The art of preserving: Seasonal classes at Valerie Confections (poached cherries for your cocktails, fig jam for your cheese board and more)


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What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than making strawberry rhubarb jam and pickled asparagus spears?

Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections and Kevin West of the blog Saving the Season kicked off their series of seasonal preserving lessons on Saturday. A dozen students filled the Valerie Confections kitchens to “find their jam voices,” as Gordon puts it. Gordon sells her own line of preserves, such as Marsh grapefruit, Earl Grey and vanilla bean marmalade and yellow peach and kumquat jam. “I know that before I started doing this, I was intimidated. But this whole process is easier than you think it is,” she said. West led the savory portion of the lesson – the pickled asparagus – made with gorgeous fat spears that he had picked up from the Zuckerman’s stand at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, along with fresh tarragon and green garlic. And Gordon led the sweet side – the strawberry rhubarb jam. Each student made jars of both (those are my pickled asparagus spears pictured at right!).


Gordon and West are excellent teachers, and you’ll appreciate their fastidiousness about great ingredients and their artisanal approach to preserving (in which they aim to retain the integrity of fruits and vegetables and forgo the use of too much sugar or any commercial pectin). It’s amazing how quickly three hours go by, and after class, students celebrated with glasses of bubbly, chicken and tarragon terrine served with West’s pickles (including pickled nasturtium buds -- like capers but ‘the best capers you’ve ever had,’ West says), and strawberry rhubarb fool.

The duo will be teaching the same class this coming Saturday (there still may be a couple of spots left). Here’s the schedule of upcoming classes ($100 per person except where noted):

April 17, 2 to 5 p.m. Spring Preserving: Strawberry rhubarb jam and pickled asparagus spears.

June 5 (also June 12), 2 to 5 p.m. Entertaining From the Larder: Embellish your cocktails with seasonal ingredients. The menu includes: Poached cherries, citrus in syrup, pickled quail eggs and cocktail onions. (Must be 21 to attend.)

July 10 (also July 17), 2 to 5 p.m. BBQ Basics From the Larder: For your summer backyard entertaining. The menu includes: stone fruit jams, pickled green beans, relish. (Enjoy an early supper from the grill and the jar after class.)

Please see the rest of the schedule after the jump.

Oct. 9 (also October 15), 2 to 5 p.m. The Cheese Board and Your Autumn Larder: The perfect components for an artisan cheese platter. The menu includes: fig and Port jam, fruits in piquant syrup and autumn chutney. After-class festivities include cheese and wine pairings.


Dec. 4, 1 to 5 p.m. Holiday Gifting From the Larder: Create beautiful and delicious gifts. The menu includes: Paradise jelly, pickle parfait, winter fruit and truffle compote. (This class is $150.)

Reservations are required and can be made through Valerie Confections; call (213) 739-8149 or e-mail Class location: Valerie Confections 3360 W. 1st St., Los Angeles.

-- Betty Hallock