When Dominique Debroux came to America from Torino, in Northern Italy as an infant, her mother, AnnaMaria, brought along a trove of family recipes dating to Dominique’s great grandfather’s days as a chef to royalty.
Now 51 and the mother of 9-year-old Gaia, Debroux has turned that trove into AnnaMaria’s Foods, a Cliffside Park business selling specialty jams and tomato sauces. The product line, launched in April, includes almond apricot jam, red pepper jam, radicchio marmalade and strawberry rose jam, flavored with Debroux’s homemade Rosolio grappa liqueur. (The jams are $11 per 8-ounce jar.) The company’s three types of tomato pasta sauces use distinctly northern-Italian ingredients such as capers, carrots, orange zest and pancetta baco. There is also a red pepper jam vinaigrette, useful as a marinade. (The sauces and vinaigrette are $9 per 16-ounce jar.)
Psst! Gift boxes are available. (Good to know at this time of year.)
Debroux waits until the end of the cooking process to fine tune the amount of sugar in a jam, adjusting for variations in batches of fruit to create a jam with a consistent flavor profile. She slowly cooks down her tomato sauces until they thicken and caramelize. That way they cling to the pasta and don’t turn watery on the plate.
Debroux made a career in European fashion sales and is still a consultant to a designer of Italian wedding dresses. But food has been a lifelong passion. Growing up in Connecticut, she gave cooking classes to neighborhood kids when she herself was just 12.
When Debroux moved to Cliffside Park in 2003, her “inner farmer was awakened,” she says. People in urban Cliffside Park “have postage-stamp backyards, but so many people grow anything they can. It’s just like Italy. I have a fig tree and a pear tree, and I planted raspberries.”
Alongside her mom, Debroux began making jams with fruit from her backyard garden. When Debroux’s husband, Christopher Henze, a filmmaker, and his brother Don, a cheesemonger, decided to create YouTube videos called the Uncle Don and Gaia Cheese Show, Debroux offered them a jar of her red pepper jelly for a cheese platter. Uncle Don, smitten with the condiment, brought a case to one of his Manhattan clients. It sold out in a week.
In a commercial kitchen, Debroux started making several hundred cases at a time and selling them at Westchester County farmers’ markets. When she was unable to keep pace with demand, she turned for help to the Rutgers Food Innovation Center, a business incubator in Bridgeton. The staff’s expertise enabled her to double her output. Now, while adhering to her artisanal techniques, Debroux is aiming to increase production even further.
AnnaMaria’s jams and sauces are sold at Metropolitan Seafood and Gourmet in Lebanon and Chez Cheese in Tenafly, as well as at annamariasfoods.com.