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Oct. 19, 2021 | Tuesday
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Jam queen Kim McQuhae scores big at Royal
Kim McQuhae of Gryphon Ridge Highlands took home three first-place awards at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. (Brittany Carter)

An heirloom box of recipes helped Kim McQuhae of Gryphon Ridge Highlands secure first-place at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair for her Plum Nutty jam this year.

She submitted the passed-down recipe for the heritage jam category, one which she says she skips every other year. She decided to throw her hat into the ring after she was given her late grandmother’s box of recipes.

“She gifted it to her daughter, this whole box of recipes. And her daughter, my aunt, who lives in the States never made jam because she said it would be too much work. But she found out that I did, so two years ago she gave me the collection,” McQuhae says.

For the heritage jam category, contestants must provide documentation to prove the recipe is older than 1967.

“I was looking through the recipes out of curiosity and I found this one. So, I made it and it won champion,” she says.

She submitted selections in all 11 categories for the professional jams and jellies tier and placed in every single one. She says she was surprised to win champion for her plain strawberry and plain raspberry jams as well.

“I find those kind of boring because I like to do strange things. I don’t do plain very well,” the colourful McQuhae says.

But the judges didn’t agree; she also took home third place for her Blueberries and Cream jam in the plain blueberry category.

In the single or mixed fruit conserve or preserve category she was third, fifth and seventh for her Nutty Nectarine Conserve, Kiwi Strawberry Almond Conserve and Apricot Almond Conserve. For the single or mixed fruit jams she placed eighth 11th and 14th for Spiced Apple Rhubarb, Vanilla Nectarine and Blue Fig. In the fruit jam or preserve made with no refined sugar category she took seventh for a Maple Raspberry Walnut jam and ninth for Honey Ginger Nectarine.

Her Vanilla Blueberry Jelly and Kiwi Lime Coconut Jelly took fourth and fifth places in the fruit jelly single or mixed category. For the savory jam or jellies she placed seventh and her My Thai jelly and Herbes de Provence Jelly Rouge was eighth. An Amaretto Orange Almond Marmalade came in fifth in the marmalade category and a Cherry Chardonnay and Kir Royale Jelly took second and fourth places in the spirited jelly category.

McQuhae has been making jams and jellies since 2006 and says she has no plans to slow down. As for how she comes up with each unique blend and flavour?

“They just come to me. I keep a list on my fridge of new ones I want to try out,” she says.

At the moment, her favourite is the Spiced Apple Rhubarb.

“I just find it tastes really good. I like the combination, I throw a lot of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon in it too, so it gives it a nice warm feeling,” she says.

All of her small-batch jams are made with very little refined sugars, she says.

Gryphon Ridge Highlands is a livestock farm with registered purebred highland cattle, naturally raised beef and the award-winning jams, jellies and preserves. The farm is operated solely by McQuhae, who also works for a construction company in St. Catharines and serves at a local restaurant.

She initially purchased the farm so she and her horse, Rusty, could live together.

“This would be our spot … but he actually never got to live here,” she says. He died before she was able to move him over from a farm down the road where she kept him.

After he died, she says she became interested in highland cattle.

“I got my first two and then, during the first year or so my little bull was born, and he was my favourite. His name is Bucky, his official name was Julian of Gryphon Ridge, but somehow he became Bucky,” she says.

She says he lived to be about 17 years old. And although he is gone, he’s never forgotten. She has incorporated various images of Bucky on all of her jam labels.

“He was just so kind and we had such a bond. He's actually buried out there (on the farm on Larkin Road). He was my favourite and that's why he is on all the labels,” she says.

McQuhae says she won't be participating in any other markets this year, as the pandemic has forced many to either close or move outdoors throughout winter. If anyone is interested in purchasing her jams, follow her on Facebook at Gryphon Ridge Highlands

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