By Kathy Mak
In an ideal world, we’d probably all like to make our own preserves; but most of us don’t have the time or the talent. Preserving food requires patience and practice. Making exquisite artisan preserves is an art form, which Geneviève Blanchet has mastered. A cut above ordinary homemade spreads, her handcrafted preserves uniquely capture the vibrant fruit flavours of the seasons by using traditional techniques blended with a holistic approach, wholesome values, and some French flare. When you understand her passion for preserves, you can fully appreciate why so many of us have upgraded our pantry with her remarkable jams, jellies and marmalades.
Designing and creating interesting preserves come naturally to Geneviève. Influenced by nature and neighbours that lived off the land in the Quebec countryside, she learned to forage and use healthy ingredients, as well as make jams, at a young age. An early interest in medicinal plants and botanicals led to her practice as a registered Holistic Nutritionist and Traditional Herbalist. Then, four years ago, she had an epiphany and refashioned herself to specialize in making artisanal preserves. Now based in Burnaby and Vancouver, her company is called Le Meadow’s Pantry.
Geneviève’s process is focused firstly on making delicious, superior products inspired by natural and local ingredients (organic when possible) that are mostly sourced from the Fraser Valley. To preserve the vibrancy of the fruit, her products are personally handmade in small batches using French cooper pans (1 pan makes about 12 jars). Hand-cut fruits are cooked in smaller amounts and a shorter timeframe to maximize the fresh taste, nutritional value and structure. Sweetness may be enhanced with pure cane sugar or honey in conservative amounts, while hand-pressed lemon juice is added as a preservative. The fruits of her labour are these beautifully handcrafted, honest-to-goodness preserves that offer more than just a heavenly taste experience.
The name of her business – Le Meadow’s Pantry – comes from the time when Geneviève lived next to a dreamy meadow on Meadow’s Road in Pemberton. It was a place that greatly inspired her and she hopes that her comforting flavours can also create a happy sense of place and time for everyone. It’s no surprise then that she not only loves making preserves but believes that the joy in cooking creates better products. Think “blissful spring morning” when you try the Orange Blossom Marmalade. Her coveted “Dandelion Confit” is certain to transport you to a quiet mountain meadow where Geneviève is happily picking wild dandelions during the spring. For this special jelly, she follows a yearly French tradition to pick 365 flowers in celebration of 365 suns that have risen and set since the previous spring. From these flowers, only a limited batch of 5-8 jars can be produced; therefore, interested foodies should follow Le Meadow’s Pantry for possible release dates.
Depending on the time of year, the collection of Le Meadow’s Pantry preserves covers a range of 60+ varieties. While there are some jellies, chutneys, and fruit butter, the majority of her work is jams and marmalades made with pleasing combinations and whimsical names. How could you not love “Orange Vanilla Dream”, “Sunshine In A Jar” or “Midnight Candy”? When fresh herbs are used to complement fruits, they come from Geneviève’s own garden. And, a subtle amount of vodka, gin, vanilla extract or bitters, made from local distilleries, can be found in a few of the preserves, like “Orange Elixir” or “Lemon & Vodka.”
Once you’ve tasted Geneviève’s preserves, it’s easy to understand why her loyal and growing fan base return for more products. She is an artisan with a penchant for creating harmony with an eclectic mix of ingredients. One part is imagination and the other part is intuition, which Geneviève honed in her holistic training. The healthy principles of the 5 Element theory, a Chinese philosophy, is her guide to promoting balance in the body be eating food associated with different types of energy – wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The connection between the seasons, food and body can make a difference. For instance, preserves with mint can provide a cooling affect in the summer whereas cardamom could be warming in the winter.
Because of their superior quality and luscious taste, you’d be inclined to lick these preserved gems off the spoon. But, beyond the breakfast table, her products are even better as an accent flavour to accompany a range of sweet to savoury foods. For an assortment of pairing tips, the website for Le Meadow’s Pantry is full of inspiring ideas to liven up any meal, like Duck Confit matched with “Claire de Lune” jam (made from organic pears, maple syrup and sage)! And for dessert, try Geneviève’s Orange Rice Pudding recipe (provided here) with one of her thick cut orange marmalades.
Le Meadow’s Pantry is foremost about Geneviève’s passion for preserves and spreading the love of seasonal flavours from fruits and other healing plants. You can meet Geneviève and sample her fine products at various Farmers Markets and Fairs around Vancouver. Or, find a selection of her preserves in a range of stores throughout Metro Vancouver, B.C. and Canada.