The jam man finds inspiration everywhere
Rome Doherty, owner of Camp Robber Jams, makes about 100 varieties of jams that he sells at farmers markets around Seattle.
Special to The Seattle Times
ROME DOHERTY has been making jam for as long as he can remember. Over the years his output increased until finally he ran out of friends to give it to, and he turned his jam-making into a business called Camp Robber Jams. Over the course of a year, Doherty makes about 100 varieties, and on any given weekend you’ll find him selling 30 to 40 at area farmers markets.
Doherty finds inspiration everywhere — from the food he eats, the books he reads and the people he meets, so there’s often a story behind his most interesting flavors, like this one: Doherty has always worked in shared commercial kitchens, and at the last one there were many food trucks, including Where Ya At Matt. A cook told him that everything in New Orleans gets smoked. He remembers thinking, “And away we go!” as he mixed up his first batch of Smoked Apple Butter with Chilies.
Four days a week Doherty works at the Recovery Centers of King County, a nonprofit alcohol- and drug-treatment center. Two days a week he sells his jam at farmers markets (Bellevue, Issaquah, Capitol Hill and Mercer Island all summer, and U District the rest of the year). And one day a week he makes as much jam, fruit butter, chutney and marmalade as he can. He buys almost all his fruit from the farmers markets where he sells, and on his labels he credits the farms that grow it, most often Hayton Farms, Skagit Sun, Collins Family Orchards, Martin Family Orchards and Rockridge Orchards.
So what do you do with jam? Doherty gets asked that all the time, and beyond the obvious — spreading it on toast or in a sandwich with peanut butter, turkey or ham — he suggests serving it with pancakes, French toast, waffles, yogurt or ice cream, or putting it on cheesecake, in a thumbprint cookie, rugelach or hamantaschen. His daughter, Megan, invented the I-Don’t-Have-To-Share Sandwich: a piece of baguette, sliced horizontally, toasted in a toaster oven until the top gets a little crispy, spread with jam, covered with slices of Brie or pieces of goat cheese, and toasted again until the cheese melts. You don’t have to share it because it never gets far from the toaster oven.
Summer’s nearly gone, and soon enough all the lusciousness of fresh, ripe fruit will be nothing but a sweet memory, unless you stock up on jam or make some yourself.
For the beginner jam maker, Doherty recommends apricot. He loves its balance of acid and sweet, and how it takes well to all sorts of flavor additions. But he has faith that we can work that one out on our own and shares with us this recipe for one of his most popular jams.
Blackberry Habañero Jam
Makes about 9 half-pints
½ flat blackberries (6 full baskets), washed and drained
8 habañero peppers, seeded, chopped very fine
1/3 cup powdered pectin (1 packet)
Juice of 1 lemon
7 cups sugar
1. Put the berries in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and use a potato masher to squash them. Add the peppers, pectin and lemon juice and stir well to blend (so the pectin won’t clump).
2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then stir in the sugar. Bring the mixture back up to a full boil and let it boil vigorously for exactly 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat, skim any foam that has accumulated, then ladle the jam into sterilized jars and process them in a water bath. (For further help: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_processing_j_j.pdf)
Leora Y. Bloom is the author of “Washington Food Artisans: Farm Stories and Chef Recipes.” Lindsey Wasson is a Seattle Times staff photographer.