Farmers markets and the vendors who populate them with table-bending piles of bumper crops and hard-to-find seasonal produce rarely sell every last item before it's time to collapse the pop-up tents and head home. Portlandian pickle jokes aside, what do farmers do with all those extra berries, tomatoes and apples?
Before you immediately let loose the cry of "Donate!" (and many farmers do exactly that), remember this food is their livelihood. A few have cleverly extended the sellable period of their produce by making their own preserves, butters and salsas and offering them for sale. Aching for a taste of summer Blenheim apricots? In January? Want a quick foodie gift of California-grown orange marmalade for the snowbound aunt in New England? Or maybe the idea of grinding your own almond butter seems about as rewarding as data entry? Your local farmers have some great products on the tables, and a lot of it is in jars. We've zeroed in on five of them who offer some outstanding jarred preserves made from what they grow.
5. T&D Farms Jalapeño Jelly
Based out in Redlands, the 40-acre T&D Farms rotates its crops to suit the seasons. Right now you'll find some beautiful shallots and root crops on their tables at the Hollywood, Palm Springs, Beverly Hills, Joshua Tree and Riverside farmers markets. There are also jars of preserved summer crops of jalapeños. Jason Lopez, who mans the stand at Hollywood, says it's not mouth-numblingly spicy, but it perfectly captures what fresh jalapeños taste like. "It has a really nice tang to it," says Lopez. And we agree. They also sell farm-grown orange and grapefruit marmalade.
4. Ha's Apple Farm Apple Jelly
David and Kyung Ha have been growing great apples, pears, Italian plums and other tree fruits at their Tehachapi orchards for decades. At first, they sold only jugs of fresh-pressed apple cider and Kyung's beautifully flaky apple turnovers. Now they have a whole line of preserved products from dried fruit rolls to apple cider vinegar. That fresh pressed cider is still our favorite, but their classic and clear apple jelly is pure, concentrated Fuji -- snappy, sweet and spreadable. You can find them at the Hollywood, Pasadena, Alhambra, Silver Lake and many other farmers markets throughout Southern California.
3. Forbidden Fruit Orchards Blueberry Jam
Forbidden Fruit Orchards in Lompoc grows blueberries in a miraculous microclimate that keeps the bushes evergreen and producing plump fruit 10 months out of the year. They also grow kiwi, currants, mulberries, avocados and even Camellia sinensus, aka green tea, which they sell in hand-packed tea bags. Owner Sandra Newman also harvests a complex, amber-colored honey from the 10 hives she keeps near her blueberries. But it's all about the blueberry jam, a dark, pinot noir-colored, syrupy spread with a soft set that's finger-licking great. You can find it at the Santa Monica (both Saturday and Wednesday), Calabasas, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Mar Vista and Studio City farmers markets.
2. Avila and Sons Farms Pistachio Butter
This is about as close as you are going to get to freshly harvested California pistachios. Their season is normally September, and you can buy the roasted nuts year-round. But the finely ground butter puts the fresh-roasted flavor in stasis. We love mixing it with vanilla ice cream. Based out in Hanford, Avila and Sons makes a wide variety of nut butters from its crop list. Its garlic peanut butter and honey almond butter should be on your list, too. Bring back your empty jars for a discount on your purchase. You can find them at the Hollywood market every Sunday.
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1. Jimenez Family Farms Apricot Jam
Maybe it's the warm weather fooling both us and local fruit trees into thinking that apricot season is just around the corner -- sadly, it's not. But Jimenez Family Farms' apricot jam is proof that a properly balanced preserve can provide authentic out-of-season satisfaction for those early summer stone fruit cravings. Their motto is, "What we don't sell fresh, we preserve," which fits right in with their no-waste sustainability pledge. They swiftly sell out of their Olallieberry Jam and Apple Butter With Port. But they seem to dole out the apricot preserves carefully, knowing full well we'll start longing for a little taste of summer in midwinter. It has a nice semi-firm, medium set, glows like a backlit carnelian, and forget about the toast. A straight spoonful quickly delivers a potent and rich mouthful of creamy Blenheim. You can find them at the Santa Barbara (Tuesday and Saturday), Solvang, Santa Monica (Wednesday and Saturday), Ojai, Hollywood and Atwater Village farmers markets.
Felicia Friesema is a Master Food Preserver with the UC Cooperative Extension and Co-Leader of Slow Food USA's Los Angeles chapter. You can follow her on Twitter at @FeliciaFriesema.