I have a confession to make. I love jam. I mean, I really really love jam. I’m almost as obsessed with jam as I am with Hello Kitty. In fact, I have six essential food groups: rice, noodles, eggs, fruits, Pascale’s ice cream, and jam. That pretty much sums up my diet with some chips and cookies sprinkled in here and there. I should probably also mention Don doesn’t agree with my food groups. Though, he does enjoy eating foods from those groups.
Our fridge currently has six jars of assorted jams in various sizes, each in different stages of consumption. I have officially been banned from buying anymore until those jars are gone. However, being banned does not stop me from buying more and storing jars at my parents’ home so that I can eat them whenever I visit.
In early August, I had to endure a tough week-long training session in Toronto. Coming home utterly exhausted and brain-dead, Don had a wonderful surprise waiting for me in the kitchen, two jars of michaelsdolce jams. While I was away, Don searched out michealsdolce jams and did of a jam tasting with Paola St. Georges (@cestboncooking) of C’est Bon Cooking. Keeping my jam obsession in mind, he brought back mango & ginger and kiwi & lime. My heart just melted at the sight of those jars and his thoughtfulness.
Now, I should state right now strawberry jam is my favourite. I’m not overly fond of kiwis, mangoes, or pieces of ginger. But, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed these flavours. Neither were overly sweet and both jams were true to the colour and taste of the actual fruit. The parings were perfect. The ginger enhanced the mango, yet left a gentle warmth in my mouth. I enjoyed them so much Don thought we should meet the gentleman behind the delectable creations.
Michael Sunderland (@michaelsdolce) is the pastry chef and confectioner of michaelsdolce. Formerly the head pastry chef at Vittoria Trattoria, he began making jams in the summer of 2009 and established his own brand (michaelsdolce) in January 2010.
During the last Saturday of August, Don took me to The Ottawa Bagel Shop where Chef Sunderland was giving a jam “demonstration” (sampling).
With a plate of jam-topped bagel chips, I happily accepted a few samples.
Each tasted heavenly.
Afterward, Don and I purchased four jars ($4.49/125 mL jar) from the Ottawa Bagel Shop for my mom’s birthday (she likes jam too) and we asked Chef Sunderland if he would sit for an interview by e-mail. Graciously, he did.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to making jam?
As stated on our website, “The principal of michaelsdolce is every food has its own identity, and creativity enables to bring out the best that food can offer.” So, I strive to bring out the genuine flavour of each ingredient and harmonize their combinations. I’m keen on using high quality foods and letting the fruits to be pronounced in our jams, not overly sweetened.
What inspires you and how do you come up with the flavour combinations for your jams?
I’m inspired from seeing, smelling, and tasting bright, luscious, fresh fruits and speaking with fruit vendors to learn the produce backgrounds. Ideas come from both classic parings and a creative culinary sense.
What’s your favorite fruit to work with? Why?
Raspberries. They are tart, juicy and rich in flavour for their size!
Is there a fruit you haven’t used yet in your jams, but want to experiment with?
Passion fruit or guava are the fruits which I would like to bring into a paring.
On your website, you mention expanding into chocolates and ice creams. When will we find a michaelsdolce truffle for instance?
I hope to produce ice cream and chocolates in 2011.
Many of your jams use local ingredients and seem seasonal. Do you plan to have any that will be offered year round?
We plan to offer Apple & Cinnamon, Cranberry & Apricot, Fig & Orange, Kiwi & Lime, Mango & Ginger, and Orange & Ginger for year around. We attempt to do so for other flavours that are currently made with local produce.
The reason why I use local fruits when possible is because they taste better in the season and closer to home, taking advantage of the flavours at their peak. I’ll make as much reserve of seasonal jams as I can, and hopefully it will last for some time. After running out of these, then I may use fruits available at that time. So, people still can enjoy a selection of michaelsdolce jams.
Can we ask what is your best selling jam to date?
Strawberry & Balsamic!
Thank you Chef Sunderland for your time. We look forward to discovering more of your delicious treats in our local shops!
Don! I’m out of jam. We only have one jar of micahaelsdolce’s strawberry balsamic left!
Update: Should point out, on our way out from the Ottawa Bagel Shop that day, we discovered michaelsdolce strawberry balsamic was so good people were eating the jam straight from the jar after purchase.
Ottawa Bagel Shop
1321 Wellington Street