Saturday, March 26, 2011

Confituras: Heaven When Fresh Meets Art

Shopping Austin's farmer's market is all about getting out of our heads and into our senses - selecting whatever seasonal goodness seduces us. Today it was artisan-crafted fig and orange chutney by Stephanie McClenny, chef-owner of confituras.

This is what happens when art meets fresh, seasonal, sustainable ingredients - heaven!

I only regret that you can't taste it right here, right now. Read on anyway. Maybe it will get your taste buds watering.

Confituras fig and orange chutney combines organic dried mission figs and organic Valencia oranges from G & S groves in McAllen, Texas with onion, garlic, fresh ginger and spices. Used sparingly as a sidekick to spring lamb, pork roast, beef tenderloin, cheese platters and curries.

What makes these artisan-crafted preserves, jams and chutney superior to even the premium supermarket selections?

First, the ingredients.

Stephanie uses only fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable ingredients. The fruit is vine-ripened rather than a homogenized bulletproof variety that is picked before its time and packaged to withstand long-distance shipping and first in-first out computerized inventory systems.

Next, the technique.

She adheres to tried-and-true canning techniques that made my grandmother's preserves so memorable.

Hold up a jar to the light; you see whole fruit not an overcooked mash. Taste it; it's bursting with fruit flavor enhanced with spices, not saturated in sugar.

Then, the batch size.

Stephanie never cooks more than 10 pounds of fruit in a batch. This produces about a dozen jars. So every batch will be both the same and slightly different depending on the local growing conditions and whether this is first of the season fruit or the trailing edge.

Finally, the sheer artistry of it.

Anyone who can read a recipe can cook. But there's a certain savoir faire that a cook develops over a lifetime of loving to prepare food - a feel for flavor, texture, timing that makes each dish uniquely one's own. In this confituras is unmatched.

Stephanie McClenny Texas Fig Preserves recently won the 2011 Good Food Award in San Francisco and the 2011 Local Hero Award for best new artisan by Edible Austin voters.

Buy confituras at Barton Creek Farmer's Market, SFC Farmer's Market Downtown, Antonelli's Cheese Shop, Breed & Company, Con' Olio Oils & Vinegars, La Boite, Royal Blue Grocery, Whip In or through her website for small batch, locally sourced jams, jellies, preserves.

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