Christmas Cakes & Yuzu: Behind-the-Scenes with June Taylor
June Taylor Jam
The first time I was introduced to June Taylor Jam was while visiting the cheese counter at the Pasta Shop, tasting slices of Bayley Hazen and sampling perhaps three too many spoonfuls of triple creme. Out of the blue, a wheel so perfectly crafted and unique it could only be described as artisan caught my eye. I asked for a taste.
The cheese had a rind that looked like the caramelized surface of a creme brulée, a smooth and pale white paste, and a flavor as joyful as a ballet studio full four year-olds spinning in pink tutus.
Made by Soyoung Scanlan, the "soloist at Andante Dairy", the goat's milk cheese was Tomme Dolce, and it was washed with a mixture of brandy and June Taylor's plum conserve. Never before had I tasted a cheese washed with preserves. I left the shop with the cheese, and three jars of June Taylor's jams that lasted about, oh, a week. I was enamored.
So when recently given the chance to interview June and visit her Still Room, I jumped on it. I felt like those aforementioned happy, spinning ballerinas. This is a photo diary of the day I visited June. She was working on her Christmas cakes, for which she dries three different grapes and then soaks them, plums, currants, and navel, yuzu, and lemon peel in port for weeks before baking. She also hand-paints the cake wrappers before sending them off to be letter-pressed. Seriously. Her and her team also hand-label every single jar of preserves.
One thing that separates June Taylor's preserves from others on the market is how nuanced they are. Though packed full of flavor, they're deliberate, never overwhelming, and taste like the season from which the preserved organic fruit comes (some of my favorites are her Red Cloud Apricot & White Sage Conserve, Three Fruit Marmalade, and Sonoma Bay and Rose Geranium Syrup). Her creations and craftsmanship have earned her a cult following from Berkeley to Japan.
As June, who once planned an entire two-week London vacation to visit the British Library to browse centuries-old cookbooks of her Englishmen, puts it, "the more you dig back and deeply respect what they did, the more it affects our modern age."
In England, they foraged berries, herbs and fruit from hedgerows to make jams and sloe gin. Now, June breaks branches of from Cypress trees around Berkeley's aquatic park on walks to make her flavored syrups. By collecting and preserving, June honors seasons, flavors, tradition, and as she puts it, "re-introduces the forgotten."
And did I mention that she likes cheese? it's true.
She assuaged my dairy obsession by playing pairings with me. In a future post I'll reveal some of her favorite cheese and preserves combinations.
Since June I got along and well as cheese and her damson plum conserves, I'm also thrilled to announce that we're going to teach a pairings class together.
Date and time to be determined, and announced here shortly.
Thank you, June for letting me visit.