Looking for something to spice up the fast-approaching holiday season? Interested in giving a loved one (or yourself!) the gift of a new skill? Here at Local Pickins, we’re always up for trying something new, in November, Formaggio Kitchen’s Autumn Jams + Conserves Workshop with Blue Chair Fruit Co. fit the bill perfectly. Nearly every week this local specialty grocer offers classes, events, and in-store tastings. From Cheese 101, taught by Formaggio’s own cheesemongers, to Chocolate Confections taught by guest chocolatiers, Formaggio provides a spread of educational opportunities for food lovers from all walks of life. What’s more? They’re exceptionally accessible: whether it’s your first time setting foot in a kitchen, or the millionth, Formaggio’s staff and guest teachers will make you feel right at home.
From the moment we arrived in the Formaggio classroom, my knowledge of jams and conserves began to increase, thanks to the instruction of Rachel Saunders, founder of the Blue Chair Fruit Co. Though this world-class artisanal jam and marmalade company is located on the other side of the country in Oakland, CA, Rachel did an excellent job of tailoring the class towards ingredients readily available from local purveyors here, in Cambridge, MA. Our goal for the four-hour class was to create four different jams: a simple pear, a simple apple-cranberry, and a doctored up version of each. In doing so, we were able to build our knowledge from the ground up: first, by watching and grasping the basics of making simple jam, then by tasting the simple jams, and finally by using our new-found understanding of the process to make a second batch of each. Rachel brought various dried fruits, liquors, and spices to add to the second batches, and through discussion and debate, we decided on which to add.
Throughout the whole process, Rachel encouraged playfulness and experimentation, and stressed the importance of being attuned to sensory cues in the jam making process. To this end, going through the physical process of jam making with an expert was infinitely more educational than any recipe could be. Though it was impossible to participate in every step of the jam making process (simply because of the number of participants in the class), Rachel’s instruction, description, and demonstration of the process was so detailed that I’m confident that next weekend when I set out to make holiday jams for my friends and family, I’ll be able to do it – no problem!
Thanks to my new copy of the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook (which you too can purchase here) and my local spice shop, Christina’s (that I located with the Local Pickins new i-phone app!) I am all set to get cooking!
If this post peaked your interest in classes, check out our class listings here, to find offerings in your neighborhood, and if you want to find out more about Rachel, check out her website.