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One Hot Jam Session

by germinatrix | August 3rd, 2010

chopping up the tomato harvest- no big deal... but I assure you, THIS was an EVENT

For those of us who love to grow food, this is the time of year when we really reap the rewards of our hard work. In fact, sometimes we reap like crazy. This year, I am reaping buttloads of tomatoes. What to DO with them once you’ve had caprese salads daily, pasta every way imaginable, sun dried them, salsa’d them, given them to friends… is there anything new do be done with the emblem of the summer garden?

Well, why not make jam?

Fallen Fruit is a Los Angeles based art project that explores notions of urban spaces, neighborhoods, and ideas of community. It began by creating maps of fruit trees growing on and above public land and encouraging foraging. The ideas of foraging and gleaning food from our public and semi-public spaces is rife with social and political implications – a great way to familiarize yourself with these ideas is to see Agnes Varda‘s fantastic documentary  The Gleaners & I, made in 2000. Anyway, Fallen Fruit started as a collaboration between three artists, David Burns, Matias Viegener, and Austin Young, and has grown to be an exciting movement that has galvanized many to think about food  and our city in a different way. On Sunday, August 1st, they had one of their public Jam Sessions at the LA County Museum of Art, where they encourage people to bring home grown and foraged/gleaned fruit to be jammed – for free, all you needed to do is leave one jar behind.

awesome Matias greets us as we arrive - he taught at Cal/Arts when Jan and I were there (how does he manage to look younger than us?!)

Matias gives eager jammers pointers on flavor combinations and proportions

Well, it was a packed house! People brought fruit galore and were happily chopping and mashing and slicing – everyone was pretty sticky, but it was the right kind of sticky; gooey, messy, foody fun!

what better way to spend a sunday than to get messy playing with food?

everything was provided, all you had to bring was fruit and a sweet tooth

While most people brought fruit, Jan and I brought tomatoes – but a tomato IS a fruit, so I felt justified in my jamming endeavors. My jam was going to be yellow and red tomatoes, mint, basil, and jalapenos from my garden, and then some bitter orange and Oro Blanco grapefruit provided by Fallen Fruit. Doesn’t that sound … adventurous?

okay - Jan doesn't like tomatoes. But here he is anyway, bravely cutting up his least favorite fruit to make my jammy dreams come true

this face shows Jan's true feelings as he sprinkles bitter orange zest on the jam - to - be

It was a lively crowd – everybody was excited, talking, sharing recipes, making friends. I made some friends!

my new posse - the jam fiends

this young dude is the head fiend

we bonded. I gave him some extra mint - he said he's sending me a copy of "Yes Man", the Jim Carrey movie.

Unlike Jan, I love tomatoes and was very excited to see what we would come up with. The recipe was very loose – all we did was chop up our tomatoes and add as much basil, mint, and orange zest as we thought would work. I threw in a few segments of the Oro Blanco grapefruit and a squirt or five of bitter orange. It looked so pretty, I was very excited to find out how to turn this into something I could smear on toast.

could I BE more thrilled over a gloopy bowl of stuff?

Now came the cooking part. There were lots of  cooking stations, with adept jammers doing the actual cooking. All we had to do was go up and wait our turn in any one of the lines, and one of the Fallen Fruit volunteers would help us whip up our jams. I chose the line with the pretty girl in the yellow shirt – she seemed like she’d do my tomatoes justice.

I just KNEW she was the right one to jam with me!

While I was waiting my turn in line, I snuck away to have a taste of the other jams people had made – there were tables full of jars of the yummy sweet concoctions, along with bread, crackers, and peanut butter. People were sampling up a storm!

these were just a few of the many jars left behind so that we could all be inspired to greater heights

what a gorgeous smile! see what a spoonful of jam made from gleaned, fallen fruit can do?

even cool, pouty teenagers can find the good in the gooey sweet stuff

Finally it was my turn to pop my bowl of garden goodness into the communal cooker! My jam making muse, Diana (she of the sunny yellow shirt), wiped off the pot so no trace of apricot or strawberry would taint my tomatoes. I proceeded to dump my chopped up everything into the pot, followed by one half of a cup of pectin (Diana was giving me clear directions) and 3 cups of sugar (I wanted less sugar, but Matias said it would just be salsa if I didn’t make it sweet. So, sugar, LOTS of it!).

here goes - all of this plus pectin plus sugar and maybe we'll get something good

The cooking was easy – we stirred and covered it, then waited for it to boil, stirred some more, more boiling, then added the mint and basil right before the final boil. I ended up with four jars of  JAM! I was very honored that the lovely Diana asked me for one of my jars. I felt special. So I went home from the Jam Session with three jars of tomato mint basil jalapeno citrus gold – all homegrown or Los Angeles foraged. It was a good feeling.

all done! jam jarred, and Diana helped turn me into a fan of jamming

Thank you LACMA, thank you Fallen Fruit, Matias, and Diana – it was a wonderful afternoon and a great way to activate the community. In a city where the citizenry are as famously insular as Los Angeles, you managed to create a vibrant, exciting place to meet people, to celebrate our city and one of its most unique qualities – food dangling right before our eyes, at every corner, within easy reach. Thank you for encouraging us to reconsider the public and the private, and to use our resources. And thank you for doing this in such a fun, lighthearted way. I’m a fan. A fan of public jamming.

8 Responses to “One Hot Jam Session”

  1. OMG…that looks like such fun! And your recipe sounds simply divine, how do I get on your Christmas list?

  2. How fun, and your hubby is such a cutie!

  3. That’s fantastic! It sounds like a lot of fun! What do they do with the left over jam? Was it just for sampling? Or do they give them to local shelters?

    I really enjoyed your post. I felt like I was right there! Making jam and laughing at the cool teenagers with their ‘flock of seagulls’ hair do’s! Good times!

  4. Looks like a lot of fun! I just discovered your blog and bookmarked it. I like the masthead/header illustration!

  5. Love the Fallen Fruit project. What a weird summer it’s been in SoCali– tomatoes are going gangbusters but not so much the squash, at least here by the coast.

  6. It’s events like this that make me wish I still lived in LA. Food, foraging and an art museum. What fun, how inspiring and soooo ultimately SoCal.

  7. How’d yours taste?! I don’t think I’ve ever had tomato jam before…

  8. Hi Loree!!! I already owe you a BUTTLOAD of cuttings, and I promise you WILL get a care package, from one dangerous gardener to another! This was a fun day, and the jam IS GOOD, although my husband will say otherwise… what a scrooge!!! XOXO!

    Pam my darling – Jan IS pretty cute – you should see him all gussied up. He’s the dashing professor type. I thought it was so sweet of him to suggest that we do this, even though I know he wanted me to just leave all of the jam there – HA! Fat chance!!!

    Hey Laura! Some of the jam that was there was for sampling, and some went home with the volunteers. I was there until the end, and there wasn’t a jar left!
    I loved my little teenaged crew – they were super fun and excited to be there. I was too aloof when I was that age… I would have just been hanging out in the shade with my sunglasses on being mysterious. What a dork!!! Glad the youngsters these days are the friendly sort!

    Rainforest! keep visiting! Hopefully there will be many more good times ahead…

    Oh Denise, I HEAR you! And here I am, writing a book on edibles during one of the most lackluster veg gardening years on record! HAhahaha! One just HAS to laugh… but all of us gardeners know that we have to just try again next year, when who knows WHAT Mother Nature will hurl at us! (btw – only 2 squash for me this year – way inland! IT IS A WEIRD YEAR!!!)

    Oh Susan you would have loved these people! Matias is a writer – he was teaching at Cal/Arts when I was there, and all of the Fallen Fruit people are associated with the art world and especially with the re-thinking of the social and the public. And there really isn’t a better art space in LA right now than LACMA … it is coming into its own! There are some cool things happening here right now, it’s a very good time. Maybe a visit will be in store? XO!

    Hey Fern! Well – at first I was like – UGH! Too sweet … but it is also really complex, and you can taste all of the features of the individual elements. Once I was used to the fact that it is sweet, like jalapeno jelly – I really got into it. I made a yummy sesame butter and tomato jam waffle yesterday! I mean, the tomatoes I used were fairly sweet anyway … it’s hard to describe. I’ll just have to make some for you and Adriana and run down to LB to hang with the cool girls!