I’ve interviewed Chef Paul Virant of Vie and Perennial Virant a few times over the years for different things and always enjoyed talking with him. Most recently, I interviewed him for an article in FSR about preserved food, one of his specialties made more public several years ago by the launch of his cookbook, Preservation Kitchen, with my friend and cookbook collaborator Kate Leahy.
This one-time “hobby” has turned into a real and viable business, not only in the form of amazing dishes at his restaurants, but now apparently in the retail sector.
Just this week, Chef Virant announced the launch of his line of locally produced, small-batch pickled and preserved products. Jar Sessions features three products: Apple Smoked Butter, Pickled Cherry Tomatoes and Sweet Corn Chow Chow.
At the restaurants, Virant makes the smoked apple butter by smoking Midwest apples and cooking them down, then canning it for later use. He uses the butter as the base for a gastrique, mayonnaise, or vinaigrette, but at the bar, cocktail artists have incorporated the condiment in a Kentucky bourbon smashed with calvados and lemon, shaken and served on ice with a twist and topping of wheat beer. I imagine you can do pretty much anything you want with this butter now that it’s available for use at home, like spreading it simply on toast for breakfast or as a condiment for turkey paninis and more.
The Sweet Corn Chow Chow, made using Midwestern sweet corn, sweet peppers and smoked paprika makes a great topping for roasted meats, grilled fish and even deviled eggs.
The Pickled Cherry Tomatoes – with local tomatoes, garlic cloves and champagne vinegar – are great for vinaigrettes when blended with olive oil, or use them to kick up gazpacho and tomato sauces, Virant recommends.
Available for purchase ($12 each) at Vistro (112 S Washington St, Hinsdale, 630.537.1459) and Vie (4471 Lawn Ave, Western Springs, 708.246.2082) — online ordering coming soon. Visit the Jar Sessions Facebook page for updates in the meantime.