My guilty pleasure of the week is Kissel’s herbal spiced breakfast jam:
At around seven bucks a jar, again, this stuff ain’t exactly cheap, but the distance your palate will travel from what you expect when you bite into an English muffin schmeared with quotidian jam to what you get with this stuff, if translated into seat-miles, would be like blowing out your budget on a first class seat and then having the airline bill you for rear cabin no seat recline standby rate.
At present there are six, well, they call them flavors but I prefer to call them ambrosial variations: strawberry basil, blueberry lavender, apricot rosemary, cherry fennel, peach coriander and plum tarragon. Someone clearly sat up all night mixing and matching herbs and fruit before settling on the perfect combination, and then spent a few more evenings blending different amounts of each until they hit the perfect aphrodisiacal balance.
I confess to a preference for cherry fennel (think of it as palatal foreplay, skillfully administered) but the one I pick from the second tier of my fridge (the shelf with the low ceiling) on any given morning is a matter of mood. They work just as well with or without butter or cream cheese. In fact, each jar top lists a recommended cheese – Asiago, goat, bleu – its tastemasters have decreed it goes best with on a cheeseboard. This, I gather, is their attempt to establish a new snobbery to rival wine, scotch or beer snobberies. It makes sense. Each of the jams has its own sublime aromatic properties and you need to inhale just before chomping down on whatever medium you have graced with the flavor of your choice to fully awaken your taste buds and olfactory transmitters alike.
I have, indeed, experimented with this stuff in things like muffin batter. To do so, I had first to overcome my Walt Whitman Syndrome wherein the first step – the English muffin caressed with a blade’s worth of any given flavor – pleased me so much, so much I say, that I barely felt the incentive to proceed any further. In moments of culinary paralysis like those, fortunately, I had only to flip open my dogeared copy of Jim Harrison’s The Raw and the Cooked to any page to administer the needed whack to my imagination and, thusly inspired, turned to the counter with its Pandora’s Box of implements to move on to the next step. First experiment: a half cup of blueberry lavender added to a package of whole grain blueberry muffin mix, baking the muffins for just a few minutes longer than the package directions recommended to absorb the additional moisture.
I don’t want to leave you salivating impotently on your bib like one of Pavlov’s housepets. I get my doses of Kissel’s from Publix down here in Macondo and it’s entirely possible your own comistaberry carries it. In case it doesn’t, though, I have seem them – scandalously upcharged, but they’re there, at least – on Amazon and other culinary interest web sites. Their own web site link (spicedjam.com) as well as their Facebook page draw a blank so we’re probably dealing with a bunch of fanatical artisan-Luddites. No matter. This is the best jam you ever tasted. Go find some.