hese small-batch, artisanal preserves truly reflect and honour the seasons.
Creator Lee Murphy uses produce sourced from her own farm—she and her husband run Langley’s Vista D’oro Farms & Winery—as well as from as many other local producers as possible for The Preservatory, which sells products that are meant to be savoured (and yet, devoured). With flavours like the perennial best-seller Rhubarb & Vanilla and the imaginative palate-pleaser Moroccan Spiced Sour Cherry, these jams go far beyond a morning slice of toast.
Murphy began making the preserves in copper pots in her own kitchen, and then selling them at farmers’ markets. Within a few years, the couple had built a carriage house to host The Preservatory’s commercial kitchen (they have since outgrown that, too, now operating out of a 5,000-square-foot, federally-certified production facility in Surrey); after that, it wasn’t long before Whole Foods came knocking. “We got really lucky meeting with a buyer from Whole Foods and getting our products on the shelves,” says Murphy, who fondly remembers helping stock the aisles when the grocer first opened its Cambie Street location in Vancouver.
Murphy attended Northwest Culinary Academy, which she credits with educating her on the basics of food preparation. “It opened me up to more flavour pairings and the techniques of cooking,” she explains. A trip to Paris also proved pivotal. “It was our first European trip, and I saw so many interesting combinations, like using herbs, spices, and spirits,” recalls Murphy. These experiences ushered in memorable The Preservatory offerings, such as Spiced Apple & Gewürztraminer, Strawberry with Balsamic & Pink Peppercorns, Yellow Plum with Turmeric & Chile, and Blueberry & Bourbon.
At the same time, Murphy was also reminded that not everyone wants something quite that inventive. “Back then, our kids weren’t interested in the ‘crazy stuff,’” she says with a laugh. This resulted in the company’s Plain Ol’ Jams collection: classic concoctions of fruit, sugar, and lemon juice, featuring strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry options. Making them even sweeter, all the berries are sourced from fellow Langley producer Driedger Farms.
Staying true to its roots, The Preservatory continues to source its ingredients in season, placing fruit and vegetables in cold storage which allows for year-round manufacturing. “We can now ship to more retailers across Canada, and we’re also available in the U.S.,” says Murphy, who released The Preservatory: Seasonally Inspired Recipes for Creating and Cooking with Artisanal Preserves: A Cookbook with Penguin Random House in 2017. “But we still prep all our fruit by hand.” Vista D’oro remains a consistent influence on The Preservatory, as well, producing six fruits (including pear, apple, cherry, and plum) that end up in its jars. The farm’s beloved walnut tree was even the inspiration for The Preservatory’s Spiced Walnut Butter, as well as its Figs & Walnut Wine and Green Walnut & Grappa preserves.
“The Green Walnut & Grappa is a result of me wanting to reduce food waste,” Murphy explains. “I couldn’t throw away those walnuts.” Another is the Salted Lemon & Nori flavour, which takes the leftovers from lemons used in the Plain Ol’ Jams; Murphy recommends that this uncommon flavour profile be used with vinaigrettes, teas, roast chickens, fish dishes, and martinis.
Vista D’oro’s shop and tasting room have reopened post-lockdown, which means jam fans can pay a visit to the beautiful source of their treats. Reserve a spot on the deck for wine or cider flights and order a pizzam (an original pizza creation using seasonal ingredients and The Preservatory jams). This summer, The Preservatory is expanding further into the community with the opening of a toast bar on Granville Island. Also featuring goods from other B.C. food companies, it’s a sentimental project for Murphy. “We’ve come full circle,” she says, “beginning at the farmers’ market at Granville Island, being discovered by Whole Foods there, and now becoming a vendor.” Good food made with care is always in season.