2023 marks another successful year for Niagara-on-the-Lake’s “Jam Queen” Kim McQuhae.
After yet another jam and jellies competition was judged at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair this past weekend in Toronto, McQuhae came home with an armload of awards.
McQuhae entered a number of her jams and jellies across the 14 separate categories and took home three first-place wins, one second and two third-place wins.
The winning entries that clinched a first-place win were McQuhae’s maple cinnamon blueberry apple jam, her mango blood orange marmalade and her hibiscus flower jelly.
In second place was her strawberry jam and third, her raspberry lemon jam and blueberry sauvignon blanc jelly.
The hibiscus flower jelly was a new addition for this year’s competition, McQuhae said.
“I was sort of fascinated, because earlier in the year the Food Network said something about being the new flavour trend of the year,” she said.
First, she made a tea out of the flower, she said, which she then be made into a jelly.
“It came up with such a beautiful colour,” she said. “It’s a little floral, a little sweet and a little tart at the same time.”
She prefers changing up her flavours before the competition each year and the NOTL Farmers Market makes a great testing ground, McQuhae added.
“I like to experiment, I get bored really quickly doing the same thing,” she said. “I’m at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Farmers Market and so sometimes that’s my testing ground.”
Some of the jams that didn’t place as highly are still beloved by her NOTL customers and herself, she added, so they will still be offered during the market’s season and for sale at her farm for anyone who wants to stop by.
“(The) jalapeño apple jam is one of my best sellers at the market and that placed really poorly at the Royal. You just never know,” she said.
She also entered an elderberry jelly into the competition this year, which came in fifth: “For years I’ve had people asking me for elderberry … people at the market really love it,” she said.
McQuhae gave a shout-out to Walker’s Country Market, which entered the fair for the second time.
“This year they had quite a few entries which is nice to see. It’s good to have some competition,” she said.
Speaking of NOTL competition, this year marked Toad Hall owner Andy Parks’ first-ever entry into the fair.
“I’ve always liked the Royal Winter Fair but I never thought I’d be able to participate in any way,” Parks told The Lake Report.
He explained that after moving into his property, he noticed a unique black raspberry growing and decided to make a jam out of it.
“It was something that just came out of being here,” he said. “The berries were there and I had an older friend tell me about them and what they were and I’ve been picking them ever since.”
After getting a great response from friends and family, Parks entered his seedless black raspberry jam under the amateur raspberry jam category and took home first prize.
The jam isn’t for commercial sale, however, so Parks urges those wanting to try to come out to the St. Nicholas Day Craft Sale on Dec. 2 and 3 at Toad Hall where it will be available for purchase.