More often than not, Lee Murphy finds herself cooking with jam.
From spiced walnut butter toast with “damson plum &sweet vermouth” preserve for brunch, to grilled wild salmon with “blueberry &French thyme” preserve for dinner, she’s always looking for ways to use up the extra jars of jam sitting in her pantry.
And now, Murphy’s sharing the recipes for these two dishes — and 43 other creations that she has tried, tasted and perfected — in her very first cookbook, The Preservatory: Seasonally Inspired Recipes For Creating And Cooking With Artisanal Preserves.
Officially hitting stores April 25, the book — published by Random House — is one part how to make preserves, and one part how to cook with them.
The first half features recipes for 55 different homemade preserves, 24 of which Murphy and her husband, Patrick, sell at their South Langley farm and winery, Vista D’oro.
Preserve recipes for “grilled peach with blackberry &candied ginger,” “banana passion fruit &rum,” and Murphy’s favourite — “strawberry with pistachio &vanilla” — are listed by season.
The second half lists recipes for using the preserves with brunch, aperitivo, dinner and dessert, as well as cheese pairings, charcuterie, pickles and cocktails.
Murphy also includes a section on how to choose fruit, what tools to use, and the basics of preserving.
“It was just going to be a book about preserves, but then a lot of the preserves are kind of obscure, like our green heirloom tomato and garam masala or something like that. And people are always wondering what to do with it,” she said.
“So it just kind of evolved into, ‘Let’s do a few recipes with the preserves.’ And then it turned into, ‘Wait a minute, let’s do half the book with preserves.’ I think it’s an interesting concept because it will give people ideas of what to do with all of our crazier flavours.”
Beginning as a small-batch product sold at farmers markets in the early 2000s, the Vista D’oro Preservatory jams have migrated onto shelves in more than 200 retailers in Canada, more than 150 retailers in the United States, in Europe and Japan.
Using only fruit in season, the Murphys cultivate their 10 acres of land, located off 208 Street and 4 Avenue, to grow their own apples, pears, plums, and cherries for preserves, and their own walnuts and vines for their wine.
All berries are bought from Lower Mainland farmers, and other fruits that cannot be grown on the West Coast, such as peaches or apricots, are sourced from the Okanagan. The only fruits that are not from B.C. are exotics, like pineapple and mango, that are used in Murphy’s winter line of jams.
Their wine products, however, are created entirely from ingredients grown on their farm.
Murphy originally wrote her cookbook proposal five years ago, and it was promptly put on a shelf and forgotten about until she took a trip to New York and ran into friend Caren McSherry, owner of Vancouver’s Gourmet Warehouse.
The two got chatting, and Murphy decided to tell her about her book idea. McSherry took interest and asked if she could have a look at the proposal.
“She says, ‘Well send it to me, and I’ll send it to my friend,’” Murphy recalled. “So I sent it that night because I had my laptop with me, and I seriously had had this proposal sitting around for years, but did not know what to do with it. And I said, ‘Well just let me know what you think.’ And next thing I know, Robert’s calling me from Random House saying, ‘We love the concept, let’s talk.’”
Some of the preserve flavours were already being produced commercially as part of Murphy’s collection she normally sells, while others are brand new. With help from her crew of three, Murphy had to test and create several new products.
“Once you’re doing a cookbook, everything has to be tested, weighed out. A lot of us cook with a dash of this and that, so we did a lot of recipe testing,” she said.
But that creativity turned out to be the best part of the whole process.
“That’s what I think I love most about the book, because now that we’re wholesaling, we have to be very consistent and have to have a certain amount of flavours,” she said.
“Everything has to stay the same so that when somebody opens a jar of ‘mulled wine jelly,’ it tastes exactly the same as the last jar of ‘mulled wine jelly.’ This I got to play again and create all new flavours, and I loved that part of it.”
Although Murphy has been creating preserves for nearly two decades, she’s noticed that the concept of canning has really resurfaced as a popular trend in the last few years. She believes people are more drawn to it now because “the farther you get away from your heritage, the more interested you are in it.”
“I think it’s that nostalgia of how our ancestors cooked. For us, especially when you’re living on a farm, having fresh fruit and having so much of it and not wanting it to go to waste. I mean, that’s why they originally did the canning and the preserving, so that they could have fruit all year long. Now you don’t have to do that, because you can buy it all year long. But I think it’s so rewarding and so much nicer to (make it yourself).”
That inspiration, she hopes, will translate through her book.
“I wanted it to be a real celebration of the farm,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of stories in here too, the inspiration for a lot of the recipes, some family stories and some travelling stories. It was a very fun process.
“I’m super proud of it.”
For more on Murphy’s preserves, visit http://thepreservatory.com.