Preserving today’s flavors for tomorrow in Tacoma, beyond

Fruit, veggies, even meats get extended lives

By Jennifer Johnson on June 23, 2012

To preserve is to treat or alter something in order to extend viability. We're talking food here, so preserving most commonly brings to mind jam and jellies made from fruit. I recall my Grandma Johnson's raspberry freezer jam as being better than pie. Now that my adult taste buds know there is more to good food than basic white sugar added to berries, I am inclined to go looking for things that stray from the norm.

Buy It

Dan Briggs, owner of The One Spot in Tacoma, a business that does event catering, is turning out some very fine jams, jellies and pickled foods. Strawberry Lemon Tarragon, Strawberry Jalapeno, Blueberry Basil, Bourbon Blackberry Peach, and Blackberry Orange Cointreau are but a sampling of the unusual ingredient combinations that are made locally.

The newest flavor, Peach Cayenne Pepper, has gained an instant fan club. It starts off sweet and then builds heat as it travels from the front of your mouth to the back and then down in your throat. The result is a sweet-hot burn that lingers lightly. Try it with extra sharp cheddar and a slice of crusty bread.

"Spooned over grilled prawn skewers, the jam acts as an immediate meal booster transforming my shabby, cluttered backyard into a fancy Monday night dinner in a quaint outdoor setting," said Terry Richards, who was gifted a jar of the peach jam purchased by a friend at an indoor market held earlier this month. Such is the way of sharing goodness.

Order It

Beyond jam, preserves include vegetables and semi-whole fruit pieces that lean to the tart, pickled side much more than the sugary sweet side. Chef Aaron Grissom adds just such an element to his antipasto plate at Dirty Oscar's Annex.

"I make agro dulce red onion and roasted red bell pepper with macerated cranberry," he said.  "It's not a quick process, but the result is worth it."

How does he do it? Making preserves involves slow simmering and caramelizing of the vegetables first, stirring in vinegar of choice, adding sugar, salt, spices and then letting it simmer and thicken.

"I use red wine and white balsamic vinegar for this accoutrement," Grissom added. "When making it yourself, have fun with it. Add walnuts or toasted almonds, blue cheese or mascarpone."

Make It

Upon deciding to make your own preserves, ask your elders for recipes and see if you can carry on family traditions or get your kids involved and create new ones. Challenge yourself to think beyond the jar or bottle. Drying fruit, vegetables, herbs and meats is a decidedly easy way to extend their life and use. The non-machine method involves window screens and layers of cheese cloth on the bottom and top, sunshine, turning the product, air flow and not much else. That's about as low-tech as it goes. High-tech devices like the Excalibur 3900 Deluxe Series can have nine trays or more, looks futuristic and will dry your food in amazing time and evenness all for the price of $220. As the former owner of three food dehydrators, I have sworn off ever purchasing another such device as they always end up in a yard sale for a tiny fraction of what I paid originally. This year I'm going with the extra window screens from the attic, cheesecloth, and I already own and farmers' market produce.

Want a new shopping experience? Look for locally made preserves, dried goods and other products at Market on Market, a newly opened indoor food and retail market next to the Market Street YMCA. The downtown market shares building space with Smooth and Juicey.