From Tree to Fruit to Jar – The Story of Erickson Ranch Jams
Blenheim Apricot, Amaretto Cherry, Cal Red Peach, Bartlett Pear. These are just a few of Erickson Ranch jams. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would be telling my story about jam making.
Memories began as I was attending nursing school at the local Community College. The Bartlett pears were ripening and the harvest was in full swing. Did I have time to prepare or have any idea how to “put up” pears? Of course not, but for some strange reason I felt drawn to preserve this lovely fruit. The window of opportunity was short to work with the perfectly ripe Bartlett pears. My introduction to the art of eventually preserving home- made jam began with the Bartlett pear. It was a hot summer day and under the direction of Rosie, in her ranch kitchen, during summer break from nursing school we created the beauty that was a perfectly sealed quart jar of pears.
The process was quite an undertaking as we sorted, washed, cut, peeled and processed the pears. Of course throughout the entire process we visited. In my opinion there is no better way to connect with family than through the kitchen. The process of taking fresh fruit from our fields, often on the hottest day of the season, and creating a lovely preserved fruit that same day is certainly a family affair. There is absolutely nothing more satisfying than the sound of the “pop” as the jar seals ensuring the completion of the many-stepped canning process.
We were often asked if we would sell our jam. Certainly sounded like a good idea and in theory it made sense but the reality of the undertaking was another story. The idea of incorporating a value added product to the ranch was appealing but how in the world does one do that?
The next step was to become familiar with the Solano County Environmental Resource Department. They gave me the information and directions to meet the requirements for a safe food product to be sold to the public. In the beginning I was at a loss as to what to even ask so I simply walked up to the 5th floor, signed in and asked to speak to someone about what is involved in making jam for public consumption. Throughout the learning process two very important requirements came to the forefront. First was to find a commercial kitchen for the preparation of the jam and second to obtain a Processed Food Registration Certificate through the state of California Department of Public Health Food and Drug Branch. I once again had no idea where to start so I started calling churches, schools, restaurants and community centers for use of their kitchens. After many “no answers” I am now using the commercial kitchen at Il Fiorello Olive Oil in Suisun Valley (www.ilfiorello.com). We were off and running!
Through trial and error we have settled on which fruit makes the best jam and jellies. We are happy to say that we put absolutely no preservatives in our jams and jellies. Lemon juice helps preserve the color in some of the varieties that are lighter in color such as the peach.
Our taste in jams have a tendency to lean more on the tart side and less on the sweet side and with the natural sweetness of Mother Nature we can use less sugar allowing the natural flavor of the fruit to present itself in our jam.
Our jams are for sale at Erickson Ranch and several local businesses in Suisun Valley. We are not currently selling on line but we may in the future and though our fruit stand is seasonal we always have the jams available. Please give us a call at 707-290-9161.
“Where Fresh Is a Destination”