There are few things on a gustatory level more exciting than the nuanced layers of flavors in a well-made, small-batch jam. Sure, everyone is familiar with those big, punchy, and powerful base flavors of jams, like a strawberry jam bursting at the seams with sweet sugary berry-ness or a grape jam with those deep, dark, reverberating grape notes. On some level, this flavor-forward heavy-handedness makes sense. Jams are meant for other things, be it toast, biscuits, or whatever.
What the jams of WOO Garden, made by San Jose maker Naomi Woo, seem to postulate is: perhaps a jam could be so good it could stand alone. Take for instance one of WOO Garden’s best-selling flavors and the jam Woo is most proud of: DAWN. DAWN is a pineapple-based jam, which alone could serve as a satisfying complement to anything. What takes DAWN to another level is the complexity Woo introduces into that base pineapple flavor. Woo soaks the pineapples in orange juice, resulting in a softer, sweeter pineapple flavor without losing its signature acidity. From there, quite brilliantly, Woo adds Grand Marnier liqueur, giving a unique shape to the sweetness—it’s sweet, but its sweetness has dimension to it, an ineffable sense of tastiness and likability. Overall, with DAWN, people get something to savor, something they can let linger on their palates on its very own, tingling with tropical flavors and singing with citrus notes, but transmogrified into something uniquely its own.
“I simply want to create a little something that people would look forward to and be happy to enjoy when living their everyday life,” Woo says. While such a statement does well to represent Woo’s humble and hard-working personality, it perhaps undersells the degree of beauty and art found in her delicious jams, which can take anywhere from three to six months to develop and perfect. The time and patience spent perfecting these flavors pays off, though, as a WOO Garden jam never fails to deliver on the flavors promised on its labels. In turn, this allows people to take leaps of faith in trying new flavors in WOO Garden’s seasonally changing and ever-expanding shop of small-batch jams, inspiring people to follow along on her journey as she explores newer and greater flavors.
WOO Garden can be found at the San Jose Craft Holiday Fair on December 16–17, 2017.
Written by Kevin Biggers of SJMADE
Photography by Arabela Espinoza