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InSatiable, March 2012
InSatiable, March 2012
Harvest Song Artisanal Preserves
Harvest Song artisanal gourmet all-natural preserves originate in Armenia, a country whose flavors, recipes, and cuisine have existed for more than 18 centuries.
Harvest Song flavors are vibrant and delicious whether paired with cheese, spread atop bread or mixed into cocktails. The line-up includes sour cherry, apricot, wild black currant, fresh walnut, golden fig, peach, tea rose petal and wild strawberry.
To learn more, I recently chatted with Sylvia Tirakian, co-owner.
Insatiable: What distinguishes Harvest Song products?
Sylvia Tirakian: Harvest Song farms are situated up to 10,000 feet above sea level in the sleeping volcanic giant of Mt. Ararat, Armenia. The volcanic soil, direct sun, thin air, and surrounding spring waters give fruits growing in this region unparalleled succulent taste. We use fruits from peak harvest seasons. I work with the local farmers and artisan preserve makers and personally taste every batch. Our products have no pectin (unlike most preserves). Ours is just literally preserved fruit with some pure cane sugar and lemon juice--they are slowly simmered in small batches and allowed to thicken without use of any pectin. This method allows us to have more natural sugar from the fruits, which is less sweet and lower calories than ordinary jams and preserves.
I: How's business?
ST: The products have been on the market for four years and we've won a number of awards. I have a background in engineering but quit my well-paying job and now just follow this passion. I've been very lucky. The U.S. has gone through such a metamorphosis, there's such a curiosity about food--as an example, there are so many kinds of sea salts readily available these days! There is a curiosity about the great global kitchen.
I: Are Harvest Song preserves based on family recipes?
ST: Many people ask, but I don't have my mother's recipes. For hundreds of years people preserved leftover fruit at the end of harvest. I have seen my family make preserves and absolutely grew up in that, but I have not been given a single recipe. There's no family romance, the romance is about bringing back what used to be and creating artisan products and making artisan mainstream. We pay premium prices to our farmers and our artisan preserve makers to sustain how they work, their art and to maintain their pride. Even the colorful papers atop each jar are handmade, dyed using herbs and flowers. Everything is natural.
I: How do you ensure consistency year to year?
ST: We are harvest dependent. About 95 percent of people in this business get fruit from all over the world and just cook it. We are harvest dependent and use what we have ample supply of from this particular region of Armenia. Black currant is not even farmed, it grows wild and is picked from the mountains.
I: What flavors are most popular?
ST: Fresh walnut gets the most press. When you eat Harvest Song walnuts you'll see they're in the shell but that shell is not woody and hardened; we preserve green walnuts in natural syrup and in time they get even softer sitting in the sugar. The walnuts are fantastic in cheese pairings, especially Stilton. The New York Times ran a story about using the walnuts to garnish a Manhattan in lieu of a cherry.
I: How do you use the products?
ST: I love them over peanut butter or Greek yogurt and also in sophisticated cocktails and paired with most cheeses. Vanilla gelato is amazing with the rose petals or walnuts. But at the end of the day I'm putting it on a nice piece of toast with a cup of tea. I find it amazing.
I: Are new flavors in the works?
ST: No. Every year I go to Armenia during harvest; it's where I get my inspiration. Every batch that gets packed is tasted by me--I'm proud to say it's literally done by me. Every year harvest is different; sometimes it rains a lot more so consistency is very difficult. When consumers open a jar they'll find some chunky natural fruit fibers and those are the things that I focus on, the engineering side.
In the Atlanta area, Harvest Song products are available at Kroger.