One bite of crusty bread spread with Sqirl raspberry and fresh lavender jam made by Jessica Koslow creates an explosion of local flavor. From the taste of such a juicy creation, it's hard to believe that Koslow swears she barely ate fruit as a child. Now, her sweet preserves are quickly gaining popularity among discerning consumers and pastry chefs alike.
The day after Koslow returned from a trip to London to sample bitter marmalades—she's on a mission to satisfy her new bitter orange craving—we tagged along for a drive to Mud Creek Ranch in Santa Paula, California. Koslow has made several jams with Steve and Robin Smith of Mud Creek, including, for one, pineapple quince with rosewater.
With the Smiths' menagerie of seven dogs in tow, Koslow checks out the Pitanga cherries, Palestinian limes, and Bergamots and places her order—"Whatever you have I'll take it," she says.
Still thinking about oranges, Koslow inquires about Sevilles or other bitter orange varieties like Bouquetiers, but Robin advises her that Sevilles are too hard to grow in their climate, despite several attempts. Miraculously, Mud Creek did yield a tree of Bouquetiers for the first time this season, and Koslow is able to leave with a heaping bag for her marmalade quest. She feels that American jams tend to be sweeter—and Sqirl skews on the sweet side of those American options—but for her, the bitter marmalade flavors of London are where her heart is at the moment.
The next morning Koslow will make her way to the other side of Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market where she will see Smith and the other farmers she has befriended along her food journey. Then she'll head back to Sqirl headquarters pull out the custom copper pots—made for her by David Burns of Copper Gardens—and begin the process of making her bitter marmalade one juicy fruit at a time.
Koslow jarred more than 6,000 containers of jam on 2011, in addition to piles of pickles, sauerkraut, cocktail syrups, candies orange peels, and several other small batch projects—all emblazoned with the bold Sqirl label designed by Scott Barry.