p>A few weeks ago I bought a jar of rhubarb-passion fruit preserves from Lee Davenport's new stand, Pamplemousse Preserves, at the Northside Farmers' Market. A deep burgundy color and filled with neatly cut chunks of rhubarb, it was stunningly good, which led me to consume most of it straight from the jar.
Davenport's Pamplemousse Preserves (say pahm-pull-moose; the name is French for grapefruit) are prepared in small batches using little if any commercial pectin, which Davenport says creates a softer jell that allows the true flavor of the fruit to shine through. Unlike other commercial jams and jellies, hers have a minimal amount of sugar. She uses it more as a tool to achieve a sweet-tart balance than as a cover for lesser quality fruit. All of the sugar and lemons that she does use are organic.
Davenport uses as much local and organic produce in her preserves as she can get her hands on, in fact, some of it even handpicked by Davenport herself. On the morning we spoke, she said she had spent the previous day picking black raspberries with one hand while swatting off mosquitoes with the other - clearly a labor of love. "It's hard and hot and uncomfortable sometimes, but I love it, and the taste of these local foods is worth it," says Davenport.
Davenport has loved preserves since she was a kid, when she used to help her mom make strawberry freezer jam from the berries they picked. Thus were sowed the seeds of her current operation, though most of her canning and preserving skills are self-taught.
Davenport points to her summer spent feeding the crew of a local farm as the real turning point in her preserving life. With a 70-acre garden out her back door, "I kind of went nuts," she says. "You're supposed to can to get through the winter, but I lost sight of that in my excitement to preserve the bounty."
The inspiration for Davenport's style of preserves - more fruit, less sugar - came from Frenchwoman Christine Ferber, author of Mes Comfitures. Ferber also inspired Davenport to experiment with unusual flavor combinations, such as orange-passion fruit marmalade, rhuberries (a fruit-sweetened rhubarb-strawberry jam), dolgo crabapple jelly, Key lime marmalade and raspberry chocolate.
With currant season upon us, Davenport has recently added red, black and pink currant jelly to the lineup, as well as cherry. She expects to have one of her favorites, apricot with vanilla and white wine jelly, soon.
In the future, Davenport hopes to launch a canned goods CSA that would include not only her jams and jellies but also her pickles and chutneys. She's also working on getting her pickling license and would one day like to grow more of her own fruits and vegetables.
Pamplemousse Preserves are currently available from Davenport herself at the Northside Farmers Market across from Warner Park on Sunday mornings. She soon hopes to have them in some local stores and cafes. To find out more or to order preserves, contact Davenport directly at leecdavenport-at-hotmail.com.