I am a fourth-generation native Californian. However, my dad was in the Navy until I was in my 20s, so I didn’t live there very much. I did move back as an adult and have lived in the Bay Area for most of my adult life. In 2016 I moved to Oakdale CA with my miniature poodle Suzie.
My first memory of making preserves is when I was around 10, watching my mom’s aunt and the mother of one of mom’s best friends canning peaches one summer. I was totally fascinated by the process.
The next summer I started cooking family meals once in a while. They probably weren’t all that great, but I did it and the family ate them.
After college I lived on the east coast for several years. During the summer, I would can peaches, pears and tomatoes. One summer I mentioned that I had an old freezer in the basement that didn’t work. Someone I worked with, asked if he could have it. Of course, I was more than happy to get it out of my house. He “paid” me with a shopping bag full of Mulberries. Not knowing what else to do with them, I made Mulberry Jam. Was that good or what?
At the same time, I had a good-sized garden in the back yard and for some reason planted Fresno Peppers. While browsing through a cooking magazine I found a recipe for pepper jelly. The recipe called for canned pepper, which just seemed wrong to me.
So, I adapted the recipe to use my bright red Fresno Peppers. Guess what everyone got as Christmas gifts that year?
Several years later, I took some jelly, with cream cheese and crackers, to work to share with co-workers.
A friend asked if I’d ever seen an Habanero Pepper. I hadn’t. He told me, if I ever saw them, to make some pepper jelly with them. He did warn me that they were VERY HOT.
A couple weeks later, I saw some Habanero Peppers in the local grocery. I bought some, along with the rest of the ingredients I’d need to make the jelly. I also bought some 4-oz. jars, knowing that being so hot, it might not be “devoured” like the milder Fresno Pepper Jelly.
I was quite surprised to see how many people actually liked it that hot. I was sitting in my office with another friend, when someone put his head in and asked me if I was selling it. My friend said, “Yes, $2.50 a jar.” Of course, she had no idea what it cost me to produce it, but I sold all of it that day. I’d only made a couple cases. A few days later, another co-worker’s husband called me at home and ordered a case of Fresno Pepper Jelly for gifts for people he worked with. Then we had a holiday boutique at work, so I made both Fresno and Habanero Pepper Jelly and sold out.
From there I started doing boutiques at local churches and schools. My product line has grown somewhat over the years, but I prefer to make a few really GREAT items rather than lots of OK items.
Over the years I learned two important facts:
1. I can’t grow enough produce to fill orders.
2. Mother Nature and I don’t always agree on when I should be making preserves.
So, purchasing the fruit and peppers works very well.