Jam line starts from the bounty of backyard trees
By Roberta Sabban
Daily News Food Editor
When a seafaring couple decides it is time to drop anchor and become land lovers, chances are the ocean will be a stone’s throw from their abode. Pascale Troupin-Castania and Michael Castania found their ideal cottage by the sea in Delray Beach.
The property had been owned by a Chinese family who had planted exotic fruit trees in the backyard. A few weeks after they moved in, the mango trees welcomed them with a bounty of ripe fruit. The lychee tree, originally planted as a bonsai, joined in with its own bonanza.
For Troupin-Castania, it was a welcoming sign. She had worked for years as a chef on yachts. The windfall of ripe fruit was a signal that she should get back in the kitchen. In no time, her production line was in high-gear and she started giving jars of jam to all of her neighbors.
Cooking is a way of life
“My family is from Vendome, a town outside Paris, and I come from a family of chefs,” said Troupin-Castania. “My grandmother and my father were professional chefs.”
She learned the basics at an early age at home. As a young woman she had a desire to travel and decided to work as a chef on private yachts and chartered vessels.
For many years, she worked for a family that kept their mega-yacht in the Caribbean during the winter months and the Mediterranean throughout the summer. She would go to the local markets at various ports to buy fresh produce, where she often discovered seasonal fruits and vegetables. Throughout the Caribbean, she would ask the vendors and local cooks for recipes. In Greece, Turkey and North Africa, she became intrigued by the high quality of basic ingredients and infinite variety of spices.
GreenMarket and beyond
All of her culinary adventures were put to good use when she started making jam. In 2010, she took several cases of her mango jam to the West Palm Beach GreenMarket.
“I sold everything immediately. At first, I didn’t take it seriously. I never thought that I would be making jam professionally but my customers began asking for more. I began experimenting with other fruits,” she said. “One day, out of the blue, a friend who had just bought a bakery asked me if I would like to share the kitchen space with her and I agreed.”
Within a few years, she took over the entire kitchen and enlarged the space. She started to do research online and buy cookbooks. At first, it was really trial and error. She knew that traditionally jam making in France was done in large copper pots.
“I started ordering 12- and 16-quart hammered copper pots from Mauviel, a company that has been in business in Normandy since 1830. The hammered texture is the most efficient conductor of heat for jam making. I became obsessed,” said Troupin-Castania.
Today, Pascale’s Confitures Artisanales is expanding the product line. Summer-fall jams include apricot lavender, peach basil honey, mango cardamom, mango lime ginger, pluot marmalade and blueberry lavender. Winter-spring offerings include orange marmalade, grapefruit marmalade, pear lemon, pear vanilla cardamom, strawberry black pepper, strawberry vanilla and tomato marmalade.
Hot sauces and chutneys also have become part of her product line. The biggest sellers include red beet chutney, tomato chili jam, papaya red hot pepper sauce, mango hot sauce and mango chutney.
Almost all of her products are made in small batches from locally grown fruit and vegetables. When a seasonal product sells out, customers simply have to wait until the following year for the new crop.