It was at a strawberry varietal tasting at Whitty Farms in Niagara that I first discovered the difference in strawberries. It was run just like a wine tasting, but with different varieties of strawberries, all separated for us to taste. I learned that day that some strawberry varieties are super sweet and others are naturally tart; super sweet for eating, tart for making jam.
It’s a pity they don’t sell strawberries by variety because if that were the case, my jam would be perfect every time, or at least I’d like to imagine it would be. For now, I leave good jam making to the experts like Lyndon Pearson at Springridge Farm in Milton.
Springridge is a real working farm in the Halton Hills that excels in capturing the intense farm-fresh flavours in every jar of their small-batch, artisanal jams and preserves. After a decade of jam making, Lyndon knows a bit about the process. He generously stuffs a whopping half a pound of fruit into each small 250 ml size jar, is stingy with his sugar, and particular about the purity of his pectin. He doesn’t add any preservatives, additives or fillers. He prefers to cook his jam in small batches by hand using fragile, fully ripe fruit. Then, instead of stewing the fruit, which was once the traditional jam making method, he cooks it only until it’s thickened and no longer, preserving the freshest flavours. There’s nothing Lyndon does to muck up the intensity of flavour or luscious texture of pure, farm fresh fruit jams and preserves.
Springridge Farm grows strawberries and raspberries on their 80-acre farm. The peaches and cherries they need come from trusted sources like Cherry Lane Farm in Niagara and their cranberries come from Johnston Cranberry Marsh in Muskoka. They insist on locally sourced produce for their jams, jellies and marmalades, which results in a year-round taste of otherwise fleeting seasonal crops. “All good jam hinges on the quality of the fruit you’re using,” says Lyndon.
But farm fresh standards are only part of Springridge’s success. It’s the tried and true, generational recipes that are still used today that really bring the flavours together in each jar. Lyndon doesn’t realize it but he’s part of a jam-making revolution throughout Ontario; a band of artisans with names such as Bumpercrop, Creekview, Michael’s Dolce and Niagara Presents are all dedicated to preserving the flavours of locally grown fruits. All of them learn production techniques from the past and blend modern flavours to please today’s palate. The resulting flavours are a world away from industrial-class jams.
Ontario has a varied maritime climate. Niagara’s warmer, longer summers produce outstanding tender fruit, and Muskoka’s cooler climate is perfect for the tart cranberry to thrive. In between are the regions of apples and pears in Collingwood and blueberries in Norfolk. The one climatic similarity they all share is our super cold winters that boost the acidity in all of Ontario’s fruit. High acids mean the flavours are lively with great character. That’s why artisanal jams, preserves and jellies are so superior; they offer you fully ripened summer fruit all year long.
Artisanal Ontario jams are also quite a bargain; they’re made by hand with high quality fruit,
low sugar and small batch production methods. Each jar of jam at Springridge, with or without a splash of alcohol is $5.99 a 250 ml jar. Isn’t it time we all spread the word?
By Lynn Ogryzlo
Lynn Ogryzlo is a food, wine and travel writer, international award winning author and regular contributor to Look Local Magazine. She can be reached for questions or comments at www.lynnogryzlo.com