Interview: Jami Curl

Share on LinkedInEmail this to someonePin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

Feast Portland is just a week away. Today I’m talking with Jami Curl of Quin Candy about candymaking and her upcoming class at Feast.

Credit: Maggie Hudson and John Van Pamer

Feast Portland 2015 begins on September 17th and I’m so thrilled to be taking part this year.  There is just so much to look forward to: chef dinners, big tasting events, cocktails, wine and classes.  One of the people teaching a class this year is Jami Curl the owner of Quin Candy.  Locals might know it from their shop in Union Way.  Quin is candy “reimagined, updated and modernized.”  Jami uses local ingredients and creative, fresh flavors to make some amazing candy.  

Credit: Quin Candy

Credit: Maggie Hudson and John Van Pamer

Prior to Quin, Jami founded and owned St. Cupcake, and made the cupcakes for my wedding in 2008, so her work holds a special place in my heart.  But I’m really interested in interviewing Jami because during the last few years,  I’ve started making my own candy at home.  She recently had a great interview with Chris Angelus on Right at the Fork (A great show for Portland foodies) but they did not talk nearly enough about candy, so I’m picking up where they left off with some candy talk. Here’s my interview with Jami:

Kristi: What made you fall in love with candy?  Your slogan “candy is magic” leads me to believe you had a formative experience?  Did you make it as a child or discover candymaking as an adult?

Jami: I have loved candy always. As a child I made candy with my extraordinarily talented grandmother, Dot. She would cover anything with chocolate, and as a child I thought that was essentially a magic power. 
While working as baker (and owning a bakery) I made a lot of candy to use as garnish or for special events. But it wasn’t until I was able to take fruit grown in Oregon and turn it into hard candy that I really realized just how magic candy can be. 

Credit: Quin Candy

Credit: Maggie Hudson and John Van Pamer

Kristi: What is your favorite candy to make (or eat) and why?
 
Jami: I love to make hard candy because it’s really like wizardry. Ratios matter SO MUCH when making hard candy – especially when you are endeavoring to make something that tastes like more than just straight sugar. Getting it exactly right is still such a thrill.
 I love a candy we make called Twizzlie Chews – essentially a dark chocolate chew with a bit of coffee and sparks of sea salt – they are my very favorites.
 
Kristi:  Quin candy is creative yet classic.  Can you share some insight into your process of creating new flavors and products?
 
Jami:  It is very important to me to be as authentic as possible in every area of my life, business and QUIN included.
I develop recipes that support that core belief in authenticity.
That said, I tend to work with flavors that I believe in. I develop products that speak to my heart. I believe very strongly in myself and rarely give even a second of thought to any kind of competition. In my mind, I am me – no one else is – and I put 100% of me into QUIN which will always set us apart.
 
I know what QUIN will be producing candy-wise a minimum of a year before we start selling it. I just finished plans for our Summer ’16 candies and have started writing what we’ll do for the Fall and Winter of ’16. I start with ideas – flavors and flavor combinations, textures and consistencies and I write all of those ideas down. I then pull from those ideas to come up with either new flavor profiles for candies we already make or to come up with entirely new candies. I basically think in sweets, all the time. 
 
I think this candy planning is the perfect explanation of how I walk the line between goal-oriented business person and creative candy maker. Would I love to just pop into our kitchen and make whatever is on my mine? Certainly. But in a production situation (which QUIN is) that’s not possible – we have to plan because so many things have to fall into place to make a candy happen: ingredients, staffing, packaging, website updates, retail partner notification and more. So, there’s a TON of magic behind it all, but it’s definitely kept in check by the business side of things. 
 
Credit: Quin Candy

Credit: Maggie Hudson and John Van Pamer

Kristi: Your class at Feast is sold out. What will those of us who procrastinated and missed our chance to buy a ticket be missing?
 
Jami: The class will focus on learning to develop flavors. We’ll start with a discussion and a tasting.
Then we’ll split into groups and the groups will make decisions on what flavors they’d like to highlight in a candy and then we’ll teach them to make it. We are bringing a ton of ingredients with us so that there are lots of choices – and in the end the groups will develop something that is uniquely their own.
 
Credit: Quin Candy

Credit: Maggie Hudson and John Van Pamer

Kristi: In my own candy making I’ve had a lot of disasters.  Do you have any advice for beginners to ensure success? Practical advice?  Cookbooks?  Beginner recipes?  Biggest pitfalls?
 
Jami: There are so many different types of candy and they all seem to have their own unique disasters!
 To start I’d say you can’t wing it when making candy – you know how people sometimes shy away from baking because it’s so exact? Candy making is even more exact than baking. To begin I’d say do exactly what your recipe is telling you to do. That’s the fastest way to success.  
From there, here are some tips:
  •  When cooking hard candies you have to make sure your pot and utensils are SUPER clean. Small amounts of fat that didn’t quite get washed away can really mess with hard candy. Rainy days aren’t the best days to make hard candy unless you cook the sugar to higher temperatures, decrease the amount of water in the recipe and perhaps also run a dehumidifier. 
  • So many people are afraid of cooking caramel. To get rid of that fear I suggest cooking several batches without a thermometer (I really feel like all the fear is attached to the thermometer NOT the candy itself!)  I like to use visual cues to determine the doneness of caramel – and repeating the action helps me to remember what color the candy should be when it’s finished cooking. Once you’ve done it several times you get used to it – and if you’re smart you’ve timed each batch so that you can use time and visual cues to determine doneness. 
  • That said, I have to be in a very special and open mindset to work on a new recipe. If I’m flustered or hurried or kind of crabby it just doesn’t work. I love the moments when I can kind of give in to a recipe and time goes by without me noticing – and in the end I’m holding an Oregon strawberry lollipop!
 In terms of books: I like any book about candy that was published prior to 1979. Candy is old school! We have been making it for ages, and these old books teach VERY core methods and illustrate how you can make candy at home with zero special tools. I love to start simple and old candy books really support that.
 
I am currently at work on my own book – Candy is Magic: The Art and Craft of QUIN at Home. It’s being published by Ten Speed Press and will be released in the spring of 2017. I cover all of our fan favorites in the book and expand to non-candy sweets as well. I am so excited about it – the process of doing a book is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. 
Credit: Jami Curl

Credit: Maggie Hudson and John Van Pamer

 Thank you Jami for taking the time for the interview.  I can’t wait to check out her book.  2017 is SO FAR AWAY!  And I hope everyone take the time to check out Feast Portland starting September 17th.  Jami is just one of many talented artisans participating.  

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*


Google+