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For the love of jam

Menlo Park woman preserves fruit at French-style home jam business

Lin Howery runs a jam-making business, J'aime Confiture, out of her Menlo Park home. Photo taken Oct. 7 by Sammy Dallal.

When Lin Howery was growing up, her family never bought jam -- they always made it, she said. Now, the Menlo Park resident is hoping you'll buy hers.

Owner of the gourmet jam business J'aime Confiture, the Sharon Heights resident said she could never find the right jam in the market.

"It was always too sweet," she said. "I prefer that my kids get something healthier."

The hobby turned into a business idea three years ago as Howery began giving out a tomato jam she makes to her friends. It wasn't something that could be found easily outside of gourmet food shops, and a few friends recommended that she make some to sell, she said.

So in 2016, she and a friend approached the Filoli Historic House and Garden in Woodside about the possibility of selling jam at its holiday garden show. Filoli offered to sell her wares even sooner at one of its fall events, so they sprang to work creating a business and working with the San Mateo County health department to meet all the requirements to do so.

In less than an hour at the fall Filoli event, Howery said, the 60 jars she'd brought had sold out.

"We thought, 'OK, we have a business then,'" she said.

Later on, a friend put in an order for corporate gifts, which expanded the business further, she added.

This year, she's expanding with events and placement in shops such as Filoli gift shop and a couple of boutiques in San Francisco, she said. She recently got a permit to sell the jams in stores and is hoping to have them available by the holiday season.

The business name, she explained, incorporates some clever wordplay. In French, "j'aime confiture" means "I love jam." The word "jam" itself has an apocryphal French etymology story. As Howery tells it, during the 13th century, the French brought jam to England. In the royal court, French teachers would reward their students with jam, the candy of the day, to which the kids would say, "j'aime."

With a cottage food operations permit, Howery uses her home kitchen for all of her preserving work.

"It's a little challenging to have a business at home," she admitted, adding, "At the moment it's worked for me. ... managing my time like this is best in my situation (as a mother)."

Her kids' favorite flavor? Strawberry.

"You can see the actual fruit in it," she said.

Contrary to what some believe, Howery said, jam is much more versatile than just being one of the two critical fillings of a PB&J sandwich. For instance, she uses her savory tomato jam as a salad dressing or condiment with steak or cold cuts.

She's developed uncommon jam flavors, such as kiwi lemon or cedrat (a citrus), asking friends for recommendations and hosting tasting events with samples to have them test her creations before they make their way to market.

Beyond the French business name, she incorporates French jam-making techniques, prioritizing high-quality fruits and skipping ingredients like pectin and preservatives. They're not overcooked, so they retain their body and color.

"There's no cheating. It's pure fruit and sugar," said her husband, Raf Howery.

Howery said she doesn't skimp on presentation in packing her jams either, focusing on elegant packaging. She generally offers 6-ounce jars topped with a trinket for between $18 and $25 each, as well as boxed sets.

The most popular jam is the chocolate raspberry flavor, followed by strawberry. She also tends to sell out of the persimmon orange flavor quickly.

More information about J'aime Confiture is available at jaimeconfiture.com.

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