Name some things that are made to be crispy but, with 30 seconds of patience and spit, melt into something of a completely different deliciousness. Ritz crackers. Sandwich cookies. Graham crackers. Oh yes, those brown wafers of mellow wheatiness, originally intended to quell the wandering minds of nubile youth, the almost-bland crackers are trancendental once allowed to dissolve into a sweet paste. You know what I'm talking about. Apparently JEM does, too: they took raw, organic ingredients without a hint of grainy gluteny crud and made a nut butter that tastes like graham cracker manna. Don't swoon while the jar is still in your hand... you might drop it on the floor and then all those raw cashews would be sad.
Just like all of the rest of the JEM raw nut butters, this Cashew Cardamom variety has the same amazing gooey silky soft texture that leaves no graininess on your tongue and nothing but pleasure going ding-ding-ding in your brain. This go-round you're getting the flavor of 1980s childhood snack time. Back in those days when the brown planks came out of their graham cracker box, neatly snapped in half and stacked up with a glass of milk. I remember dunking them in milk and waiting, waiting, waiting... hoping the cracker would soak up enough milk to become almost molten but before it would break off and fall irretrievably into the glass. It was a tricky game to play at age 6, but I was a daredevil.
When I first tasted this nut butter from JEM, I was trying to place the flavor—so familiar, but escaping my memory—and then it hit me: graham crackers and snack time. Whoa. No one should question the alchemical skills of JEM Raw. This stuff is very very very delicious. Tasting the jar for this write-up left but spoonfuls at the bottom of the jar. Thankfully the quality of ingredients is so high that there's no sugar rush, no "hoo boy did I really just eat all that?" feeling. That's the pleasure and caveat with eating excellent foodstuffs.
JEM's only transgression is in the full packaged name: "cashew cardamom sprouted cashew almond spread" hardly rolls off the tongue or hints at the awesome prize inside. Barefoot Provisions is leading the nominating committee to rename this stuff "graham cracker butter" so that all the world will know what they are in for when the lid is cracked open. Beware, and be happy.
Using extremely heavy grinding stones and a lot of patience, Jem is able to achieve incredibly smooth nut butters and artisanal chocolate products by grinding ingredients to a size under 20 microns, at which point your tongue cannot distinguish individual particles. Unbelievably smooth and rich, with just the right touch of sweetness, this cashew cardamom nut butter has a honey-like consistency unlike any nut butter you’ve ever had before.
It's amazing that such incredible flavors can be coaxed out of only a few simple ingredients. But when you use only the highest-quality ingredients, it's possible to work magic. Here's what's going on inside, starting with the star player: cashew.
Like most nuts and seeds, cashews are a great source of dietary protein, healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Here are some of the wonders of cashews:
Jem uses Fair-Trade, non-GMO sprouted almonds, soaked, dehydrated and stone ground at low temperatures to preserve nutritional quality. This process also improves digestibility and nutrient-absorption, as soaking reduces mineral-blocking phytic acid. Almonds are naturally delicious and extremely nourishing. Healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, calcium, zinc, selenium, copper, magnesium, manganese, tryptophan and vitamin E are just a handful of the key nutrients that make almonds so nutritious. Almonds are so nutritious — their list of benefits reads like a patent medicine bottle. They’re full of health-giving fats, like oleic acid and linoleic acid, powerful antioxidants that can protect against many forms of cancer (oleic acid can protect women against breast cancer specifically), and can also significantly lower the amount of LDL in your blood, and reduce your risk for heart disease. Almonds can effectively improve your complexion, slow down your aging process, help improve your blood profile by reducing your LDL, build a strong immune system, prevent the onset of high blood pressure and protect you from other diseases like ADHD, asthma and osteoporosis. They can also help speed up your metabolism, and work well in weight control. A wonderful natural sweetness and impressive variety of nutrients makes almonds one of nature’s most perfect foods.
Lucuma is a popular South American superfruit that’s nutritionally dense — it contains high levels of fiber, niacin, iron, calcium, carotene, vitamin B3, and other B vitamins. And it tastes like maple butterscotch toffee.
Coconut palm sugar is a low-glycemic sweetener that is rich in minerals and provides consistent energy via delayed glucose absorption and the nutritional boost of minerals. Coconut palm sugar comes directly from the blossoms of Indonesian coconut trees. It is made by evaporating coconut nectar from tropical palm flowers. The process of making coconut sap sugar is similar to how maple sugar crystals are made. Farmers gently hand-harvest the buds and collect the sweet nectar using traditional methods. It’s one of the healthiest and most sustainable sweeteners available. Tropical coconut palms require little water to thrive and can actually restore damaged soils and regenerate ecosystems which help support wildlife.
Cardamom, native to India, is a staple in Ayurvedic medicine. This warming herbal spice has a heady aroma, and is said to improve digestion, alleviate depression and help with cold and flu, among many other benefits.
Most of the time we just dip our fingers into the jar, or a spoon if we’re feeling fancy. But you could put it on top of anything you wanted to taste even better, like roasted carrots or parsnips, or as a dip for slices of apple or pear.
You can also make it into a magnificent milk by whirring it with water in a blender (it’s ground so fine that it will turn into a pure silky milk as if by magic.) You could add it to a “white” smoothie — the taste is so amazing on its own that you don’t want it to get lost inside strong-tasting ingredients like cacao or raspberries.
It’s also a killer secret ingredient in braised short ribs or lamb shanks — add it to some stock, some salt or fish sauce, a bit of garlic and ginger and some fresh herbs — you’ve got a sweet-salty umami braising liquid that you’ll be licking off the sides of the pan in a most unseemly manner.
The word “artisanal” (and its grammatically-lax cousin “artisan”) is thrown around so often these days that it’s almost lost all meaning. Nonetheless, the good folks at Jem Raw are truly deserving of the word. Quite simply: they make magic with the ancient art of stone-grinding, and a brilliant knack for combining the most delicious and consciously-sourced ingredients so they go way beyond the sum of their parts. In their own words:
We are Jem Raw Chocolates: independent artisans producing healthy chocolates. Our chocolates are made with simple, pure ingredients. We blend superior raw, organic ingredients and never contain gluten, dairy, soy or processed sugar. Our chocolates are all handcrafted in small batches in Bend, Oregon.
Check out this charmingly "raw" and authentic video they put together for a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for new stone grinders (they're pricey!).
Jem Chocolates rose from an ideal and dream shared among three individuals: Tim Moore, Jen Moore and Nik Rueth. They envision a world where well-being and abundance radiates from every person in every facet of reality, where growth is seemingly inevitable and the joy of service flows through the ether of connection like gentle wind passing through fallen leaves. This emerging world experiences health in the balanced harmony of nature and medicine as the beloved gifts from the natural world. They foresee a time when the most powerful and effective medicines are delivered in the sacred vessel known as Cacao.