Jellies, Jams and Marmalades are things that almost every household in the U.S. keeps on hand. Whether you like to enjoy them on toast with your coffee or tea, or they are your go to for a lunchtime favorite- like the classic PB&J. Most of us may buy the standard mass produced brands like Welch’s and Smucker’s from the local grocery store, others may enjoy going to the farmer’s market or specialty store to seek out smaller artisanal brands, and there are those who take on the task of tediously preserving and jarring fruit themselves.
Fruit preserves were most likely first created as a way to extend the shelf life of summer fruits through the long barren months of winter. The process of preserving fruit using sugar began in the Middle East and was brought back to the western world by soldiers during The Crusades. Jams became something fit for a king to enjoy, as Louis XIV would end his extravagant feasts at Versailles with sugary sweet jams and jellies served on silver trays. Another royal, Mary, Queen of Scots traveled with marmalade to keep her seasickness at bay.
In 1795 a chef named Nicolas Appert figured out how to extend the storage life of food by experimenting with the process of heating food to very high temperatures to kill off bacteria and then sealing it in airtight containers. This method was applied to sugared fruits and now preserves were shelf stable and safe enough to serve as sustenance for troops traveling far away from home during war time, as seen from the Napoleonic Wars to the later World Wars.
Anyone who has attempted to create homemade jams and jellies knows that it is a labor of love. At the Lake Effect Diner we serve Orange Marmalade, Strawberry Jam, and Grape Jelly. All 3 are made in house and in small batches. The Orange Marmalade is the most time consuming and labor intensive to make. The oranges and lemons must be thinly sliced and seeded by hand. Then it’s a slow simmer until the fruit is soft. At this point we add copious amounts of sugar and it is all cooked down to an evenly distributed 222-223 degrees (no more, no less). Once this is achieved it needs to sit at room temperature for an hour. Our Strawberry Jam and Grape Jelly follow a similar cooking process, both needing to be heated to certain temperatures evenly, but differing in the times needed for each to set. Our Strawberry Jam must sit and cool at room temperature for 24 hours, while our Grape Jelly once cooled is stored in airtight containers for a week to set properly. This is science people! If any of the measurements, heat distribution, or setting time is wrong the outcome will not be pretty and it’s back to the ol’ drawing board, as they say. It is a ton of work, but we think it’s worth it in order to serve our customers something homemade-even something as small as a serving of jam. A great way to sample all three flavors is to order the Toasted Bread and Jam Basket. Enjoy portions of our Marmalade, Strawberry Jam, and Grape Jelly with Whipped Maple Butter served with a selection of our toasted house made breads: White, Multigrain, Rye, and Sliced Baguette. It is a simple, yet indulgent and tasty treat, fit for royalty, but no, we don’t serve it on a silver tray.