With all of the amazing press and accolades that Blue Chair has gotten recently, it's sometimes hard to believe that their kitchen is right here in Oakland. Rachel Saunders, their head jammer, is a visionary with a penchant for creating seasonally inspired artisan marmalades and jams in tiny batches in traditional French copper jam kettles.
She loves to share her know-how with the local community, and you'll often spot her or another one the of Blue Chair staff out at farmers markets peddling preserves, as well as The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. With figs, tomatoes, apples, grapes, stone fruits coming into season in September and October, you can bet she's going to have a busy Fall. Here's a Q&A with Rachel:
We hear you studied jam-making for 10 years before you launched Blue Chair. What was the research process like?
It was an extremely arduous process of trial and error. I spent all my free time pursuing jam and fruit, and had many days of despair and torment. Mastering the art of jam making is not for the faint of heart!! When people taste my jams today, they cannot imagine what it took to get where I am; I make it look easy now. I am a true believer in the 10,000-hours theory of mastery. And 10,000 hours is just the beginning!!
Do you really still make all of the jams by hand? What are some of your most exciting creations? Yes; all of our jams are completely handmade. Every flavor is exciting! We just cooked a nectoplum jam – a rare hybrid fruit of white nectarine and plum. We also just did a tomato and Adriatic fig jam.
It's pretty cool that you host jam-making classes. What's coming up in the schedule? I absolutely love to teach, because I love people and I love the chance to share some of what I know. My next classes are a Jam 101 class at Ramekins in Sonoma on September 6 and a Flavor Construction class at our kitchen in Oakland on September 8. Information about both is on our website. In mid-September, I go to Seattle to teach for several days at the Pantry at Delancey.
It seems like you guys are always out at the local farmer's markets. Where can we catch you here in the East Bay? Grand Lake on Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. and Temescal on Sundays from 9 a.m. -1 p.m.
How can locals support you and stay in touch? The best way to follow us is on Facebook or Twitter; our name is bluechairfruit. You can also join our mailing list on our website for news about classes and new flavors!
Of course, you can always find a selection of Rachel's latest creations for Blue Chair at Marion and Rose's Worksop!