Confessions of a Jam World Champion
Patrice Bertrand meets Béatrice Bellon, from the Ubaye valley in the Mercantour National Park, who was made a master jam maker for her know-how in traditional confection.
“Usually when people make jam, they mix fruit and sugar, boil it all, wait for it to thicken, reduce it and put it in a jar. As for me, I work the old-fashioned way: I cook my jam for three days at a temperature below the boil so that it simmers in its own syrup. This gives it a taste of fruit, not sugar. This is what sets it apart from other jams. “
Béatrice Bellon, known as Béa, knows what she is talking about. As a maker of artisanal jams from the Ubaye valley, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, she holds the coveted title of World Jam Champion in the Traditional Jam category.
“My 13 year old grandson is very proud that his grandmother is a world jam champion”, explains this master confectioner (master confectioner). His specialty, a redcurrant, blackcurrant and candied strawberry jam, won him the prize last August at the World Jam Championship, a prestigious international competition under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Fifty-six candidates from four continents participated and more than 100 jams on the theme of red fruits, such as berries and cherries were tasted blind behind closed doors by the jury.
“I have always had a passion for jams. In 2014, I created my own business, ”says Béa, who previously worked as a social worker. Les Gaillardises de l’Ubaye, his workshop in Uvernet-Fours, an isolated hamlet perched at an altitude of 1,800 m in the Mercantour National Park, produces around two tonnes of jam per year.
A TIME OF PURE CREATIVITY
She works alone but produces an impressive catalog of around fifty products: flower and fruit jams, syrups and cocktail jams containing exotic ingredients such as rum and lime. A third is sold in local markets, a third in restaurants and a third on the Internet.
Among the most popular flavors are raspberry-chocolate and piña colada (with rum). Béa is currently developing its latest creation, an orange Grand-Marnier jam. “I would love to have tastings for my jams like wine,” says Bea, who sometimes ships to the UK. “Jam isn’t just for breakfast toast. There are billions of uses. Today, jam is increasingly associated with both savory and sweet dishes. Their aromas can completely transform a piece of meat. One of my sons is a bartender and uses my jams in cocktails.
At the moment, Béa rarely leaves her workshop as she prepares for the 2021 edition of the World Jam Championship, an annual event in August in the village of Beaupuy in Haute Garonne. She will defend her title and this time hopes to win two categories, “traditional” and “unusual”.
As the ultimate honor, the winner will serve their jams for one year at the Elysée Palace in Paris, the official residence of the President. “The judges prescribe fruits which the jams must contain. This year, we will have raspberries and apricots, ”explains Béa. “Usually we have three to four months to prepare. For me, it’s an incredible time because it’s a time of pure creativity. I put my soul, my heart, my mind, my determination!
From France Today magazine