Erin Eisele and Gretchen Opgenorth are sisters who have been trying to find a way to work together for a while now.
Eisele, the programs and communications manager at City Roots, and Opgenorth, an interior designer with a graphics design background, finally hit upon an idea after Eisele “caught jam fever” after preparing a batch of fresh, fruity muscadine jam for Columbia’s City Roots Farm.
The result, Toast Kitchen Co., blends the sisters’ talents and their passion for seasonal, small batch jams and curated kitchen items made in the South.
With the emphasis on quality, not necessarily quantity, Toast Kitchen Co. will offer items for sale online as well as a limited number of subscription boxes. The boxes will feature the jam-of-the-month, a kitchen item (linens, cutlery, etc.), two small sample jars of jam flavors that the sisters are creating for future production, recipes, and ideas to use the preserves throughout the day.
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The boxes will be available on a monthly basis or on a 3-, 6- or 12-month subscription. Preorders are being taken now at www.toastkitchenco.com with the first boxes shipping April 1. Ideally, the sisters want the boxes to build upon each other — for instance, a progression of seasonal preserves, a collection of handmade kitchen items, a series of recipes, etc.
“From the beginning to the end of a meal, it should be a pretty experience,” Opgenorth said. “Whether it’s the food or the textiles and linens or the plates... (the experience) should be enjoyed. Eat and use beautiful pieces, and mix and match” to create a beautiful table.
Currently, Toast Kitchen Co. has a blood orange marmalade available and is sampling a strawberry and thyme jam — using flash-frozen Watsonia strawberries and fresh thyme grown at City Roots Farm.
Jam flavors will be available on a seasonal basis, Eisele says. So, after fresh strawberry season comes and goes, expect to see different berries (blueberry, blackberry, etc) and then peaches, muscadines and other fresh, local ingredients.
Eisele and Opgenorth use a time-tested process for creating their preserves.
Eisele insists on using only natural ingredients, and therefore, in addition to the fresh fruit, their recipes include only natural pectin, lemon juice and unrefined cane sugar. Eisele occasionally uses wine to macerate the fruit to bring out their natural sugars or to add an earthy base note — Lillet blanc was added to the blood oranges, and Lillet rosé was added to the strawberries before the cooking process.
The sisters prepare the small batches in oversized copper jam kettles.
“It’s a magical thing that happens in the pot,” Opgenorth said. The fruit cooks down slowly until “all of a sudden it’s JAM!,” she said. The finished jam needs to be taken off the heat source quickly before the natural sugars caramelize.
Eisele paraphrases the French chef Christine Ferber, who specializes in jams, when she says “you have to be in tune with the jam” during the cooking process. Every batch is a challenge, and as Eisele says, “the fruit will teach you a lesson.”
The end result are preserves that truly taste like fresh fruit.
Get your jam on
In addition to the boxes from Toast Kitchen, the sisters will be offering Jam Sessions.
Eisele and Opgenorth will come to your house and teach you (and your friends or children) how to make small-batch jams and creative ways to use them (as marinades, glazes, in baking and beverages). Supplies, recipes, ingredients and instruction are included in the price of the two-hour session.
Schedule now at www.toastkitchenco.com