I will never forget the first taste of The Grainge raspberry jam in the Carrara Markets butcher shop. The intense burst of fruit was an epiphany of flavour, albeit between wafts of raw meat!
“I will never eat another jam again!” I murmured.
The jam brought back a rush of childhood memories. I’d spent primary school holidays running wild in the paddocks, climbing trees to collect birds’ eggs, picking fruit – blackcurrants and raspberries, Chinese gooseberries (now known as kiwifruit) and the elusive Cape Gooseberries. There was always fruit to take home to Mum, the joy of jam making, sticky fingers sneaking into the pot.
Similarly, Paul Grainger grew up in Christchurch surrounded by berry farms. Over twenty years ago, when he managed the butcher’s shop in Carrara Markets, he saw an opening in the Australian market – the need for a decent jam.
“There were no gourmet jams then. The only jams you could buy were IXL and Cottee’s. The boysenberry jam was tasteless and had no smell,” he recounts. (Many of you will remember those cans of jam, full of fillers and thickeners, what little flavour there was often tainted by a tinge of tin.)
“No one was making a decent jam. So I decided to kick off. I started making jam using berries from Jane Harrow [berry grower] in Christchurch. I used to air freight the fruit over. It cost a fortune. Soon, I became known as ‘The Jam Man’! The jam flew off the shelves and we sold out all the time.” (I distinctly remember the disappointment I felt when there was no jam left!)
“About fourteen years ago I left the butchery and started making jam fulltime. Things in NZ changed, though. Now it’s all citrus and wine [that is grown]! Berries were harder to source and Australian berries don’t have the intensity we need. I only wanted to use the very best fruit to get consistency of flavour. I remembered something Jane [Harrow] had told me: ‘Berries grow at certain latitudes on both ends of the earth’, so now I source berries from Europe – Belgium and the Eastern Block and strawberries from Morocco – Camarosa, some of the best strawberries in the world! They’re all exceptional quality because of the climate; the best berries in the world.”
“The berries come in frozen and the jam is cooked from frozen berries. We try to get the jam as consistent as possible, but jam’s a funny thing – each batch is different. We only make small batch jam. Berry jam takes about an hour and a half to cook. Marmalade is more laborious. After soaking the fruit overnight, it’s a 4 hour process. All our citrus is sourced locally.”
The Grainge jams, especially raspberry, are highly sought after for their fruit-driven burst of flavour. Used in some of the best cafés, on scones or for high teas throughout South-East Queensland, the fruit intensity is not forgotten. Demand has grown, and now Paul has been joined by his son, Matt, who’s spending time learning the trade.
Meantime, The Grainge jams have gained Australia-wide recognition, their Boysenberry jam gaining gold in the 2019 Australian Food Awards, Raspberry and the Raspberry/Boysenberry winning bronze.
There are a number of preserves in The Grainge Jams range, including raspberry, boysenberry, three fruit marmalade, apricot and the mixed berry jam. Each bottle contains only three ingredients: fruit, sugar and citrus pectin; no artificial colours or flavours, setting agents or preservatives.
“It’s been really interesting to see how creatively people are using our jams, whether it be to make crumble or butterfly cupcakes or to fill donuts. It’s fantastic,” Paul tells me.
You have probably already enjoyed The Grainge jam without realising it at Elk Espresso, Flour & Chocolate Brisbane or at Flour Bakery, Ferry Road Markets. If not, try it. Paul may have set out to make ‘a decent jam’, but his attention to detail and insistence on quality have resulted in the best product on the market. Don’t be surprised if, like me, the words escape your lips: “This is the best jam I’ve ever eaten!”
NOTE: The Grainge jam is for sale at gourmet markets such as Ferry Road Markets (The Standard Market Co), Earth Markets, Broccoli Brothers and Ambarella Fine Foods. A complete range of stockists is listed on the website, or you can buy direct.
5/17 Commercial Drive, Ashmore, Queensland 4214 Open: Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm Ph: 07 5528 1080
NOTE: This is an updated version of a review first published in 2014.