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2005
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Most Perfect Raspberry Found in a Jar, tasted on February 22, 2005, part of the Independent Food Festival and Awards I have a thing for all things sour. Candy and fruit are the most common vehicles. When it comes to fruit, Granny Smith apples (I'm told I need to try courtlands), limes, and not quite ripe blackberries are among my favorites. Raspberries are really one of the best expressions of what I like about sour fruit. I love that they're soft and meaty and filled with a very small amount of juice. And as much as I like the sugar in them, I really want them to have a healthy dose of acidity. When they're ripe and full of flavor I can eat them by the truckload.

When it comes to raspberry jam, I'm essentially looking for a truckload full of raspberries. And all my life I've been on a sort of background quest - to find a raspberry jam that conveyed as closely as possible the essence of... well... raspberries. It may seem like a simple task, but believe me, it's not. Most raspberry jams suffer from three main problems. 1) They are too gelled. Pectin is used to give Jam its gelatinous qualities. Some Jams are just overly gelatinous. They have too much structure. 2) They are too sweet. I understand that some people feel just as strongly about sour flavors as I do but in the other direction. That said, I can get a lovely strawberry jam if I want something sweeter. 3) They have no seeds. I try not to be too "judgey" on this site which given that it's the sole purpose of the site can be kind of difficult. That said, I do not understand what the point is of taking the seeds out of raspberry jam. They are such critical texture. I suppose for someone who's not as obsessed with just having a jar full of raspberries, maybe seeds are not as a high a priority. And after all, I do like Orange Juice with less pulp, so who am I to talk.

Every few months I will notice an interesting jar of raspberry jam on the shelf at the grocery store (or specialty store) and give it a whirl. And every few months I am disappointed. I think it was the fact that the Raspberry Tart Pacific Raspberry Jam had the word "tart" in the name that attracted me. I figured that it must at least be sour, and I could see the seeds through the glass of the jar, so we had a decent chance of getting something reasonable. Imagine my surprise when I got home, opened the jar, and found basically a container full of crushed fresh raspberries. Beautifully juicy. Perfectly sour. Filled with texture. Crushed fresh raspberries. Wow. I've been searching for at least twenty years, and my quest is finally complete. This stuff can be eaten anywhere you see fit, on ice cream, on toast, on a steak for all I care. (This is starting to feel a little Dr. Seussish.) And while this is a little embarrassing to admit, I've often eaten it just with a spoon. In fact, on those occasions, I've found myself down most of a jar before I realized I almost ate an entire jar of jam with a spoon. I don't know what's stopping me from just doing it. Sitting down with a new jar of Raspberry Tart Pacific Raspberry Jam and eating the whole thing with a spoon. I think society is keeping me down. 

As you may have noticed from the logo at the start of this article, we are proud to participate in the first annual Independent Food Festival and Awards. In fact, the host of the festival, tasteeverything.org, is our sister website. These awards work a little differently than most in that each jury member gets to create and give out their own award. As a member of the inaugural jury I am proud to give the award for the:

Most Perfect Raspberry Found in a Jar

to

Raspberry Tart, Pacific Raspberry Jam,
Mountain Fruit Company, Chico, California

They have a whole line of jams you should try as well. Hopefully someday I can get down to Chico and con my way into a demonstration of how the Mountain Fruit people are capable of preserving the essence of fresh perfect raspberries in a jar.

(Note: I got mine at the Wholefoods in Bellevue, WA. Not all Wholefoods have it, but I bet they can order it. I also found it online here.)

Thirty food bloggers made up this year's awards jury. Check out the entire list of awards for more great food you may not have heard of.

 

     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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