Blue Chair Fruit FAQ’s

General Questions

What is the significance of the name Blue Chair Fruit? To quote from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook: “Blue Chair represents the nostalgic kitchen, brimming with comforting warmth and enticing smells and tastes. It is a natural extension of the farm and garden, a dynamic playground where there is always something new and delicious in season…”

Where are you located? May I visit? We are fortunate to rent our cooking facilities from Grace Street Catering. Our kitchen is housed in a beautiful turn-of-the-century streetcar garage at 47th St and Martin Luther king in North Oakland. We love meeting new Blue Chair Fruit fans; the best place to say hello is at our farmers' markets, where you can quiz us about jam to your heart’s content and taste a changing weekly selection of our flavors. We're also happy to arrange a meeting; we ask that you email us at info@bluechairfruit.com or call us at 510-654-BLUE to set up a time, as we sometimes keep odd hours and would hate to miss you!

How can I buy your jam? What if I don't want to order online? The best way to purchase our jam is through our website or, if you live in the SF Bay Area, at one of our farmers' markets. We also have an ever-expanding list of retail locations across the country! You can also order over the phone by calling 510 654 BLUE. If ordering by phone, please take a moment first to peruse our online store and make your flavor selections. We are always happy to answer any questions you might have.

I just made jam and now have some jam-making questions. Can you help? We are so glad that you are making jam! We strongly recommend The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook as a resource, as it contains a wealth of information on how to successfully make jam and marmalade. While nothing makes us happier than perfect jam, it is difficult for us to diagnose jam problems unless we are making jam with you – there are so many variables in the process that can change your outcome! Our main recommendations are to use perfectly ripe fruit, make sure your sugar-fruit ratio is correct, and use a high-quality non-reactive pan (preferably a copper jam pan) with a wide surface area. We also are here to encourage you to try again –you can learn as much from a bummer batch of jam as from a success! If you would like to hone your jam- or marmalade-making skills, we highly suggest taking a class with Rachel!

I want Rachel to teach me to make jam! Awesome! We think Rachel is a great teacher. Rachel currently teaches regular classes at our kitchens in North Oakland, and has an ever-expanding schedule of classes in other parts of the country. We are currently between seasons, but please check back on our Oakland class schedule or our national class schedule -- we may be working on something in the future! We're also open to suggestions on Rachel's next jam-making getaway, especially if you have a large group of friends who would be interested in taking Rachel's class!

The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook Questions

Can I alter the recipes in The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook? Of course! We are nothing if not experimental. Hopefully The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook has inspired you to play around with your favorite fruits and new flavor combinations. We can't guarantee success if the fruit-to-sugar ratios are altered dramatically, but the best way to make your perfect jam is to give it a shot.

I love the [insert flavor] jam you made this year. Why isn't the recipe for it in the cookbook? Rachel’s goal in the cookbook was to show the widest possible array of fruits, flavors, and techniques – and to cover all twelve months of the year. Because we make new flavors each year, not all of our flavors made it into the book!

Is processing jars in the oven really safe? What if that scares me? We have had great success processing jars in the oven. The good news about jam is that its high concentrations of sugar and acid render it very inhospitable to harmful microorganisms. If oven processing makes you uncomfortable, you can certainly make any recipe in The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook using a water bath or other processing technique of your choice. Any new jars you purchase should come with manufacturer's instructions for water bath processing. You can find in-depth instructions for oven processing in The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook.

Why copper pans? Are they safe? Where can I buy them? Is there a particular brand? We love our Mauviel copper preserving pans for many reasons: Their shape is perfect for quick moisture evaporation and prevents boiling over, copper provides even heat distribution and doesn’t react with the fruit-sugar mixture, and many people (including us) believe that the copper helps enhance the flavor of the jam. Copper preserving pans are absolutely safe for cooking jam. The key to using a copper pan is to put the fruit in it only after the fruit has been combined with sugar. The high concentration of sugar in the mixture prevents the fruit from reacting with the copper. Putting fruit in the pan on its own will cause the fruit to react with the copper and can be dangerous. We have made thousands of jars in our copper pans, and the results are excellent – so excellent that we decided to start carrying the pans! To purchase your very own copper jam pan, please click here.

Product Questions

Do you use organic fruit? Using local, sustainably farmed fruit is one of our top priorities, and nearly all our preserves are made using such fruit. Almost all of our fruit is either wild, sustainably farmed without organic certification, or certified organic. We use non-organic fruit only in very exceptional circumstances – for example, during certain times of year when organic lemons are unavailable, we may use non-organic lemons for juice. This is ultimately a very small component of our preserves.

What farms supply your fruit? Are they local? We source our produce directly from the best local growers in the SF Bay Area. Using local fruit is a big priority for us – for example, we won't sell pineapple jam because there are absolutely no local pineapple growers.

Why is your jam so expensive? We feel strongly that $12 a jar is consistent with both the quality of our product and with the labor involved to produce such quality. Jam and marmalade making is an expensive and labor-intensive process; most jars take a minimum of three days to produce! We use only the best of the best of locally grown fruit and are one of the very few specialty jam companies to use only organic sugar. We think of our jams as comparable to an artisanal cheese or a fine wine – the price point may be higher than the everyday product, but the difference shines in the end result!

How is the jam made? We make our jams from the highest-quality local and organic fruit. While we do produce larger quantities of some of our more popular preserves, our preserves are all made in tiny batches in copper preserving pans. Each pan produces about a dozen jars at a time. These tiny batches are a large part of how we achieve such delicious results: smaller batches mean quicker moisture evaporation, which in turn means that the bright flavors of the fruit itself are fully present in the final product.

How much sugar is in each jar? Why do you use sugar? What kind of sugar do you use? Why don't you use honey/agave/Splenda/none? We use sugar in our preserves because we believe it gives the best results. Sugar does for sweet foods what salt does for savory, helping each flavor announce itself (believe us, cooked fruit on its own doesn't taste that exciting!). While we do not have nutritional data for each individual flavor, marmalades generally contain more sugar than jams. Although jam is definitely not a low-sugar food, our jams never taste sugary; we are focused on a perfect flavor balance that accentuates the natural flavor of the fruit itself.

What is the best way to store my jam? Once opened, how long can I expect it to stay delicious? You should keep your unopened jar of jam in a cool place out of direct sunlight; each jar has an expiration date on it. We recommend keeping open jars in the refrigerator so you can enjoy them for as long as possible; take them out of the fridge shortly before you intend to eat them. Most flavors, once opened, will stay good in the fridge for at least two to three months – sugar really is a wonderful natural preservative!

What ways other than toast can I enjoy your jam? Ooh, this is one of our specialties! Toast is only the beginning of enjoying preserves, although as our Toast Posts show, there are indeed many wonderful toast + jam combinations. We love stirring jam into yogurt, pairing it with scones at teatime, or spooning it over oatmeal. Fig and tomato jams are especially delicious with cheese or on a sandwich. Marmalades are a sophisticated addition to teatime as well; you can also add them to ice cream or use them as a glaze for savory meat dishes. Really, the possibilities are endless, and if all else fails you can always enjoy your jam straight out of the jar with a spoon!

Why don't you have my favorite flavor? Do you make anything spicy/savory? As a result of our focus on local fruit, we occasionally find ourselves unable to make some of our favorite flavors – if the weather one year wipes out most of a local crop, for example, we are left without enough fruit to make jam. Some delicious fruits are also not grown locally, and using local and organic fruit is a big priority for us. We don’t make any truly savory preserves, as our focus is on making really stellar fruit-driven jams and marmalades; we do, however, play around with subtly spicy or savory accents to our favorite fruits.

Why do you run out of flavors sometimes? Our production of a given flavor is limited by the time that fruit is in season and by the sheer amount of time it takes to make our preserves. We always try to make as much as we can, but our  most popular flavors sell out very quickly! We think that part of the appeal of Blue Chair Fruit is that we offer a wide variety of flavors, some of which we make in very small batches – each flavor ends up being something of a collector's item. You are always welcome to inquire about your favorite flavor, and we are happy to suggest another flavor that we think will make you similarly happy.

How do I open my jar of jam? The jars can occasionally be tough to open! We forcefully tap the edge of the lid on a counter top or the ground – denting the lid helps break the seal so that it can be opened easily. If your lid is stubborn after your jam has been in the refrigerator, we recommend running hot water over the lid to help dissolve residual stickiness and help the lid expand just a bit.

Do you use commercial pectin in your jam? Why not? Generally, we avoid commercial pectin. We find the flavor and texture of our preserves much more to our liking when we rely on the natural pectin in the fruit itself to make the jam cohesive. The only time we use pectin is when we are using a fruit that has next to no naturally occurring pectin, such as melons.

Do your preserves contain nuts? Some of our jams and marmalades do contain almond extract for flavor. We always explicitly note any nuts or nut extracts in our flavor descriptions. If your allergy is severe, please note that all our preserves are processed in a facility that handles nuts.

Are your preserves gluten-free? Are there gluten-free ways to enjoy your jams? Yes! Our preserves are gluten-free, although they are processed in a facility that handles products that contain gluten. All of our preserves contain only fruit, organic cane sugar, lemon juice, and small amounts of additional flavorings such as spices, liqueurs, or extracts. We have found that our preserves are a delicious accompaniment to many gluten-free foods, including oatmeal, yogurt, cheese, meat, and ice cream! We're always thinking of new ways to enjoy jam, and would love to hear your favorite gluten-free jam treat!

Do your preserves contain alcohol? We do frequently use liqueurs to accentuate different flavors in our preserves. These liqueurs are added at the end of the jam-making process when the preserves are very hot, so most of the alcohol content evaporates out and the final product contains little to no alcohol. If you have questions about our addition of liqueur/liquor in a particular flavor, please feel free to contact us at info@bluechairfruit.com or 510 654 BLUE.

Order Questions

After my online order is placed, when should I expect my jam? Once your order is placed, you can expect it to be processed within 1-2 business days. We are unable to process orders over the weekend. You will receive an email notifying you when your order has shipped. We have multiple shipping options: FedEx Ground, which takes 2-8 business days; USPS Priority, which takes 2-3 days; and other speedier FedEx Express options. All Express orders received by 3pm Monday through Thursday will be processed that same day.

To get the most bang for my buck, how many jars should I order at once? Our jars ship as either: single jars, a set of 2 jars, a set of 3-6 jars, and larger orders. Our calculations show that 4 jars and above provides the lowest shipping cost per individual jar.

If I don't like a flavor, can I return it to you? Sadly, we are unable to accept returns on any of our products. However, if a jam is not to your liking, feel free to contact us – we make such a wide variety of flavors that we are sure we can find the perfect jam for your next order!

Other Questions

How do I receive updates on BCF happenings? There are a few options! We recommend that you sign up for our mailing list to receive our monthly newsletter. You can also follow us on Twitter or "Like" us on Facebook. And, of course, the BCF blog is always a great way to read about new happenings and get new ideas for enjoying your jam!

What class should I take? Our Jam 101 and Marmalade 101 classes are a great introduction to jam and marmalade making, covering the different aspects of the process in order to help you create your most perfect jams and marmalades. Students who already feel comfortable with the preserving process may want to sign up for one of our more advanced classes, which build on our intro classes by focusing more on the mechanics of combining different fruits and incorporating additional flavorings.

I am a retailer and I'd like to sell your jam. Great! Please contact Erin, our Wholesale Manager, using the contact form to the right for more information. She can tell you everything you need to know about our wholesale terms, as well as a list of flavors that are currently available to our wholesale clients (which may differ from flavors available through our website).

Why can't I bring my son/daughter to your class? Our classes are taught in a commercial kitchen space where the risk of injury to a small child is high. For liability purposes, we cannot allow students younger than 18 years of age in class.

What should I do with these adorable empty jars? We love re-using our jars at home in a number of ways: storing spices, mixing up a quick vinaigrette, or making our own little yogurt cup on the go. If you live in the SF Bay Area, please note that we are happy to take back your empty jars at any of our farmers' market stands; we will give you a special jar-return stamp card. After stamps punches, you will be eligible for a free jar of jam!