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Sometimes you can't fully appreciate something until you see how it's made. That was the case with marmalade for us. The tour of E. Waldo Ward & Son, a citrus farm and jam, jelly and olive factory in Sierra Madre, Calif., showed us why. (click to see review and rating)
Tour: E. Waldo Ward & Son
Address: 273 E. Highland Ave., Sierra Madre, Calif. 91024
It turns out there are two ways to make marmalade : the mass-produced way and the batch-processed way. We'd only had the mass-produced type, which might explain why we never understood why the Greeks, Romans and Scots have been so crazy about this stuff for centuries. But a factory tour of one of oldest U.S. makers of marmalade showed us how this is a craft upon itself.
E. Waldo Ward & Son is more like a farm than factory. It's located in a residential neighborhood and we drove by it a few times before realizing we were in the right spot. The tour starts after walking up a small set of stairs into the cute yellow building labeled, "OFFICE." We were greeted by Jeff Ward, an unassuming business owner and the great-grandson of the founder. "Are you ready to start?" he asked.
E. Waldo Ward & Son has been located in the foothills near Pasadena since Jeff's great-grandfather, a New Jersey food salesman, arrived here in the late 1800s. He came to Southern California to improve his health amid the harsh New Jersey winters.
The tour takes about an hour and you'll learn about the entire preserves production process. It starts with a history of Ward's great-grandfather, who moved to Southern California for the temperate climate, but ultimately launched his business. The tour ends with a view of Seville orange trees Ward imported from Spain - due to their unique flavor perfect for marmalade. You can see those trees and learn about how the company keeps them flourishing despite drought, citrus disease and ebbs and flows of business.
But there's also the factory part of the process. You'll see the giant cooking vats where the fruits are heated to more than 200-degrees and then poured into jars. The jars roll on a conveyor belt where some of the companies 15 employees screw on the tops by hand.
FACTORY TOURIST VERDICT
Waldo Ward's tour shows how factory tours are about much more than just smokestacks and assembly lines. This is a working farm that has sustained itself for a hundred years by selling quality and running a business for the long term.