Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Trader Joe's Seedless Blackberry Preserves

I'm not sure what I was expecting from this product. I think of the blackberry as a sort of raspberry-esque fruit, but perhaps a bit bolder or more robust - and I'm usually a fan of raspberry products. I've always liked preserves because they taste like actual fruit. They usually don't need to be dressed up too much to sweeten a biscuit or piece of bread.

So it stands to reason that I would enjoy these Trader Joe's Blackberry Preserves...and I did, but not as much as I had hoped.

First of all, there are no chunks of fruit in the spread. It's all a very even, gelatinous consistency. It feels fake. It feels too smooth almost. Secondly, I noted in the ingredients that Trader Joe's not only resorted to adding sugar, but they added corn syrup as well. So it seems as if the blackberry's natural flavor isn't quite sweet enough to make good preserves on its own. TJ's decided it needed some dressing up...and it was still a hair on the bland side in my opinion. Perhaps I overestimated the blackberry.

Please note that plain corn syrup is still better for the body than high-fructose corn syrup, as high-fructose corn syrup is actually a preservative that's created by adding artificial compounds to regular corn syrup that make it even sweeter and give it those preservative properties. (I still have 2 and a half glasses of Pepsi, which is chock full of high-fructose corn syrup like all regular sodas, when I go out to eat. I'm not so big a health nut that I've cut it out completely, I'm just saying it's pretty nasty when you think about it.)

Back to the point: I guess if you want a really natural jam or jelly, you need to buy something that says "100% all-fruit spread." Preserves are not necessarily that.

We ate the preserves with a little butter on Food for Life's brown rice bread, available at TJ's, but unfortunately not a TJ's brand product. Food for Life also makes a great millet bread, for the gluten-intolerant, and they're also the makers of Ezekiel 4:9 bread, inspired by a recipe in the Bible. We're fans.

Overall, the preserves were an adequate jam-like substance for our toast, but I felt that it failed to go way above and beyond like many TJ's products do. I give it 3 out of 5 stars. Sonia liked that it wasn't too sweet. She was a bigger fan than I. She was going to give it a 4, but when she found out about the addition of both sugar and corn syrup, she lowered her score to 3.5. Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

7 comments:

  1. Actually, traditional preserves are never "all fruit" -- sugar is essential to making the natural pectin in the fruit turn into a gel.

    "100% fruit" spreads just substitute fruit sugars in the form of highly concentrated apple or grape juice -- in much higher proportions. If you look at, say, a raspberry "100% fruit" spread, raspberries end up being the second or third ingredient on the list. As a result, they don't taste much like the fruit they're made from, in a lot of cases.

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  2. I stand corrected. Thank you, witzwurst! Jams, jellies, and preserves are such confounding concoctions. Perhaps I'll just stick to butter from now on.

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  3. Love your blog! I am the first to admit that some of my favorite things from Trader Joe's have come through friend's recommendations. Here are some of the things I consider Best of the Best: http://southern-swank.blogspot.com/2010/10/trader-joes.html
    Check out the dark chocolate pomegranate seeds & edamame...yum!

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  4. Good stuff on your list! I like the enchiladas a fair amount ... have you tried the mildly spiced veggie burritos? Those are even better in my opinion. Also, very jealous you live in a state that allows wine and beer in grocery stores - PA is not the nicest when it comes to that. I've been to TJ's in other states though, so I know what I'm missing out on.

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  5. This is my first visit to this excellent blog, and I will become a regular visitor. Keep up the excellent work! I love TJ's.

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