The Panel: Suzanne Podhaizer, Alice Levitt, Joanna May, Carolyn Fox and Cheryl Brownell
The Products: Sidehill Farm Wild Blueberry Jam; Hidden Orchard Farms Blueberry Preserves
The staffers at Sidehill Farm
in Brattleboro and Hidden Orchard Farms
in Grafton have been stirring up fruit butters and preserves for decades: The former got its start in 1976, the latter in the 60s. But their techniques are totally different. At Sidehill, they avoid using pectin and their products are "boiled down the old-fashioned way." Hidden Orchard does use pectin, for the jelly-like texture modern eaters are used to. Which one will the tasters prefer?
The Verdict:Carolyn Fox
Sidehill: The tiny jar was super cute with its checked cloth cover, and the jam had tiny berries that gave a nice, juicy bite. But there was too much sugar in there — it was cloying and left my throat coated in sticky sweetness.
Hidden Orchard: This jam had plumper berries and a smoother texture, which would make it easy to spread on my toast. It was decidedly less sweet, so I was able to enjoy the flavor of the berries.
If forced to pick a favorite: Hidden Orchard.Joanna May
Sidehill: Shockingly sweet, and all pleasing blueberry tartness was covered up by sugar.
Hidden Orchard: Also way too sweet, more like a jelly than a jam, but I got a little more blueberry character from this one, and liked the texture of the whole berries better.
If forced to pick a favorite: Hidden Orchard.Cheryl Brownell
Sidehill: Although sweeter than I would have preferred, I thought the flavor had a welcome amount of complexity to it.
Hidden Orchard: The texture was too gelatinous for me, and while the flavor was nice, it didn't really excite my palate.
If forced to pick a favorite: Sidehill.Alice Levitt
Sidehill: Is this molasses? Though I liked the plump wild blueberries, I could barely taste them. The jam overall was characterized by the rich, dark taste of — sugar. I could see this being tasty if used sparingly. A spoonful was simply overwhelming.
Hidden Orchard: Though not tangy enough for my personal preference, this preserve was lighter in both taste and texture than the other. There was a high ratio of blueberries to melt-in-your mouth jelly.
If forced to pick a favorite: Hidden Orchard.Suzanne Podhaizer
Sidehill: Although this syrupy jam was decidedly too sweet on its own, I thought it had a richer, wilder flavor than its competitor. A stronger dose of lemon juice would go a long way, but drizzled atop a piece of bread smeared with chevre or cream cheese, this would be perfect.
Hidden Orchard: This preserve was more viscous than the other, and tasted cleaner and more delicate. To some, these qualities are preferably. Not to me.
If forced to pick a favorite: Sidehill.