraîche de Pêche) are exquisite purées (once you see them, you’ll have trouble thinking of them simply as “jam”) that can be used in many ways—with meat and poultry and as the base for sauces, for example. See Serving Suggestions, below.

Orange (Confiture Fraîche d’Orange) is an orange marmalade unlike any other: it tastes like fresh-squeezed orange juice converted into a gossamer marmalade—nothing chunky. It is the orange version of applesauce. It is divine.

So yes, enjoy the confitures on toast, croissants, broiche...but then look at Serving Suggestions for a dozen other uses.

Serving Suggestions

Jam is a given at breakfast. But duck, foie gras, goose, pork, squab, venison and wild boar are natural candidates for pairing with these confitures. There are elegant dessert applications, too.

At Breakfast

  • On toast, muffins, etc., of course
  • With pancakes, waffles or French toast
  • Drizzled on plain yogurt

At Lunch

  • As condiments on sandwiches: Think of chutney or cranberry sauce, but so much more elegant and spreadable
  • With cold meat and poultry platters and salads: Lamb, pork, steak, duck, chicken, turkey, salmon, etc. are waiting for a dab

At Dinner

  • As garnishes to meats and fish: Orange, Raspberry and White Peach, in particular, are brilliant with plain broiled, poached or roasted poultry and fish (but try all the flavors to see what you prefer)
Brioche
Breakfast is just the first meal of the day where one can enjoy Pierre Marcolini Confitures.
  • As a sauce: you can thin the jams with a bit of wine or liqueur to make a splendid sauce for savory or sweet foods—we like Grand Marnier, first flamed to get rid of the excess alcohol, or Chartreuse, the herbal flavors of which would complement chicken
  • For non-alcohol thinners for savory dishes, add reduced balsamic vinegar to taste and any fresh herbs that complement the dish; for sweet dishes add unsweetened fruit juice
  • For dessert: spoon different flavors of confitures into miniature chocolate cups or tart shells as part of a larger dessert plate, or simply with coffee for a wee bit of dessert (we love the miniature tart shells from Clearbrook Farms; chocolate cups are available at Bissingers.com)
  • For dessert soufflés: substitute the confiture for fruit purée in any classic fruit soufflé recipe, adjusting the amount to taste (that density of the confitures will provide more intense fruit flavor than the more watery fruit purée)

The French translation of the adage, “to cast pearls before swine” is, donner de la confiture aux cochons—“give the jam to the pigs.” That’s the degree of value accorded to ordinary confitures. What greater shock value the expression would have if it were amended to “give the Pierre Marcolini jam to the pigs.” Each precious jar is a pearl to be savored with one’s most treasured friends.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to dieters, sugar-avoiders and general connoisseurs of the exquisite.

PIERRE MARCOLINI CONFITURES

Apricot, Mango, Orange, Raspberry, White
Peach, Wild Strawberry

  • 7-Ounce Jar
    $15.00

To purchase*, telephone Pierre Marcolini,
1.212.755.5150, Monday through Saturday
from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information about Pierre Marcolini visit at MarcoliniChocolatier.com. (Note: The confitures are not available in the online store.)

*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is
additional. THE NIBBLE does not sell products; these items are offered by a third party and we have no financial relationship with respect to this sale. This link to purchase is provided as a reader convenience.


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Pierre Marcolini Preserves
Pierre Marcolini confitures make a wonderful gift to anyone, but will be even more gratefully received by people who have cut back on sugar.


Read more about jams and
related products in THE NIBBLE
online magazine.

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Check out some of our other favorite jams and jellies:

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ABOUT THE NIBBL. THE NIBBLE, Great Food Finds™, is an online magazine 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.

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