Jam Session: Secrets of Spain’s Hidden Jam Museum

What is the Jam Museum?

Museu de la Confitura is not just a display of historical artifacts to admire. It is one of the sweetest things to do in Spain, an engaging experience that educates visitors about the history and culture of jams, jellies, and marmalades—from the time of the Romans to the flavors of modern day. See how jam is made, learn the history of its production, taste some of Georgina’s 140 imaginative jam, jelly, and marmalade varieties, or join a workshop to make your own jam.

Georgina’s Story

Georgina spent 13 years in boarding school and longed to go to college. “At that time, women were not intended to do so, therefore my alternative was to begin working,” she says. “I belong to the generation of the war, meaning that we lived in an era of ignorance and despair, and you just had to find a way to make a living.”

Georgina worked at the Amatller Institute of Hispanic Art in Barcelona and the Nuffield Orthopedic Centre in England before moving to Vienna where she took German courses at a university. She eventually returned to Barcelona to work for British European Airlines.

As she faced retirement, Georgina found more time for her passion. After those lemons at her house in Torrent, she gradually begun a jam workshop and sold products to restaurants and local specialty shops. “I learned a lot from women who had been producing canned jams for many years to prolong the life of the fruit,” says Georgina.

“My best teacher was Pere Castells, a chemist responsible for the Research Department of Alícia Foundation.” The Alícia Foundation is a research center devoted to technological innovation in cuisine, to the improvement of eating habits, and to the evaluation of the food and gastronomic heritage. “Pere taught me everything I know about the science of jams,” says Georgina. “I think it is a cultural duty to convey what we know.” But Georgina says that she still has a lot to learn about jam, and she continues to educate herself. “The more you dive into a topic, the more you are aware of how little you know,” says Georgina.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Everything started with a lemon tree clinging to the southern facade of a house in the Spanish city of Torrent. Georgina describes her first encounter with the tree:

“The first time I saw the tree, it was on a grey day. It was raining heavily, and only the lemon tree was radiant. It looked splendid, laden with lemons; its branches were bending under the load of the fruit.”

She had so many lemons that she didn’t know what to do with them. Her English friend shared a recipe for lemon marmalade, and Georgina gave it a try. “I had never made a jam or marmalade, but after that, I entered a magical world that still fascinates me today.”

Georgina opened the Museum de la Confitura to maintain the ancient tradition of preserving the products given to us by the land. “The mission of Museu de la Confitura is to bring the culture and knowledge of the little history of jams closer to the people,” says Georgina. “We protect jam because it is part of our heritage.”

Bringing Slow Food to Spain

Georgina did not make culinary arts the focus of her career until she opened the museum in 2004, but food has always been a driving force in her life. Her grandparents owned a hotel, but she wasn’t inspired by the family business. Instead, she was “seduced by cooking, and I love eating well,” says Georgina. “Without putting aside my working life, I began learning to cook and write cookbooks.” She has since authored over 20 cookbooks including her most famous—70 Confitures (70 Jams).

She has also been active with Slow Food Empordà—a Spanish organization that promotes fresh, quality, and fair food—as president and one of its founding members. “I had known about the movement for a long time, and I have always agreed on the principles that food must be of high quality, clean, and fair,” says Georgina. Georgina buys her own ingredients from nearby farms, using only seasonal fruits picked straight from the tree or vine. “It is a priority to not only provide quality jams and marmalades, but also to support friends and neighbors,” says Georgina.

A Foolproof Formula

Since ancient times, fruits, vegetables, and other foods have been preserved in protective substances such as oil, vinegar, alcohol, honey, or sugar.

Georgina describes the structure of jam using a formula called the “magic triangle of jams,” which refers to the trio of critical ingredients: sugar, pectin, and citric acid. “These are the three necessary elements to sweeten fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs, or spices,” says Georgina.

  •  Sugar is the essential conservative element that produces a sweet taste with more or less intensity. It is extracted from sugar cane or beetroot.
  •  Pectin is a gelling product that exists naturally in fruits like quince, apple, and citrus such as lemon or orange. If you add an apple per kilogram of fruit to fruits that contain little pectin, such as strawberries, pears, and tomatoes, it will provide consistency to the jam.
  •  Natural acids help to preserve jams, avoid sugar crystallization, and enhance the fruit flavor. Most fruits contain citric, malic, or tartaric acid.

Of all her 140 flavors of jam, jelly, and marmalade—what are Georgina’s favorites? “Bitter orange marmalade for breakfast, tomato and basil jam to accompany cheese, and rosemary and pepper jelly to add to a vinaigrette. I could continue like this to pair with foie gras, fish, etc, assuming you like mixing sweet and savory as I do.”

Find Your Jam

On a bike tour or any other reason that brings you to Spain, the Museum de la Confitura is one of the most unique attractions in the Costa Brava—a world of flavors, exotic combinations, and local tastes.

“Find your passion—whether it be for an idea or project, even if that is studying the stars, growing a small garden with vegetables and flowers, walking the dog, doing Sudoku, or reading books,” says Georgina. “Whatever keeps your mind lucid with your faculties as developed as possible—find that passion and chase it.

A longtime friend of DuVine, Georgina is one of the many special local characters who brings richness to the region and keeps culinary traditions alive.

Up Next: Czech Wines: The Best Wine You’ve Never Tasted