Well, one of them anyhow. I do believe recently, an English jam manufacturer broke that record with a truly expensive marmalade with whiskey and gold leaf and who knows what, but until that time the world’s most expensive jam happened to be Confiture Des Groseilles – or a currant jam with an impressive pedigree.
I first learned about it years ago, reading some long-forgotten magazine that ran a story on this jam, and I was enchanted by its pedigree – the 700 year jam making history, the insane prep process, the dignitary endorsement, and I vowed one day to try this culinary wonder.
A food site FXCuisine ran an excellent article on the jam, including an interview with the current maker – you can read it here, (with better photos), but I’d like to recap some highlights to peak your interest: the currants are picked by virgins by the light of the new moon on the Friday of the holy cauldron and blessed by a Tibetan lama….. nah, I’m kidding, but that’s just shy of the actual effort that goes into the production of this masterpiece – the berries are gently trimmed with scissors, EACH SEED (6 to 20) of the berry is plucked out BY HAND with a quill… okay I have to pause here and let this sink in. The effort to pick out tiny berry seeds out of tiny berries with a quill is so far removed from my understanding and approach to cooking that its boggling my mind. But it’s exactly this insane effort that made me want to try it. The jam is gently cooked in a copper cauldron using some secret methodology that ensures it will still be good 100 years from now, and the gentle liquid concoction is bottled and sold for about 40.00 for a 3oz bottle.
By some stroke of luck my father happened to spend a chunk of this winter working on a contract in Paris. Never one to miss an opportunity, I got him to ship me a jar as soon as it was expedient to do so, and one day a small jar of the precious jam appeared in my kitchen. I waited for the weekend so I could indulge properly – with a huge mug of café au lait and a sunny kitchen, and cracked it open.
The verdict: I’m glad I got to try it, but I was not struck by its transcendental beauty. My first impression was that of sugar, with not quite enough of the delicate currant taste to come through, something that the writer of FXCuisine noted also, by preferring the gooseberry version. My second impression was also of sugar. The notes of the berries were just not prominent enough to stand up to the sugar required for the jam. The texture was delicate and unique – a soft cloudy mass where you could almost but not quite feel the de-seeded berries on your tongue. I guess my palate is just not august enough to join that of Alfred Hitchcock, the Queen of France and other luminaries who have enjoyed it over the years. For my money I’ll take the Cloudberry jam from IKEA any day.