I don't really use much jam or jelly, so when I do, Smuckers just isn't going to cut it. Nope. I want one bursting with fruit flavor, kind of like I'd imagine someone's grandmother would make.
And don't let me see high fructose corn syrup as a main ingredient.
This is why I'm digging Elderberry Mary's jams lately.
Elderberry Mary is a real person, Mary Ellen Jannsen, who's somewhat of a legend in the hill towns of southern Albany County. After the Berne resident lost her county job, she turned to jam-making full-time. In 2003 she and her husband turned a third bedroom into a second kitchen devoted exclusively to preserves. She even grows most of the berries for her jams herself and gets the other fruit from local farmers. She uses wild berries for her namesake jam, elderberry.
I picked up a jar of pink gooseberry jam this week at Engel's Farm and Market on Albany-Shaker Road. It's a little steep there at $6.75 for an 8 ounce jar, but I expect to pay for quality. (On a side note: Engel's is kind of a nice little place. A lot of the produce isn't actually local, but the shop harkens back to days long ago. Along with fruits and veggies, they carry local condiments, meat products, cheese and baked goods.)
Sure enough, the jam was delicious. It'd probably be really good on the scones I was eyeing at Engel's. Many of the berries are left whole, much to my great pleasure. Also kind of awesome -- the label on each jar is hand-written. It just seems so charmingly old-fashioned. Don't bother looking for a Web site or an e-mail address, you won't find one. Even the list of ingredients is kind of a throwback: sugar, berries, pectin, lemon juice. That's it. No Red 40 dye, no weird preservatives I can barely pronounce.
Apparently Elderberry Mary is kind of a spread fiend - cranking out thousands of jars of jellies, jams, marmalades and butters each year. That's not just the sweet stuff either. Her repertoire of some sixty flavors also includes savory varieties like garlic, raspberry habanero and horseradish.
Other than Engels, you'll often find Elderberry Mary's products at local food festivals, craft shows, the Schenectady Farmers Market on Thursdays , among other places.
Elderberry Mary jams at Engle Farm and Market
681 Albany-Shaker Road
Albany, NY 869-5653
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