Thursday, March 7, 2013

Culinary Alumna Spreads Love of Handcrafted Local Jams

The idea for BigSpoon Jam was hatched at Tina Fogall’s first class through Bastyr University, when she was introduced to the small-batch, local jams she learned to love and to share.

Bastyr alumna Tina Fogall, BS ('11), owns BigSpoon Jam.
Bastyr alumna Tina Fogall, BS ('11), owns BigSpoon Jam.

As a child, Tina Fogall, BS ('11), disliked jelly so much that she scraped it off her peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich every day.

But at her first Bastyr University class, the weeklong Quillisascut Culinary Farm Experience in Eastern Washington, she realized what she’d been missing out on her whole life.

“The first jam I ever made was at Quillisascut,” Fogall says of the educational farm that teaches students how to live a truly farm-to-table existence, sowing seeds, harvesting fresh greens for their salads and making cheese with fresh goat’s milk.

“We went out and picked the apricots and they were still warm from the tree,” she says. “It was such an enlightening experience.”

Fogall suddenly understood that jam was supposed to taste like, well, the fruit on the label. She fell so hard for the jams, jellies, marmalades and other fruit spreads she had spent so long ignoring, she had no other choice than to spread the love.

And the idea for her company BigSpoon Jam was hatched.

Marmalade in a stockpot.Not Your Average Jam

After Fogall returned from Quillisascut Farm, she narrowed the focus of her nutrition degree to pursue Bastyr’s Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Culinary Arts, a natural fit that put to use her years of experience in the restaurant industry and her newfound passion for jam.

She also started making jam — loads of it. That first season, she made so many batches that she still has many of those jars stored away.

“You can only give away so much jam to friends and family,” Fogall says.

During the two-year culinary program, she continued forming ideas for BigSpoon Jam, creating a formal business plan in Bastyr’s Business of Cooking class. After graduating in June 2011, Fogall used that plan as a model and started professionally producing jams. By the end of the summer, she was selling them at area farmers markets.

It quickly became a full-time job and then some. Fogall gained a following not only for using local fruits and honey, but also for the unique flavor combinations she created by experimenting both at home and through Bastyr’s culinary program.

BigSpoon flavors range from basic spreads with a twist, like Crabapple Jelly, Wild Huckleberry, and Strawberry Vanilla Bean and Lemon, to unique combinations that make your taste buds perk up in curiosity: Tea Smoked Pear Preserves, Raspberry and Rose, and Cardamom and Calvados Apple Butter.

 “I feel like people have come to depend on me to provide them with jam,” Fogall says. “It’s very rewarding.”

“Find Something You Love”

Because Fogall launched Big Spoon Jams right after graduating, she developed the business on a shoestring budget, doing all of the marketing, design and packaging herself, in addition to making all of the jams.

But her one-woman show already has plenty of reach, with BigSpoon Jam now available around the Puget Sound at area farmers markets as well as specialty stores, including Sugarpill, Savour Specialty Foods, the Mt. Townsend Creamery tasting room at Pike Place Market, Deru Marketing and Catering and even the Bastyr University Dining Commons.

Citrus MarmaladeFogall also teaches classes on jam-making at Deru, the commercial kitchen in Kirkland where she makes her products. She recently guest lectured at Bastyr’s Chef’s Pantry 2 class, where she taught students in the University's whole-food nutrition kitchen how to make Citrus Marmalade with their choice of Cara Cara oranges, Meyer lemons or blood oranges.

Inspired by some of the unique blends Fogall brought to class, the students followed in her footsteps by creating their own flavor combinations. Marmalades created and shared in class included Meyer lemon with lavender and rum; blood orange with bay leaf, thyme and rum; and Cara Cara orange brandy with cinnamon, bay leaf and star anise.

“You’ve been a really big inspiration to me,” Randi Dodson, also in the culinary arts program, says to Fogall during a break in class. “I love seeing your jams at the farmers markets.”

Likewise, Fogall is inspired by her fellow culinary graduates, and she has high hopes that students such as Dodson will have no problem similarly following their dreams.

“Find something you love and follow it,” she says to students nearing graduation. “If you do that, somehow it’ll work out.”

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