Photo by John Ivanko
Jordan Champagne of Happy Girl Kitchen finds uses for her preserved fruits outside of the peanut-butter sandwhich, including paired with cheese or used to sweeten yogurt.
“Sometimes you just need to think out of the jar,” says Jordan Champagne with a smile. When our kindred-spirited food-entrepreneur friend visited our Wisconsin farm this fall from California, we had the sweet opportunity to go one-on-one with the goddess of food preservation: Jordan and her husband, Todd, run Happy Girl Kitchen in Pacific Grove, Calif., an artisan-food operation that creates preserves beautiful, tasty, local produce in glass jars.
Thanks to the Champagne’s innovative vision, Happy Girl Kitchen isn’t just another strawberry-jam start-up. Jordan draws inspiration from whatever area farms have in abundance, leading to their California-inspired specialties, like Blood Orange Marmalade and Quince Jelly, as well as savory items like Cumin Green Beans.
Despite these exotic-sounding and tasty preserves, we confessed to Jordan that we tended to just eat them on toast. Spill the strawberry jam: Do you too have excess jars of your summer fruit preserves stockpiled on shelves, with the majority most likely ending up on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches?
“You need to expand beyond just preserving fruit for jams and jellies and only using them as a topper,” Jordan quickly advises. “Think of what you preserved as more than just a condiment but rather a flavorful ingredient that can transform the flavors of whatever you’re making.”
Here are three ideas from Jordan to give that preserved fruit renewed status in your kitchen:
1. Pair with Salty Foods
“Think about pairing a flavorful jam with cheese and crackers,” Jordan recommends. “Something like a quince or apple preserve on top of a smoked cheese wonderfully enhances the cheese essence.” Create a unique appetizer by placing small cheese slices on top of crackers and then topped with a small dollop of the preserve.
2. Sweeten Yogurt
“Don’t buy sweetened yogurt if you have preserves in your pantry,” Jordan adds. Mix fruit jam with plain yogurt to taste; add some granola for crunch.
3. Skip Jam Completely
“I’m amazed by how many people think jam or jelly is the only way to preserve fruit,” Jordan says. She teaches various workshops in the San Francisco area on food preservationists and also runs Food Preservationists, a program that connects home-canning enthusiasts with larger produce quantities direct from farms.
“I’m a big fan of preserving whole fruits; we use these all the time in our own family,” she says. Whole fruits, typically preserved in light simple-sugar syrup, can then be used in a variety of ways, such as cut up and served with fresh whipped cream as a dessert or blended into smoothies.
“My favorite way to eat whole preserved fruit is warmed up and with a spoon out of the jar,” Jordan laughs. “There’s nothing better than warmed apricots all winter long.”
For more on Jordan and Happy Girl Kitchen, try out their fermented recipes for things like Sour Dill Cucumbers, Spicy Kimchee and Classic Sauerkraut, featured in Farmstead Chef.
Savoring the good life,
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