Toss your preconceptions about jelly and jam out the window, and get ready to have your mind blown. I sure did when I tried White Grapefruit and Vanilla Bean Jelly from Slow Jams (tag line: “Jam for the People”) at the second installment of the San Francisco Underground Farmer’s Market. The jelly is a genre-defying cross between a bittersweet marmalade (but smooth with no rind chunks) and a sophisticated dessert topping (it’s liberally flecked with vanilla bean, and smells like a cupcake). I ate it on bread with almond butter for dinner, but I could see it edging out membrillo on a fancy cheese plate.

Slow Jams are made by Shakirah Simley, who learned to can and make jam when she moved to the Bay Area a year ago and discovered the abundance of beautiful produce. Her creations contain no artificial sweeteners or pectin, and are often innovative twists on old favorites. For instance, Smiley wrote in an email, “Cranberry Sauce is lame. Cranberry Balsamic Black Pepper jam, however, breathes new life into stodgy Thanksgiving dinners.” I’m eager to try her Milk Jam and her Onion Fennel Bacon Relish.

A word about the SF Underground Farmer’s Market: It’s a quasi-legal food fair that happens in a Victorian flat in San Francisco’s Mission District, organized by Iso Rabins of forageSF. (See’s blog post on the first market.) Many of the people selling things at the market are hobbyists, not pros, and you can find things like Kombucha, raw chocolates, and brownies made with acorn flour, along with a guy who can set up a chicken coop for you, foraged chanterelles, and lettuce from people’s backyard gardens. The second market was packed to the teeth with the twentysomething food-chic set. If there had been alcohol there, it surely would have turned into a very sexy house party.

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