When I was approached to be part of The Independent
Food Festival & Awards sponsored by Hillel at TasteEverything I must admit I had barely a notion about what I was being asked to do. Give an award to a favorite food producer? Share with food bloggers and
readers who I love and why? Isn't this what I do every day?
But what a nice Official Excuse, eh?
I think my award might go farther if I were not living in one of the most artisanally food rich areas of the
world. How to choose between the best bread, coffee, charcuterie, cheese, produce, chefs, pastries, olive oil and the list goes right off the page Sendak-style.
I fell back on an old standby, a favourite from all my years here, a person whose integrity is as strong as the legs she's stood on for the last 16 years making the most incredible preserves I have ever had the honor to taste and watch being made.
If you don't know her already, please allow me the pleasure of introducing June Taylor. English, exacting, intuitive, and patient. Her life's work feeds us the brightest, ripest, precariously balanced preserved organic and sustainably grown fruits of the season. Innovative pairings have gifted us with verbena & blackberry jam, plum & lavender conserve, and a crab apple & rose geranium butter which brought me to tears with its perfect marriage of intermingling perfumes.
June's work can be found on shelves all over the country in small gourmet food shops but those of us lucky enough to live in the Bay Area can find her at the Saturday Ferry Plaza farmer's market behind a simple table sparingly decorated with natural touches and neat rows of enticing open jars of what's current. Keeping up with her means that you may taste the first Silver Lime of the season, have a chat with her about homemade Quince cheese (Membrillo), or taste something you thought was plain lemon but sumptuously melted in your mouth and turned out to be the rare and elusive Bergamot!
At the market we recently discussed her new kitchen. After 15 years of renting, June bought a space and has a sky-lit professional kitchen and walk-in all to herself. In our conversation she easily mentioned that at one point recently she had over 2,000 pounds of Seville Oranges waiting. I laughed, remembering a time when June made marmalade based on which neighbor had the most amount of fruit on their trees.
When asked about how June identifies herself she is cautious about using trendy words which are wantonly tossed around by the press. "Preserve maker, handcrafter, artisan," these were words she felt proud to wear.
"After 16 years in my business I still do the work, and that is instrumental in being an artisan."
June Taylor's preserves represent an irrepressible desire to keep alive her craft, her work, organic farmers' livelihoods, the ideals of Slow Food (of which she is an active member, her work was represented at last year's Terra Madre), a practical, hard-scrabble, no-nonsense work ethic and a nod to British pride.
And it's unbelievably delicious.
One marmalade can always be found in the fridge for toast, Eggbabies (Shuna's famous Eggbabies recipe arrives Monday!), to mix with plain yogurt or quark, eating right out of the jar, and if someone is really loved-- for sharing with others.
This Spring June is offering marmalade classes. I signed up as fast as I saw the notice. Our beliefs about why we teach are the same. June believes that getting people to feel confident about cooking at home means sharing in an instructional hands-on way, not merely giving someone a recipe and showing them how to follow it.
The fruit tells her what it needs. Because June makes her own pectin (photographically explained here), cooks down the fruit in very small batches, and is doing everything possible to literally preserve the essence of the individual fruit varietal, each run is about building new knowledge atop learned traits. She architects each preserve based strictly on the raw materials she's given.
When you buy a jar of June Taylor preserves you will wish you didn't have to share it with anyone, or that you bought two jars, or are very grateful that you can eat it when that fruit is no longer in season because it tastes just like the fruit so you don't miss it but then you will wish that you bought three jars.
But luckily for you, whether you live close enough to sample her wares at the farmer's market or take a class, June Taylor is now the proud owner of a well designed, easy to navigate website, and she ships.