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Speaking of new products at the Takoma Park Farmers Market, I was pleased to find Copper Pot Food Co. there, selling its award-winning line of jams and sauces. While pawing through chef Stefano Frigerio‘s offerings, I unearthed a jam that I hadn’t tried before: his Concord grape and grappa, which he apparently tried to Italianate by adding an “e” to the grape’s name. (See picture below.)
I’m told that the jam is actually one of Frigerio’s first on the market after he launched Copper Pot two years ago, but because of the Concord grape’s short season, the chef’s supplies are often low. He sells smaller jars of the stuff (4 oz vs. his usual 8 oz jars) every other week. I caught Copper Pot on a good week.
My first taste of the Concord-grappa jam produced that classic fish-gills feeling. You know, that tingling, slightly pleasurable, slightly unnerving sensation that you’ve suddenly grown gills on the side of your neck. Tartness does that to me sometimes, but I was surprised to encounter it in this little jar of jam.
I mean, I grew up with Smuckers, which has all the tartness of simple syrup.
Frigerio’s wife, business partner, and PR agent, Dusty Lockhart, tells me that the chef extracts that tartness during the cooking process. He cooks his overripe Concords with their skins on; the longer you cook the grapes with skin on, she informs me, the more tartness you create. Frigerio then presses the pulp out of the grape skins.
The technique produces a jam with far more complexity than a typical Concord product — a dark purple spread that almost redefines the Concord experience. Frigerio’s jam puts your palate on high alert with a jolt of tartness while allowing the sweetness to come in behind it and smooth things out. It’s a brilliant variation, and that’s not even factoring in the grappa, that piercing, high-alcohol Italian digestive that can burn like gasoline.
You don’t sense the grappa much at first, which to me is a blessing, but then at the end, you almost feel it more than taste it. It’s like this little tickle in the back of your throat, grappa’s alcohol burn reduced to a pleasing little sensation.
How much do I like this jam? I’m almost done with the jar already. The only problem is that Copper Pot won’t be back at the Takoma Park Farmers Market this spring. You’ll have to find this jam at its other markets, Dupont, Penn Quarter, the White House, 14th & U, Bloomingdale, and once a month at the H Street market.