Saturday, 5 October 2013

India’s First Gourmet Jams Store Opens in Delhi’s Prospering Shahpur Jat

By Sourish Bhattacharyya
A promo poster from The Gourmet Jar's Facebook page.

APEKSHA JAIN calls herself a ‘confiturer’, who in Queen’s English is a person producing jams, marmalades and conserves, but what makes her special is that she uses only fresh seasonal fruit (not sugary fruit pulp) and organic sugar, and she doesn’t pump up her products with corn syrup, a food industry favourite that enables moisture retention. And now, she’s also the owner of the first shop in the country, The Gourmet Jar, which sells only home-made jams, marmalades and conserves.
The Shahpur Jat store, which opens tomorrow (October 6) with a jam and cheese tasting, will be significant also because it marks the revival of a previously sleepy ‘village’, which has a sprinkling of designer stores and the city’s first Bihari restaurant, Potbelly, in the shadow of the ruins of the walls of Siri, the third city of Delhi that Alauddin Khilji founded in 1303.
Local historians say the village was settled some 900 years ago by the Panwar Jats, who came from a village named Indri in Haryana. They were attracted by the fertile soil of the area. As Delhi’s chronicler, Mayank Austen Soofi, writes in www.thedelhiwalla.com, the government acquired the extensive farmlands of the villagers in 1978 to create the upscale Asiad Village, Panchsheel Park and Hauz Khas neighbourhoods of gentrified South Delhi. The compensation amounts were massive, so the old landed gentry of the village are sitting on piles of money and property.
With Hauz Khas Village ready to implode (watch out for my blog post on the subject), thanks to its humongous popularity and the boundless greed of both landlords and restaurant promoters, Shahpur Jat may just experience a dramatic change in its fortunes. With rentals still a third of those in Hauz Khas Village, it has seen a steady movement of stores, the next big launch (on October 12) being that of Anamika Singh’s Anandini Tea. Shoe Garage and installation artist Puneet Kaushik’s Alter Ego are the two well-known stores of the neighbourhood.
Apeksha Jain. Image: Courtesy of Veggie Wiz
Returning to Apeksha Jain, whom many of you may know as the blogger behind Veggie Wiz, her affair with jam-making began in France, where she spent a year and fell in love with a banana jam she tasted at an orchard in Burgundy. On her return to Delhi, the LSR alumna started making exotic jams, an art she mastered in France, first for her husband and then for her extended family, and before she knew it, The Gourmet Jar was born.
Jain’s spread includes exotica such as mango jalapeno or cape gooseberry cinnamon preserve; apple, green tea and rose jam; banana rum or fig Cointreau jam; marmalades with orange and apricot brandy or bitter orange and whisky; mulled wine jam for the Christmas season; and mint chocolate and strawberry spread. The confiturer even has a sugar-free jam with dates and prunes. The prices are between Rs 300 and Rs 350, and a gift pack of three small jars (125gm each) comes for Rs 600.
The sugar content of her products, Jain insists, is less than half of that of the commercial brands. And she only uses one spoonful of alcohol for 300gm of certain jams, which she believes require that infusion for flavour enhancement. So, relax, there’s no likelihood of your children getting inebriated after consuming Jain’s jams!
A delicious proposition, isn’t it? Being a lover of specialty jams and fruit conserves, my heart beats for The Gourmet Jar.