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Originating in Brazil, melba jam is created from a wide variety of fruits, the foremost being the papaya. Farmers will harvest the papayas early in the growing season, while the papayas still retain the sour flavor that gives melba jam it's signature tartness. Many farmers will pick them only a week before maturity, when the papayas are much larger in size. However, this creates a much sweeter jam, and is thus considered to be inferior. The most expensive jams are made from papayas that are barely days old, being harvested when they are approximately the size of a berry. These are considered to be the finest of jams, and can be sold for well over USD $500 a jar.
After the papayas are prepared and the other ingredients are added, (which may include, but are not limited to: hazlenut, mango, guava, and passionfruit) the jam is allowed to ferment, giving it a slightly alcoholic content. The age of the jam, along with the papaya tartness, indicates its quality. The fermentation process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several decades. The most well-established makers of melba jam will refuse to sell it until it has reached their desired level of maturity, usually no fewer than 50 years. This ensures that they can sell their product for the maximum price.
Because the majority of Brazil is inhabited by farmers, over 98% of the jam is exported to various countries, most of which being in Europe. It is extremely popular in Germany, and is often spread over specially prepared bread to make "melba toast". It is also growing in popularity in Spain, France, and Portugal.
For various reasons, melba jam is virtually unheard of in the United States, except by those few individuals who specialize in various exotic and imported jams.
"Evan likes melba jam on his toast."
by shadow_phox July 25, 2008
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