NEWSFLASH: I got a message on the answering machine this morning that my raspberry-rose jam won first place in the jam contest and they want my recipe to publish in the Ann Arbor News!
For the first few years it was happening, I would hear about the jam contest just after it was over. I'd enter this fact in my personal "Register of Frustration and Deprivation." Several times. Then somehow, a couple of years ago, the mental post-it note finally stuck: October is the jam tasting month - the month when 50 homemade jams are lined up in a row and someone else has toasted the bread for you. We've made it to the last couple of jam tastings and survived incredible sugar rushes. But this year I faced the final frontier - entering the contest.
Earlier this summer Downtown Home and Garden owner, Mark Hodesh, had revealed to me some secrets for winning the jam contest: 1) Have a good name. 2) Put the jam in a pretty jar. With tips like that, I was encouraged to risk a pint. I make a raspberry jam that enters another realm of condimentation with the addition of a rose-geranium leaf. Somehow the rose flavor heightens all the floral things going on in the fruit and makes it taste even more like the pure essence of raspberry. I thought I could be a contender.
First prize: maple wood salad bowl
Second prize: food mill
Third prize: cookbook
So I packaged up my lovely "Rose-red Raspberry" jam, made with the Makielski berries I picked several weeks ago, and threw it into the ring with 58 other competing jams and preserves. There were some amazing jams here! My favorite was a tart orange-lemon combination called "99% Organic Marmalade." I tried hard to taste them all, but probably didn't quite make it to tasting 40 jams. There were so many - elderberry, apricot, plum, blackberry-lime, pumpkin butter, grape, thimbleberry, apple, strawberry, peach, blueberry, caramel-pear, and even jalapeno-habanero. And so many were fabulous! It's hard for me to think of a better community event at a downtown store. I love that they do this. I didn't even mind feeling afterwards like my eyes might pop out of my head from all the sugar.
I was so excited about the contest that it rubbed off on friends Mike and Margaret. He has to have won the best name category with his "Lost My Organic Strawberry Patch in the Divorce" jam. And you should see the broken strawberry-heart tag that Margaret made for it. Perfect.
Update: I picked up my salad bowl prize and handed over the recipe today while I was downtown with my friend Heidi. She kept teasing me about being a celebrity, but I think she was happy when I gave her a couple of little jars of jam. I got to talk briefly with Mark Hodesh about the event - he said there were 59 submissions and 300 votes for the jams. For an even happier ending, our friend Mike also won a prize for his heartbreaker strawberry jam. My new wooden bowl is now sitting on the counter filled with a couple of quarts of Red Fig cherry tomatoes I finally harvested this afternoon.
Mark your calendar for next year - the 10th Annual Downtown Home and Garden Jam Contest is the first Saturday in October, 2008.