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Taste-Testing Exotic Preserves

Taste-Testing Exotic Preserves

Clockwise from the top: quince, guyabano, aguaymanto, raspberry and elderberry

In our efforts to understand the art of preserve-making, we spend a fair amount of time eating tasty jams made by other people in other places. So, recently, when Clare’s cousin Greg got in touch with us from South America asking if we wanted him to bring us back some Peruvian preserves, we obviously said “Yes, please!” We got them in the mail and the first thing we noticed was that all of the preserves were in bags! Intrigued, we settled in for a tasting fest.

The biggest revelation was that the jams were not super-firm, like a lot of American options. They moved around in the bag and had a cooked fruit (versus jellied) consistency. I was excited to see this, because we love looser preserves at Quince and Apple. In fact, we’re always getting in trouble because we’re fairly adamant about this – so it was nice to get some international validation!

I started with the raspberry, thinking we’d ease into things with the most familiar. And while this was a recognizable raspberry jam, it was still very different from others I’ve tasted. It was tarter and had the cooked fruit flavor I associate with real preserves. And while it was sweet, it wasn’t sugary. It felt very balanced. My favorite part, though, was the abundance of raspberry seeds. A lot of raspberry jams filter out some of the seeds for a smoother consistency. Personally, I love the seeds and was delighted to find lots of chew on in this preserve.

The next one I tried was the aguaymanto, or the Peruvian goldenberry. Now, I was totally surprised to find this preserve in Greg’s shipment to us because we make a Ground Cherry Chamomile, which is very closely related. And while I had heard of goldenberries, I had never had the chance to taste one!

You can see in these two photos a goldenberry on the left and one of the ground cherries we processed last year on the right. Both have the distinctive paper husk and that amazing yellow color. Ground cherries have a very unique sweet-savory flavor and so I was super excited to try the goldenberry preserves.

The texture was almost like a very thick syrup with lots of chewy fruit bits and small seeds. It was tart and lemony but with a custardy, pineapple-upside-down-cake flavor that was very satisfying. Like the ground cherry, the goldenberry has an elusive savory side that I just absolutely loved. Ground cherries are hard to find and process and this preserve has inspired me to see if we can’t get our hands on some goldenberries!

The third flavor we tried was elderberry. These dark purple-red preserves were delicious and a great counterpoint to the goldenberry. Instead of bright and fruity, these were dark and earthy with amazing wine, cedar and dried plum flavors. The berries were small and crunchy with seeds and were wonderful in a delicious syrupy jelly. I’ve always wanted to work on a preserve with elderberries and this one may have been just the inspiration I needed.

Fourth was our namesake, quince! I’ve had a lot a quince paste, as you can imagine, since we started our business, but none quite like this. Most quince pastes, or membrillos, are very firm and can be cut with a knife, which, to be honest, isn’t my favorite for cheese pairings. This preserve had a nice, smooth consistency, which I really enjoyed. The flavors were also really fresh and floral, with apple, pear and peach flavors. Of all the quince preserves I’ve ever tried, this was by far my favorite.

And last, but not least, was guyabano. I had seen this picture of Greg in Peru with some of the fruits and was fascinated. It has a bright green, thorny outside with a white pulp and large black seeds. It is apparently related to the North American paw-paw, a fruit I’ve been learning more about recently. The flavor of the preserve was like an amazing tropical fruit salad! Bananas, lemons, limes, mangoes and coconuts were are there, accompanied by a really satisfying sweetness. I loved this preserve and really would like to get my hands on some fruit to experiment with.

We love getting to try new things, and I have to say that I was singularly impressed with this set of preserves. Who knew Peru was making such great jams? Fortunately for us, Clare’s cousin Greg did! If you ever find yourself in a foreign (or not so foreign) land and happen upon some out of the way preserves, feel free to send some our way!

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