Josephine’s Feast! was started in 2009 by Laura O’Brien, a Southampton resident. Using apples from her backyard to make apple pectin and apple butter, along with a myriad of other fruits she raises at her house, Ms. O’Brien dedicated herself to the ancient French culinary art of méthode confituer — the small-batch preparation of preserved fruits in copper pots.
“Everything I do is local and seasonal,” Ms. O’Brien said Sunday at the Southampton farmers market. “Last year was the first year I got beach plums on my bushes.”
It was because of her first batch of beach plum preserves that she drew the attention of a local forager whose family has farmed in the area for four generations.
“He was this hippie-looking guy,” Ms. O’Brien said. “I was thinking, ‘Is he into jam? Cooking? Is he a foodie?’ ”
Instead, the man, known to her only as Ron, said he knew where to find more beach plums and told Ms. O’Brien he would get some for her.
Before long, she was getting more than just beach plums. “He brought me wild cherries, wild cranberries, wild Concord grapes,” she said. “He showed me where some of them grew.” Ron also took wineberries to Ms. O’Brien, who uses a kitchen in Astoria, Queens, to cook the batches of confit.
“It takes two pounds of fruit to make one eight-ounce jar,” she said. “And the process itself takes two days.”
After 20 years in the fashion industry, including a long stint working with Vera Wang, Ms. O’Brien switched gears and ended up working as the garde manger at Bouley, Chef David Bouley’s famed Duane Street eatery in Manhattan. It was there she learned the art of confiture, and a passion, and company, was born.
Josephine is her 8-year-old daughter with her husband, Sean O’Brien, whom Ms. O’Brien describes as an “Intel refugee.” Both husband and daughter help out and accompany Ms. O’Brien to the local farmers’ markets, which are the only places where her product is currently sold, although Intercontinental’s Barclay Hotel in Manhattan serves up Josephine’s Feast! products as part of its sustainability initiative.
The fruits that she does not grow, or that Ron cannot forage, Ms. O’Brien obtains from Briarmere Farms in Riverhead. The blood oranges, Meyer lemons, bergamots, and Seville oranges she uses in her marmalades come from sustainable family farms in California and New Mexico. “They have an integrity to them,” she said.
In time, said Ms. O’Brien, she hopes to open a space out here, possibly with a “kitchen incubator,” which allows culinary artisans to share a cooking space. But in the meantime, Josephine’s Feast! will continue to sell its wares — confits, spice rubs, spices, and more — out in the open where the good stuff grows.
For more information, the company Web site is josephinesfeast.com.