That's the Jam
Savory spreads are more than trendy.
Ballard’s Essex may have the city’s most seasonally appropriate savory spread right now: a tangy red onion and currant chutney that pairs deliciously with the just-opened watering hole’s list of cured meats and cheeses.
Owner/chef power couple Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg opened Essex as sister to their Delancey pizzeria next door, and cocktails are the obvious draw (think rose petal-infused gin). But the high point is the British-style pub’s homemade preserves and pickles. Along with the onion currant chutney, they serve savory treats like old-fashioned pickled
cucumbers and house-made mustard to go alongside their beer-boiled soft pretzels.
Pickling and preserving are on the short list of precious Portlandia-esque foodie trends (“We can pickle
that!”), but savory jams have been around Seattle for decades. A staple of Pike Place Market for 30 years, Mick’s Peppourri offers flavors of varying weirdness and spiciness, like Ginger Pepper Jelly and Hot Horseradish Pepper Jelly. Madison Valley’s Basque-influenced destination restaurant Harvest Vine uses traditional semisweet spreads like quince paste and fig jam alongside their cheese plates. Leading the almost-passé bacon trend of the 2000s, Skillet Diner’s semi-famous Bacon Jam raises the decadence factor on its burgers and, bought by the jar, works well even in a simple oil-and-vinegar salad dressing.
All of these preparations are tried and true in nearly every culture, from Indian mango chutney to good old tomato ketchup. To parse them out, jellies have their fibrous material strained out while their jam and compote cousins are chunkier and heartier. The former are great as a smooth add-on to crackers and cheese or as a dressing to lighter meats and fish; the latter stand up better to heavy meats and rich dishes. In truth, the differences are slight. But all of these savory flavor-benders are enough to make anyone think outside the Smucker’s jar when contemplating the definition of “jam.” And the best thing about them is that they’re easy to concoct in your own kitchen.
Saddled with a serious surplus of onions from my garden, I recently canned a batch of savory jams at home. It took three tries and I cried a few cups of onion-induced tears, but I finally coined my own recipe for Rosemary and Thyme Onion Jam. The real key, I found, was the right mix of wines (red and white), vinegars (red wine and balsamic), and fat (I’m guilty of using bacon fat in everything I cook, but olive oil will work fine). Also patience: Stovetop reduction to the proper, syrupy consistency takes time.
After cooking, sterilize some Mason jars and quick-sealing tops, throw them in a water bath or pressure cooker, and voila! You’re not only prepared for inevitable late-fall hibernation, but you’re also three months ahead on holiday gift shopping—so long as you can avoid spreading your stash on everything you eat.Essex
1421 N.W. 70th St.
1531 Pike Place
1400 E. Union
2701 Madison St.
Photo by Paige Richmond.