COLUMN: Fruit spreads prevent a ‘jam’ for fresh flavors during cool months

By Candace Nelson - 12:12 PM


Here’s my latest column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

What do biscuits, toast and peanut butter all have in common? They’re better with jam. Or jelly. Or preserves. Or fruit butter.

In Appalachia, fruit (or veggie) spreads are just one of many preservation methods used to capture the flavors of produce during the peak of freshness to then be enjoyed all year long.

Each spread is just a little different in terms of ingredients and texture:

Jam: Jam is made by crushing or chopping fruit and cooking it with sugar. It contains fruit chunks, making it thicker and chunkier than jelly. Examples:

Blackberry Jam
Strawberry Jam
Elderberry Jam

Jelly: Jelly is made from cooking fruit (or vegetable) juice and sugar that is then strained to remove solids. It is clear and smooth because it lacks fruit pulp. Jelly is also typically firmer than jam. Examples:

Grape Jelly
Raspberry Jelly
Hot Pepper Jelly

Preserves: Preserves are similar to jam but contain larger fruit pieces or whole fruits suspended in a clear, thick syrup. They have a chunkier texture compared to jam. Examples:

Fig Preserves
Apricot Preserves

Marmalade: Marmalade is a type of fruit preserve made from citrus fruits (usually oranges or lemons). It includes both the fruit juice and peel or zest, giving it a bittersweet flavor and distinctive texture with bits of citrus peel suspended in the spread. Examples:

Orange Marmalade

Fruit Butter: Fruit butter is made by slowly cooking fruit puree with sugar and spices until it thickens and develops a smooth, spreadable consistency. It doesn't necessarily contain butter; the term "butter" refers to its smooth, butter-like texture. Examples:

Apple Butter
Pear Butter
Peach Butter

Each of these fruit spreads has a distinct taste and texture, making them suitable for various culinary uses. Not only are these condiments tasty evidence of resourcefulness, they are also a testament to the creativity of Appalachian cooks.

Beyond the common fruit spreads, there are a number of unique ones from local artisans. Smoke Camp Crafts, based in Weston, creates “unusual jams and jellies, unique herbal tea blends, hemp products and plants and seeds grown in West Virginia.”

Here are a few of my favorites:

Road Kill Jam - “Road Kill Jam contains raspberries, apples, and black walnuts - all those things one might find along the side of the road. The walnut bits and raspberry seeds eerily resemble bits of flesh and bone, adding to this jam’s witty namesake. Dot's famous Road Kill Jam is lovingly made in small batches in the heart of West Virginia, where we only honk if absolutely necessary, we stop to help if someone's broken down along the road, and we're not shy about putting "Road Kill" on the menu.”

Ramp Jam - “A ramp is an ephemeral woodland vegetable that has been a staple of Appalachian spring time cuisine for centuries. Wild populations of ramps are being threatened by overharvesting. Dot’s ramp jam contains ramps harvested from cultivated forest lands and are never “wildcrafted.” Ramps are pungent and spicy and add unforgettable flavor to any meal. Mix this jam with sour cream for a scrumptious sauce or combine with olive oil and vinegar for a tangy salad dressing.”

Other interesting flavors include: Dandelion Blossom Jelly, Green Pepper Jam and Rose Petal Jelly.

In A Jam, based in Parkersburg, creates small-batch jams and jellies using locally grown and harvested fruits. Here are some of their unique offerings:

Salted Watermelon Jelly - Pair this with aged Gouda, cheddar or Parmesan for the perfect mix of flavors and textures.

Wild Ramp Jelly - Mix with cream cheese for a sweet and savory dip or add to a charcuterie board.

Heirloom Tomato Jam - A blend of sweet and savory, this jam can elevate a grilled cheese sandwich or top a tasty meatloaf.

Paw Paw Butter - The flavors of mango and banana combine for a subtly sweet spread that goes perfectly on toast.

Jams and jellies hold a special place in Appalachian food, reflecting the region's traditions and ingenuity. These fruit spreads are often made from locally grown fruits like berries, apples, and peaches, which root the foods in place. They are part of meals where memories are formed and relationships are solidified. These homemade preserves not only serve as delicious toppings for bread and biscuits, but they also have cultural significance within the Appalachian culinary landscape.

  • Share:

You Might Also Like


All work property of Candace Nelson. Powered by Blogger.