Nov 6, 2014

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Best of Oregon: Republic of Jam

One of my favorite things about being an Oregon-centric writer of wine (and often travel, food, beer and spirits), is meeting the impressive and inspiring people behind what makes the great state of Oregon such an incredibly amazing place to be.  With a scenic backdrop that’s completely unparalleled, I’m convinced that it’s the breathtaking beauty of the state that inspires so many.  It’s easy to follow dreams here.

ROJ storefront

Downtown Carlton’s Republic of Jam

Combine the beauty of Oregon with the bounty of Oregon, and artisan’s like Lynette Shaw, owner of downtown Carlton’s Republic of Jam, are bound to create amazing things.  Jam Master Lynette does indeed create jam, among other delectable delights, but they are far from ordinary.

Born and raised in California, Lynette ended up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, working for a large corporation.  Missing the agricultural bounty of the West Coast, Lynette ended up leaving Minneapolis for Oregon.  When visiting a local farmer’s market just days after her move, Lynette was stunned by the quality and diversity of the fruits; so much so, that when she struck up conversations with the farmers she nearly wept.  She returned to the market quite often, bringing home so much fruit that she decided to purchase the Ball Blue Book, which is also known as the Canning Bible.  Her immediate reaction to the fruits she had canned and produced using recipes from the Ball Blue Book was, “too sugary.”

Jam Master & owner of Republic of Jam, Lynette Shaw

Jam Master & owner of Republic of Jam, Lynette Shaw

With a background in chemistry and a palate for savoriness, Lynette took the sugars way down and came up with twelve of her own recipes.  It was simple, she developed a technique of using 4 parts fruit to one part sugar and began having fun with unexpectedly noteworthy flavor combinations.

Prior to opening up a storefront for the Republic of Jam, some of the original flavors Lynette created  (which were used primarily as gifts) are still in production today; like, Strawberry Basil, Marionberry Cinnamon and Marionberry Espresso – a flavor combination that was a 2014 Good Food Awards Winner  containing five simple ingredients packed full of amazing flavors: Marionberries, cane sugar, lemon juice, espresso powder and fruit pectin.

Find more than jam at Republic of Jam

Find more than jam at Republic of Jam

As soon as I stepped into the Republic of Jam on the main drag of tiny town Carlton, Oregon, (where nearly every shop in town is a wine tasting room), I knew I was in for a unique and special treat.  With a combination of sweet, tangy and savory fruit aromas that filled the single-room shop, my senses were immediately piqued.  Lynette wasted no time welcoming me with a super genuine smile, a few mini tasting spoons and undeniable jam enthusiasm.  My taste buds experienced the ride of their life as each flavor-packed morsel took over my senses.  For a split second, I was embarrassed by my ooohing and ahhhing that flowed from my lips with every lick of the spoon.  Dawning on me rather quickly, however, I imagined every single person that visits Republic of Jam does the same thing.  I suppose it’s a sight Lynette and staff are immune to.

Each weekend, the crew at Republic of Jam puts out a spread of foods for people to sample that were made using the products found on the shelves.

Each weekend, the crew at Republic of Jam puts out a spread of foods for people to sample that were made using the products found on the shelves.

And it wasn’t just about the jam, this little gem in the heart of Oregon wine country offered far more.  There were creative chutneys, shrubs (aka drinking vinegars), pickled cherries and pickled apricots, Apple Chipotle Ketchup and Russian Plum Ketchup, Apple Juniper Mostarda and Mango Mostarda (mustard) and culinary syrups galore.  The list goes on and on with over 350 unique flavors gracing the shelves at Republic of Jam –  a true testament to Lynette’s passion and dedication for what she does.  And she continues to work on creating flavors that are out-of-this-world divine.  One of her latest and greatest (a Lynette  favorite that hadn’t yet made it to the shelves), was graciously slipped into my bag: Spiced Peach Shrub.

Strawberry Lavender Jam in old fashioned shortbread bars

Strawberry Lavender Jam in old fashioned shortbread bars

Not having any idea what a shrub was (aside from the one along the walkway to my front door), I did some investigating and discovered that shrub dates back to the 18th century and is derived from the Arabic word sharab – meaning syrup made from fruits, herbs and flower extracts.  Commonly used to flavor water and seltzer water, I think I’ll be getting a little more creative with mine and concoct a craft cocktail – starting with these recipes I found while Googling culinary syrup cocktails.  With the craft cocktail movement definitely making waves throughout Oregon, Lynette is one step ahead of the game at Republic of Jam – she already has a bustling quarterly Cocktail Club in full swing where guests can sample cocktails while meeting-up and mingling at Republic of Jam. 

The very special spiced Peach Shrub - can't wait to make a cocktail with this.

The very special spiced Peach Shrub – can’t wait to make a cocktail with this.

I didn’t leave Republic of Jam with an empty hand (or belly).  In my bag came home six items that have yet to rock my palate: Plum Ginger, Lemon Vanilla and Spiced Aronia Berry culinary syrups, Pickled Cherries with Fennel and Espresso, Gooseberry Chutney, and Spiced Peach Shrub.  In my belly was loads of flavors from tasting a plethora of jams and cocktail syrups; as well as, samples from their weekend tasting flight using recipes that can be found on the Republic of Jam website – a bonus that all weekend visitors can participate in.  Take one bite, and you’ll be hooked. 

My treats that will all be made into fun craft cocktails and tasty dishes. Don't worry, I'll share the outcome.

My treats that will all be made into fun craft cocktails and tasty dishes. Don’t worry, I’ll share the creations.

Visit Republic of Jam at:

211 W. Main Street
Carlton, OR 97111