Tag Archives: Downtown Home and Garden Jam Contest

Pickle Contest: DownTown Home and Garden

Ann Arbor Food

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It was the first Annual Pickle contest at DownTown Home and Garden. I entered the contest with my Spicy Dulse Sauerkraut. I did not win and the top three winners were dill pickles. Like the Jam contest, the most popular, and familiar items per contest like raspberry jam and dill pickles, tend to win. I wanted to win for my offering, but feel that for the most part my offerings were great, but not as popular to win these contests. The positive reactions overheard from the taster of my jam and kraut were reassuring.

One thing I would say is bring something to drink. They did not offer water, or bread with the pickle tasting, and after 30 salty pickles you will need something to drink. I bought some bread. They sell zingerman’s bread and pastry at Downtown Home and Garden.

Jam Contest:Bacon, Molson Beer, and Spicy Pepper Jam

Ann Arbor FoodToday was the big Jam contest at Downtown home and garden. 59 Jelly’s, jams, butters, and ones that defy category were present for tasting and judging. There was a long table set up with numbered jars. Small crust of bread and crackers were set out. Twenty-five people crowded around the table with more coming and going. Most did not try them all. Only one hardcore taster managed to get through and weigh in a vote for each one. Most jams gave away the type of jam in the name like my balsamic sweet onion jam, while there were a few like R&B that we were not sure what it was.

There were only a handful of savory jams like ones made with spicy peppers, and a favorite of mine made with sun dried tomatoes. My onion jam tasted great, yet I had my doubts that I would win any prizes because there was a bunch of kids there who voted and the savory jams did not get as many tastings or votes. (update:I did not win a prize)

The stand outs for me was the vanilla pear jam, spicy pepper jam, an organicAnn Arbor Food concord grape for the familiarity, a honey and lemon balm (update: It won second place), and the sun dried tomato. The bacon jam was more of a spread of bacon bits than a jam in my opinion, but tasty. I tried about half of them. Some were too runny, others had a strong alcohol taste, and one had way too much lavender which made it taste like perfume.

Looking at all of these jams made me think about the future of local food. Most were made from seasonal, local fruits, berries, and vegetables. They have a long shelf life, which allows for a huge variety of local food year round, and the jars can be reused for years. I am very new with canning and I was amazed at all of the recipes in the Ball Bluebook.

Eating locally in the winter brings up imagines of eating an all potato diet for months. Looking at 59 varieties of jam I see that is far from the case. I see a winter of tasty jellies and fillings from desserts and pastry, flavorful condiments for savory meat dishes,  and cheese pairing, and to tasty spread on homemade bread.

Balsamic Sweet Onion Jam

Ann Arbor FoodThis is a very rich, sweet tasting jam/butter that tastes great on toast, pairs with sharp cheese and with pork and game.

This my first time ever canning. In fact, to be honest I am not 100% sure this “jam” is a true jam and if it can keep at room temp like other canned foods. That is because I went easy on both the amount of sugar and vinegar.

I plan to use this jam quickly and treat it like an open can of jam and keep it refrigerator the whole time.

Technically, this might be considered more of a “butter” than a jam, but because I am submitting it to the Downtown Home and Garden Jam Contest, I am calling it a Jam.

If you are new to canning I strongly suggest getting a Ball Bluebook and follow the exact instructions. Canning is not the same as wild fermentation. Mistakes made during canning can result in becoming very sick, so I suggested using the Bluebook, or following canning recommendation from an agriculture extension service.

Brian’s Balsamic Sweet Onion Jam: Makes 1-1 1/2 quarts


2 bags of onions (12 medium/large onions), peeled and sliced

1 cup of packed brown sugar (dark or light)

1 cup Balsamic vinegar

1 stick of salted butter


In the morning or the night before, slice the onions and add them to a heavy bottom pot, add the rest of the ingredient and cook uncovered on low overnight, or all day. You can cook them more if want want. I wanted more of a puree/jam consistency, so I put the cooked onions into a food processor and cooked out a lot of the liquid.

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This is what the onions look like after 4-5 hours

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I forgot to take a picture of the onions when I woke up. Here is a picture of the onions after a pureed them in the food processor. The jam has a caramelized color and flavor. If pureeing, make sure to watch the onions and stir often, so they do not burn and get bitter.

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Soak your canning jars in hot, not boiling  water.


Fill the jar to a half inch from the top. Make sure you wipe the top of the jar clean to unsure a good seal. Place the mason jar lid and ring on the jar and place in the hot water. Bring the water up to the boil, then boil for 10 minutes.

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Take the jars out with a canning holder, and let them cool for 12 hours. They should “pop” closed in 20-60 minutes.

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Note: This jam will only keep for s few weeks, not like a tested recipe from the Ball Bluebook. I recommend refrigerating them.

This jam is great on toast, for cheese plates, and pork and lamb dishes.

The Jam contest is tomorrow. There are 70 people (jars) entered. Wish me luck.