Hello, my friends! This week, I want to share with you a little behind-the-scenes peek I got at one of San Francisco’s exploding food companies, Jamnation Jams. I first learned about this start-up, powered by Gillian Reynolds, when we brought a jar along for a picnic a couple years ago!
This time, I got to visit Gillian and her team at her commercial kitchen in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco, and see her in action! And she is intense—kind of like the fiery (not in the spicy way) flavors of her jams. She cooks with her team some days, phone headset on and ready to take and make calls, but of course has to spend the other days managing distribution, marketing, admin . . . all the other stuff that comes with running a small business. Since I first met her at the beginning of this year, she has practically tripled her jam distribution, so she’s doing something right!
Now I know how she gets her jams to be SO flavorful—it’s really in Gillian’s unwavering commitment to finding the best quality fruit for her jams. She tests dozens of varieties of fruit for her jams, and when she finds the right one, she uses only that variety, from only that farm, for her products. Not only that, she told me that she uses less sugar than traditional jam recipes call for because she will only cook her jams when the fruit is at peak ripeness and sweetness.
The day I visited, she was making “Midnight in Pearis,” which features Bosc pears, vanilla, and nutmeg. She and her team really got a gorgeous batch of pears (I know because I ate 3 of them in the days following our visit!), and they were all churning out jam like nobody’s business.
I loved seeing Gillian running everything from the prep table. Pretty much all of what we see on this blog, or social media, is the pretty stuff—the perfectly plated cheese plates and beautiful food—but the effort that goes into preparing all of it requires so much hard work. Watching an entrepreneur like Gillian really doing the footwork reminded me that starting and growing your own food business means you have to be there every step of the way!
I did a few cheese pairings with some of Jamnations Jams, so you can recreate them at home!
Petit Munster + Berry Mature
Cow milk, pasteurized, animal rennet, Alsace, France
This is not your deli counter Munster. A washed rind cheese from eastern France, this little round features a delicate rind, delicate paste, and delicate creamy, meaty, and sweet grass flavors. When paired with the assertive flavors of Berry Mature, featuring bluetta blueberries and elderflower essence, I am transported to summer days in sweet meadows. The cheese gives extra depth to the forward jam flavors, and the jam brightens the cheese. In particular, the elderflower gets to take a very long bow at the finish thanks to the creaminess of Petit Munster.
Couronne de Fontenay + Plum & Get It
Goat milk, pasteurized, animal rennet, Loire Valley, France
Loire Valley style goat cheeses, with their ashen rinds and citrus notes, are among my favorite cheese styles out there. They taste like a little bite of sunshine in cheese form. That might be why I jumped on the chance to try another one with this jam featuring flavor king pluots and honeysuckle essence. Doesn’t that jam just sound like summer? When I was little, I would suck out the nectar from honeysuckles (sorry honeybees!) from the vines that grew in our front yard. Pluots and other stone fruit are, of course, summer staples. This pairing feels like frolicking with your favorite goat posse through a summer field! The honeysuckle is so subtle, it comes off as something you sense more than taste, but it ties the jam and cheese together perfectly. The cheese’s rather thick tongue-coating properties draw out the floral and fruit notes of the jam in a decadent, joyous way.
Aged Belgian Gouda + Midnight in Pearis
Cow, raw, Belgium.
Midnight in Pearis sports some hefty pear, vanilla, and nutmeg flavors, so you will want a hefty cheese to pair. My cheesemonger at Cheese Plus showed me a couple options, and I settled on this aged gouda from Belgium. You could substitute for a very aged Dutch gouda as well—make sure it has lots of those crunchies and full butterscotch flavors to stand up to that jam! It almost tasted like I was eating a pear pie, complete with savory cheese accompaniment. After adding my warm mug of tea, this pairing made me feel like I was snuggled up in a blanket, next to a warm fire in Bruges!
THANK YOU, Gillian, for having me come visit you! You can find Jamnation Jams throughout the US and online.
Visit your local specialty cheese shop for the cheeses. I purchased these cheeses atto my usual haunt, Cheese Plus in San Francisco. Thanks to cheesemonger Bryden for putting up with me this time! :)
I received free jams. All thoughts are my own.