Jam Session: Beau Bien Jams

Two enterprising women spread on the flavor with their locally derived preservatives — which they create and can themselves // Photographs by Paul Hitz

Noelle Lothamer, co-creator of the Beau Bien line of locally sourced preserves, calls canning “the new rock ’n’ roll.” “When I was younger, everyone was in bands,” she says. “Now they’re all making bitters and charcuterie and jam.”

After passage of the state’s Cottage Food Industry Law, making it legal in Michigan to produce and sell a limited amount of certain canned and baked goods, Lothamer and Molly O’Meara, who met through Detroit Gourmet Underground, decided to pour their hearts and nature’s bounty into canning jars. Although both have full-time day jobs, they were looking for a way to extend their love of cooking beyond the dinner table. Lothamer, who also writes and blogs about food at Simmer Down, says jam seemed an exciting, viable option.

O’Meara, a graphic designer by day, says, “I think we’re both drawn to it for its creative process and endless possibilities for experimentation, and you get a finished product in a relatively short period of time.” Beau Bien has become a favorite of fellow Detroit food entrepreneurs. Simply Suzanne Granola tapped Beau Bien to collaborate on a parfait; Corridor Sausage uses their plum cardamom as a charcuterie pairing, making Beau Bien the new darling on the local food front.

A sampling of their innovative flavors — tangy Strawberry Sichuan, Tart Cherry and Gooseberry, and Peach Vanilla Bourbon among them — explains the appeal. In an effort to elevate the common jam, sweet fruits are comingled with dense, earthy flavors. The consistency is a bit looser than what consumers might expect. It’s supple enough to slide around inside a tipped jar, but solid enough to cling to a cracker without running. Intended to accompany meat or cheese or top a simple Saltine, the rotating, seasonal flavors hit the sweet spot on the sweet-savory spectrum. “We both wanted to make jams that would pair well with savory foods,” O’Meara says. “They aren’t the jams we grew up with, but we knew we could make them delicious.”

A bonus to label-readers: Their products are all low sugar with natural pectin, and contain locally sourced fruit whenever possible, which means they gather seasonal fruit from local farmers at Eastern Market and do their own picking (including green apples they’re currently gathering in neighbors’ yards). Winter marmalades depend on fresh fruits sourced from as close to home as possible. “We try to stick to the East Coast — the greater regional food shed — as opposed to California or Washington State,” O’Meara says.

The duo is hoping to find a commercial kitchen that will allow them to sell in bulk and to local restaurants. In the meantime, the best way to get your hands on a jar is to follow their Facebook page, facebook.com/BeauBienFineFoods, to learn when and where they’ll be selling next or to get in touch for a direct sale.

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