It’s an Oak Park business that’s operated largely off the radar and a storefront business nearly a decade in the making, but Rare Bird Preserves is poised to make its debut in the Oak Park Arts District in September.
Owner Elizabeth Madden is putting the final touches on her new shop at 211 Harrison St., but she’s been operating in and around the village since 2009.
Madden is not only the owner of Rare Bird Preserves – the company produces fruit preserves, curds, scone mixes and other delectable treats – she also is a co-founder of the River Forest Kitchen, a shared commercial kitchen that was taken over by Sugar Beet School House in 2017.
Madden launched Rare Bird from her first shared commercial kitchen at 35 Chicago Ave., where she operated for the first five years of her business.
She began her culinary work studying at The French Pastry School in Chicago and was immediately inspired by jams and preserves.
“We did jams one day, and it clicked with me,” she said in a telephone interview.
Madden said she was excited by the way the school was making jams and preserves in a traditional way without the use of commercial-grade pectins. She explained that many pectins “require a lot of sugar” to activate the production of jams and preserves, but the school used a combination of French and British techniques that use copper kettles and natural ingredients like peels, pits and seeds of different fruits.
Natural pectins are more common these days, Madden explained, but she pays close attention to the quality of the fruit she uses and where they are sourced.
“We’re using different techniques than are used in industrial food production. Sometimes I get really excited about pectins and people’s eyes glaze over,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a combination of science and art, and that’s what’s interesting to me.”
The new space on Harrison Street will serve as a kitchen and a storefront, but Rare Bird products have been available online and in stores for years already.
“I’m really excited about it,” Madden said. “The shop is going to be a new venture for me.”
The storefront will also serve as a classroom offering workshops on jams, jellies and preserves.
More information is available on their website at www.rarebirdpreserves.com.