What did one berry say to the other?
If you hadn’t been so fresh last night, we wouldn’t be in this jam!!
Okay, I dusted off that old groaner of a joke to call attention to a wonderful, wonderful new site called Hope, Health, Joy with an incredible story.
For years, Julia Butera enjoyed an enormously successful career in the Fashion Industry in New York (and as the old song goes, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere). I actually looked her up on LinkedIn, and you can see how for yourself how fast she moved up the corporate ladder in a highly competitive industry. But as happens to so many of us who are busy with careers, her job often took her away from her family. On her son’s 4th birthday in 2009, she had to miss it because she was overseas on business.
But just a year later, in November 2010, Julia was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She underwent treatment at the Hackensack University Medical Center and went through a grueling ordeal of surgeries, hospital stays, chemotherapy, and steroid treatment. As of September 2011 her cancer is thankfully in remission.
Julia made an incredible decision. She decided to change her life and “find her joy” and not let a career make her miss the joys of life and family. An avid cook, she started a business called “hope. health. joy.” that sells jams and jellies (in case you’re wondering, jelly is made from fruit juice and has no bits of fruit in it; jam and preserves are made by boiling fruit and does have fruit in it).
I was fortunate enough to have sampled some of these jams, and I can tell you they are the real deal. To let you know what I mean, here’s the list of ingredients from a jar of grape jelly:
- Fox Grape Juice (Fox Grape is a species of grape–no actual foxes are harmed in the making of this jam).
- Pure Cane Sugar
- Citric Acid
That’s it. No fifteen-syllable words. These are preserves made the old fashioned way–completely naturally.
On her Web site, you can order the jams, and there are great suggestions on how to use them. For example, the grape jelly can be used as a glaze over any meat dish, warmed up over vanilla ice cream, or used to make the perfect PB&J sandwich.
There are other incredible flavors, including:
- Red Raspberry Jam
- Raspberry and Brandy Preserves
- Bordeaux Wine Jelly
- Peach Preserves
- Red Berry Special
- Peach Cobbler Preserves
- Peach Pecan Conserves with Cherries and Amaretto
And incredibly, each is available at the affordable price of $8–where 75% of the proceeds are donated to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
I got the chance to sample some of Julia’s jam. It is jaw-droppingly delicious. I mean, this is you-can-eat-it-right-out-of-the-jar jam. I remember as a kid hearing stories of kids in who ate spoonfuls of jam out of jars, and it grossed me out. After all, the only “jam” I knew of were Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly and Welch’s Grape Jelly, both of which tended to be sickeningly sweet. But when I opened my first jar of jam, the Fox Grape jelly, the first thing I noticed was that the jam was beautiful and had an almost jewel-like quality about it:
I took a whiff of the jar, and it smelled really, really fresh, like I was standing in a grape vineyard. And when I Â snuck a taste of Julia’s Fox Grape Jelly, it was pure ambrosia. It had the consistency slightly thinner than Jell-O, and had a wonderful fresh grape flavor that made me shudder with delight. Unlike jelly you find in the supermarket, it wasn’t sickly sweet–there was just the perfect amount of sweetness that the grapes remained the star of the show.
I recently started to follow Julia’s Twitter account @hopehealthjoy, where she recently shared a link for a recipe for scones. I decided to bake some, and used some of Julia’s Fox Grape Jam, the Red Berry Special, the Raspberry and Brandy, and the Peach Preserves. Here’s what they looked like:
Of course, I snuck a taste of each of the jams and preserves as I opened them.
The Red Berry Special was an amazing blend of strawberries, blended with a mix of raspberries and cherries. The result is a rich, complex blend of flavors that catapult the flavor over regular strawberry jelly. This was thicker than the grape jam, and had chunks of real fruit in it.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Raspberry and Brandy Preserves, but I liked what I tasted. It was thicker, a dark red color dotted with raspberry seeds. There was, of course, the taste of fresh raspberries, but the addition of brandy gave it a sharp, tangy kick. Again, it was the perfect recipe where the brandy didn’t overwhelm the taste of the raspberries (and yes, I stayed sober, even though I ate more than one spoonful!)
The Peach Preserves was also thick, sweet, and again a beautiful amber color.
Here’s what the scones looked like after they were baked:
Okay, they don’t look quite like the picture in the scone recipe (this is a charity gift blog and not a baking blog, after all), but when I took my first bite of the Fox Grape scone, I was blown away. I kid you not–it was just about the best thing I’ve cooked in the last year. The jam actually took on a richer flavor as it cooked and bubbled on top of the scone. The scone itself was full of fluffy, buttery goodness. And the part of the scone that soaked up the fruity goodness was heavenly.Â If you’re a guy looking for THE perfect Valentine’s Day present (or birthday present, or present for your wife on Mother’s Day), nothing says you’re a real man more than putting on an apron and cooking up a bunch of these jam-filled scones and serving them to her for breakfast
I have a lot of other plans for this jam. Something else I’ve always wanted to try was to make Linzer Cookies. On the same site I found this great recipe, and of course I wanted to make use of the Raspberry preserves, the classic filling for Linzer Tortes. And of course, I have a date with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my future. I’ll be sure to come back and update you on how those efforts go!
Of all the charitable causes I feature on this site, few give me greater pleasure to highlight than those of young entrepreneurs who have decided to use their business skills to help the world. I definitely encourage you to visit her site–and to share her news with the world with a reTweet of this post!