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Brining for you

Bob likes to explore local markets and buy things he's never tasted or even heard of, all in the name of science. It's been a banner season for exciting new vendors to Detroit's Eastern Market: The Brinery from Ann Arbor is as much to the sour end of the scale as Slow Jams is to sweet. Brine-master Dave has honed naturally fermented pickle perfection from an alluring array of Michigan-centric ingredients that are sure to please many a mouth. (Aside: I should get an award for that awesome alliteration.) The first thing most eaters know of fermented foodstuffs, even if they don't realize it is Kimchi. Surprise, gang - Kimchi is rotted cabbage, hot peppers and when you're eating the hard core authentic stuff, anchovies or oysters.  The Brinery currently offers two varieties of Kimchi, one with the fish and one without, however the 'with' is being phased out, since the fermented fish is a difficult ingredient to source as locally grown/produced. I've been cleaning a jar of 'with' since I met Dave a few weeks ago. The Kimchi is tart, with the right heat level to warm the mouth without an obnoxious after-burn. (I'm not a hot head, despite my collection of chile pepper based sauces and ingredients) The texture an ideal ratio of crunch to squish and as you can see in the photo, the color is a beautiful fiery orange that can really play a great contrast to many dishes for you plate artists.   Full disclosure: my grandparents tell me I've more polish heritage than anything else. To that end, I've been eating and enjoying sauerkraut my whole life. I approached Storm Cloud Zapper with the highest scrutiny. As with all of The Brinery's products, this european take on rotted cabbage is naturally fermented and naturally colored with all Michigan sourced ingredients. (Dave takes "Made in Michigan" VERY seriously.) This kraut lives up to it's label. It's bright, tart flavors, excellent texture and the striking purple made this my immediate go-to kraut for any meal. This is how kraut should be. If you've traditionally disliked the stuff, swing by The Brinery booth and give it another try, because this is the one that can sway you.     Last on this week's review is a jar of pickles. Detroit, the McClure brothers didn't invent pickling. It's time you knew. In this particular jar The Brinery saw fit to naturally ferment Michigan carrots, garlic and hot peppers. The result: WOW. A full on frontal assault against the ho-hum of the average dill pickle. The pleasing snap and subtle sweetness of a good winter carrot coupled with an undeniable tang of fermentation, matched with a garlic and pepper heat that will definitely put a little sweat on the brows of milder mouths while keeping the hot heads happy as well. This jar was the first to empty. Like all of The Brinery's products, the presentation worthiness of this pickle is top shelf. The three beauties pictured in this article are indicative of Dave's entire product line: everything looks as good as it tastes and tastes as good as it looks. Find The Brinery products at Detroit's Eastern Market, Ann Arbor Farmer's Market and various groceries in Ann Arbor and beyond. See their Web and Facebook pages for more info. -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Getting into quite a jam

  Slow Jams arrived onto the Eastern Market scene in Detroit last month with an awesome name and a tremendous product line to match. Jams in both traditional and refreshingly new flavors, sure to compliment any application from Sunday morning breakfast to Friday evening's cocktail. Disclaimer: my usual condiment cravings lean towards things based firmly in the tomato paste, fish sauce and chili pepper world, so it is with great delight that I have such high praise to deliver in regards to what I had previously regarded as a category of foods best left to my grandmother. This is a very personal product every step of the way. Made by hand in small batches and sold at markets around the Metro Area by the ladies producing it in their weekly "Jam Sessions", this is as close as one can get to a product without picking the fruit and doing the process themselves. Betsy, Shannon and Christina are creating something that is definitely worth eating. I picked up three  jars during my visit to the Slow Jams Jam Stand on their inaugural Saturday in November  which I felt would represent a good cross section of the product line based on old standards and newer flavors I'd experienced elsewhere as well as something totally new to me in the world of Jam. The goods: Raspberry Basil - I use Raspberry as a barometer for jams and jellies the same way I use Sweet & Sour chicken to judge the caliber of a Chinese take-out joint. If you can't do anything good with Raspberries, you'll be dismissed rather quickly. (Why not grape? While certainly the most common in western culture, I simply don't care for it.) This is indeed a very good Raspberry. The Basil is a supporting player here, subtly rounding out the fruit without every truly making an appearance from the background. It's a good Jam. Lots of chunks of fruit provide texture to go with the beautiful dark red color and no-mistake about it Raspberry flavor. My toast was happy and so was I - they passed the litmus test and I boldly moved on to the next jar, for science!   Sweet Pepper - I've had pepper based jams in the past and while unique, none of them ever had been more than a novelty. Novelty is not a god repeat business strategy. I was very pleased to find a sweet jam base which carried with it a warm savory flavor and ever so slight amount of heat on the edge. There is a great texture here as well as the occasional hint of green from the peppers which tastes like a warm summer day. I'll out myself right now: the Sweet Pepper jam is my favorite. I ate the whole damn jar in two days. On the second day I didn't even have crackers or any other kind of carrier, I ate it with a spoon. It's that good. I ended up buying more the next week. I even went so far as to buy a pepper jam from another local vendor and was disappointed when it paled in comparison to Slow Jam's version. If you only ever muster up the courage to step outside of the traditional Jam box once,  Sweet Pepper is the Jam to do it with.   Tomato & Basil -Never once has anyone uttered the words Tomato, Basil and JAM together in a sentence to me before. It was the double-take moment. Like.. Spaghetti sauce? What the heck is this? A totally new food concept for me, which is immediately followed by acquisition. That's how I roll, gang and I'm rarely disappointed.  Slow Jam's Tomato & Basil jam is no exception. A very good balance of savory and sweet with this jam. Like it's Raspberry inspired cousin above, the basil here is not a prominent player, but stays back to provide a familiar but subtle supporting character. I'll reassure you that there is no essence of spaghetti sauce here. This is tomato in an unfamiliar way - the acidic nature is completely removed. This is Tomato if tomato were every day sweet as watermelon. Like the other two (and I suspect ALL Slow Jams jam) the texture here is every bit as fantastic as the flavor.  

I mentioned using Jam in a cocktail earlier and like any article here on the Rogue Estate, I write from experience. I used a dollop of Raspberry Slow Jams Jam in a concoction involving The Rogue Estate's neighbor Valentine Vodka and club soda. The Jam added flavor and sugar in same way one would with a classic shrub, without the fuss.

Slow Jams maintains tastings at their sales table, with featured jams of the week available for your "try before you buy" enjoyment. Each week you will find special flavors available based on fruits available and other seasonal factors. I've yet to try anything that wasn't top notch delicious. With such a good track record, I may even be persuaded to give that old standard Grape another try. Slow Jams can be found on both Facebook and Blogspot for more information including recipes and purchase locations. -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.