Sometimes a vacation really can change your life. Amy Deaver was planning a family trip to France and took a deep dive into the language, the food and the culture. When reading about French-style preserves, she was taken back to the traditions of her Midwestern childhood, when the pantry would be filled each summer with preserved fruits. (Oui!)
Newly inspired (who isn’t inspired from a trip to France?!), and now living in the produce paradise of Southern California, she began making jams as gifts for friends and family. The lucky recipients included the staff of a local cheese shop. After one taste, the owner asked to buy a case of each flavor, and suddenly Amy found herself in the jam business.
At first it was a side project, something Amy did on top of her job as a fundraiser. But slowly and organically, the business grew. A lull in the kitchen led to some pickles - oh what pickles! Fast forward to a few years ago when Amy took the leap to become a full-time maker.
Amy only preserves produce from local Southern Californian farms, where they can often pick up the fruit within a day of harvest. Sometimes, it’s a trip to the farmers’ market that inspires a particular batch, like pickled zucchini with garlic and basil, flavored with her grandmother’s secret spice blend.
One of Amy’s (and Mouth’s) favorites, Cocktail Tomatoes, was the happy result of a kitchen disaster. They’d found tiny cherry tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market and decided to turn them into a savory tomato preserve. After a full day’s work of peeling tomatoes, there was barely enough for a half-dozen jars, and still a small mountain of unpeeled tomatoes. They decided to try pickling them with a mix of Indian spices. The result was fantastic – a pickle perfect for a Bloody Mary or other tomato-friendly cocktails.
Lemon Bird preserves are all entirely handmade using traditional French techniques, but it’s the unique flavor combinations that set them apart. Jams and pickles might contain anything from wild Madagascar peppercorns and green Sichuan peppers to locally foraged lilacs and bee balm blossoms. Amy is not only inspired by local herbs and honeys, but also from global spices. Another good excuse for vacation.
How closely do you work with farmers?
One of the most interesting parts of my day is meeting with farmers and discussing what’s happening with their crops. Most have a specialty – citrus or stone fruits – and I’ve learned about how each is grown, the difficulties of raising that crop and what we can expect for the season. We usually see the farm families each week all year long. It’s fascinating to learn where our food comes from.
Best part about your job?
The transformation of simple ingredients into an artisan product! I love sourcing ingredients from our farms. I swoon when new fruits and produce come into season each year. The toughest part is not having enough hours in the day to make more jams.
Inside tips on how to use your products?
We mix Seville oranges with Orangecello and champagne for an Italian spritzer. We use our DiCicco Broccoli on a white pizza, and then save the juice for egg salad. At most of our gatherings, we set out pickle trays for all to share.
Maker Website: lemonbirddesign.com