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American Spoon

by Brian Fichtner in Food + Drink on 09 September 2008

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American Spoon has been in the business of making artisinal fruit preserves for nearly three decades. While many commercial manufacturers pump their jellies and jams full of sweeteners, American Spoon makes every effort to use as little sugar as necessary to create a fruit-forward product while preserving the natural flavors that often get lost in big batch production.

Based in Petosky, Michigan, American Spoon is ideally positioned to tap into a wealth of locally harvested fruits. Despite its picturesque locale—a quaint Main Street American town on the northern shores of Lake Michigan—the region can feel rather remote. Company co-founder Justin Rashid comments about his home, “There are two things you need to bring with you when you move to Petosky—a job and a wife.” Having left New York City in the late 70s with the aim of harvesting the region’s bountiful produce, Justin fulfilled the first prerequisite quite readily by supplying foraged foods to New York Chef Larry Forgione. With Larry’s brunch business in full swing, it wasn’t long before Justin found himself making preserves from Michigan fruits.

What sets American Spoon apart is their ethos. “We’re in the business of selling authenticity,” Justin declared. Authenticity means not only making natural preserves, but preserving varietals through strategic partnerships with regional farmers. While national distribution dictates the need for more hardy (read: less flavorful) fruits, American Spoon works with farmers to save heirloom varieties like its Red Haven Peach Preserves ($8 / 9.5 oz.) that might otherwise be lost from cultivation. American Spoon is one of the last companies to hand-peel this fragile fruit, known as a “melting flesh” peach variety. Despite the intensive labor, it yields an extremely succulent preserve loaded with large fleshy chunks.

The Wild Thimbleberry Jam ($17 / 9 oz.) is another delicious and rare product. Found only in some of the most remote regions of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the thimbleberry is similar in resemblance to a raspberry, however it bruises far more easily, making it unsuitable for mass cultivation. If the fruit falls to the ground, it's all but lost from the damage. Foragers can only pick a couple pounds in twice as many hours but the rewards are an incredibly aromatic jam, punctuated by the thimbleberry's miniscule, nutty seeds. For breakfast, we'd recommend using this jam in a crèpe.

Every American Spoon store—there are six in Michigan—features a tasting counter where customers are encouraged to both sample every product available and learn about its history. Look for our inclusion of American Spoon gift boxes in this year's upcoming holiday gift guide. American Spoon can be purchased online, through mail order or at gourmet retailers such as Dean & Deluca in New York or Surfas in Culver City.

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