Jam is one of life’s simple but necessary pleasures. I spread it on morning toast, use it as a topping on yogurt or ice cream, and serve it with fine cheese. Occasionally, I secretly indulge in a spoonful direct from the jar which feels sinfully naughty.
But not all jam is created equal, and few compare to the delectable spreads made by local Marin County artisan, Jeannette Habit. Jeannette has mastered the art that separates her “habit-forming” preserves from the majority one finds on grocery store shelves.
I met Jeannette two years ago while wandering the seasonal farmers market in Corte Madera, California. I was instantly drawn to her booth by the beautiful array of homemade jams on display, but lingered to chat and savor a few tastes. I sampled a crimson strawberry preserve with bits of whole vanilla bean; a sweet-tart wild plum spread, and red fruits jam made with cherries and ripe berries.
Each jam perfectly captured the sun-ripened essence of the organic fruits she hand selects . The rich, full flavors were balanced—not overly sweet—with bits of intact fruit that added a wonderful texture.
As I got to know her better, I discovered this petite Vietnamese woman studied to be a pastry chef at the esteemed Ecole Ritz-Escoffier culinary school in Paris, France. It was during a class on fillings that she first tasted an unforgettable hand-crafted Mirabelle plum jam. The brief experience left a lasting impression on Jeannette. Looking back, she could never have guessed how that encounter would later spark her bustling cottage business.
After successfully completing the rigorous culinary program in France, she returned to the United States and opened her own pastry shop in Tucson, Arizona with her husband Bob.
Yet despite the success of the patisserie, Jeannette kept returning to the memory of the jam she had sampled at culinary school. After much soul-searching, she eventually closed up shop and threw herself into learning the art of making preserves.
Today this former pastry chef and spitfire entrepreneur churns out hundreds of jars of jam, chutney, marmalade, and jelly which she sells at her popular farmers market booth. Her attention to detail has earned her a devout following of customers who appreciate the care and craftsmanship that goes into her products.
Last year Jeannette reached out to me with a proposition. She dreamed of writing a book about the art of making jam, and asked if I would be her editor and photographer for the project. For the next several months we worked closely with Gaye Allen at Meadowlark Publishing to bring Jeannette’s vision to life. The resulting collection, Seasons of Jam, brings her considerable knowledge, expertise, and recipes to print.
I am exceedingly proud to be a part of this project, and would highly recommend Seasons of Jam to anyone who loves the process of making truly hand-crafted preserves. Enjoy the slide show of my original photos below which showcase some of the delicious recipes you’ll find in the book.