Chicago boasts artisanal jams in spades. But the undisputed queen of palate-boggling flavor in a jar is Flora Lazar.
And her newest local fruit confitures ($14), sold at the Green City Market on Saturdays, are peerless examples of her ability to capture the season's flavors and intensify them.
Her trick is a two-part French technique in which fruit is macerated to preserve color, then preserved in a thick syrup of its own juices. Apricot halves, packed with a vanilla bean, are thick and luscious. Plums are enriched with caramelized sugar, reminiscent of the golden glaze on a tarte tatin.
Whole blueberries float in syrup deepened by the dark fruit and earth of a Michigan Pinot Noir. Spoon the preserves over sliced peaches with crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream, or swap them in for syrup on pancakes and French toast. To put them on bread is to turn toast triumphant.
Lazar learned some tricks by the side of French jam doyenne Christine Ferber in Alsace, France.
But her newest treat is pure Americana (and a must for your next trip to Wrigley Field): an all-local version of Cracker Jack, made with popping corn from Nichols Farm, pecans from Three Sisters Gardens, and sorghum from Burton's Maplewood Farm.