Turning superfresh local ingredients into incredible jams and pickles

By Hannah Howard

Making jam is a little like alchemy: Stir together sugar and fruit over heat, and watch it transform into sweet, spreadable goodness.

The awesomeness of this marvelous process wasn’t news to Amy Deaver—she already had fond memories of helping make preserves and pickles as a kid in the Midwest, where she picked wild, juicy plums and turned them into jelly with her mom and grandma. But it took a visit to the South of France to convince her to start making her own magic. Impressed and inspired by all the wonderful foods that came from cans and jars there, Deaver returned from her trip and started Lemon Bird Preserves.

Based in Southern California, her artisan jam company starts with the best seasonal, local produce and other all-natural ingredients, and makes their jams and other goodies in small batches in French copper kettles. The results speak for themselves—wondrous concoctions the likes of which you don’t see every day. Try the watermelon-shaped tiny cocktail cucumbers, crafted with all-natural Hawaiian sea salt and fragrant spices, in your next martini.

Lemon Bird’s calligraphy-labelled jars are lovely and stunning—the perfect gift for impressing the most discerning foodies. Inside, find sweet, savory, and totally creative flavors like apricot with sage honey and pistachio, Indian blood peach with chocolate mint, and satsuma plum with Sichuan pepper. Spread them on toast and biscuits. Serve them with cheese. And never go back to plain grape jelly.

Word on the Street

  • "Here’s a combination you won’t find on a Smucker’s label: Meyer lemon and dark chocolate,” the Wall Street Journal wrote about Lemon Bird Preserves. “Also unusual: kumquat, tangerine, and vanilla bean. Amy Deaver isn’t your everyday jam maker, and her preserves aren’t your typical aisle-four stock.”

  • Serious Eats loves that Lemon Bird’s “calligraphy-labeled jars [contain] unexpected concoctions that bring together herbs, fruit, and spice in unusual ways.”

  • Lemon Bird’s greengage plum preserves was a 2015 Good Food Award winner.

They’re not just for toast anymore

Not that there’s anything wrong with spreading a spoonful of jam on bread or crackers. But that’s just the start. Here are some other ways we love our Lemon Bird Preserves:

Bergamot orange jam—Gorgeously fragrant, the bergamot orange is traditionally used in Earl Grey tea. With a perfect balance of sweet and bitter, it’s perfect served on a baguette for lunch, with slices of Manchego or a smear of chevre.

Smoked padron peppers—Sweet and spicy Spanish padrón peppers are hand-smoked for tons of earthy depth. Snack on these straight out of the jar, or use them to top your burger—pimento cheese optional.

Peach with lavender—Warm, juicy peaches taste like candy infused with locally grown lavender buds—you’ll feel like you stepped into the South of France when you dip a spoon into this jam. It makes a killer grownup peanut butter and jelly, or serve it on crostini with goat cheese for an elegant party appetizer.