A Judge’s Picks for CT Specialty Food Awards

By Analiese Paik

Each product was evaluated in a blind tasting by judges based on four criteria: aroma, appearance, taste and texture. Here I'm catching the aromas of summer strawberries in Killam & Bassett Farmstead's Strawberry Jam.

Each March I look forward to the CT Food Association’s Specialty Food Awards Competition at the beautiful and sprawling Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville and the opportunity to spend an afternoon blind tasting and judging what our state’s specialty food producers choose to enter. This year I was assigned to judge jams, CT Grown, desserts, yeast breads, honeys, and appetizers/hors d’oeuvres and found a few that merited a 5 out of 5 score. Here they are….


Winding Drive’s Blueberry Limoncello jam is a preserve that borders on a conserve due to the excellent preservation of whole blueberries. Upon seeing the whole pieces of fruit, I crossed my fingers that they were cooked enough that I wouldn’t feel the skins. I bit into the vibrant and inviting bright blue orbs and smiled as the berries yielded to my  teeth and delivered an explosion of blueberry flavor with gentle notes of limoncello. They pulled off a tricky maneuver in cooking the fruit to the “Goldilocks” stage, not too little to leave it tough and not too much to turn it to mush, and a second one in not overwhelming the fruit with the liquer. Serve this to the pickiest foodie you know or give it to them for a hostess gift. http://www.windingdrive.com/

Winding Drive’s Raspberry Chocolate jam entices you with its heady aroma of raspberry and chocolate, a signal to your brain that decadence is on the way. The mouth feel is as smooth as velvet since they chose to strain out the raspberry pips. The flavor is a full on reflection of the aroma. Next time you feel like having a special treat, serve yourself a bowl of plain yogurt topped with a heaping spoonful of this jam and give it a swirl. Eat mindfully, because the finish is full of flavor. This jam was a 2012 winner and I suspect it will place again this year, perhaps unseated by the Blueberry Limoncello for first place. http://www.windingdrive.com/

Note: Winding Drive’s Elderberry Jelly won a 2012 Good Food Award as we reported in January. Winding Drive’s jams are featured on the menu at Wave Hill Bread’s Norwalk-based cafe and can be purchased at the Westport Farmers’ Market in season and online from their store.

CT Grown:

Bishop’s Orchard’s Apple Butter delivers an excellent balance of apple and spice with a great consistency. It tastes just like an apple butter should and would be excellent on toast or as a topping for oatmeal. This is a true farmstead product since the apples are grown on their estate orchards. Visit their farm market in Guilford year round. http://www.bishopsorchards.com/

Killam & Bassett Farmstead’s Strawberry Jam smells just like perfectly ripe strawberries and tastes like them too. This farm grows all the produce that goes into its jams, which means they have the ultimate control over timing. When  strawberries are at their peak of ripeness, it’s obviously time to make jam, even if it’s Saturday. How else could they achieve such wonderful flavor and aroma? This one belongs at the breakfast table! http://www.kandbfarmstead.com/


Bishop’s Orchards Apple Cider Donuts are flavorful, light, airy and cooked to perfection. Skip the industrial donuts next time you’re buying a special snack or breakfast and serve these instead.The donuts are made year-round with cider from apples grown on  this 135-year old farm in Guilford, CT. They also produce a variety of refreshing estate-grown fruit wines as we reported last year. Visit their farm market year-round to purchase fruit, wines, specialty products and baked goods. http://www.bishopsorchards.com/

In a few weeks, when the votes are tallied and winners reported, I’ll let you know how my picks fared and who the winners were in all the categories. In the meantime, enjoy!


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