Preserves from In a Jam! provide a tasty trip into the past.
When Andrea Duke began selling her homemade preserves at the down-town Parkersburg Point Place Marketplace farmers’ market, she was surprised at how many older gentleman approached her booth. The men would talk of days past, when they would pick fresh fruit with their grandmothers, an experience shared by Duke. This caused Duke to pause: She wasn’t selling just jams and jellies. “I’m selling memories, because grandparents tell stories.” She had found her niche.
Duke’s business, In a Jam!, now produces more than 20 varieties of preserves and jams. That includes unique flavors like salted watermelon jam and heirloom tomato jam, which both feature salt from Malden-based JQ Dickinson Salt-Works. The most popular flavors are elderberry, blackberry, crabapple, and black cherry. She sells her jams and jellies at 15 locations in four-ounce small-batch jars, sealed with a sticker of approval she received from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture in February 2016. This sticker signifies her products are made with homegrown ingredients and, most importantly, it allows her product to be sold at Tamarack in Beckley.
In A Jam! isn’t a one-act circus, however. Duke makes applesauce from local Gala apples. Her grape juice, which Duke will introduce at Fairmont’s Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival on December 10, is made with West Virginia-grown grapes and filtered water.
Although business is good, Duke plans to remain a small-batch company, for fear of losing that homegrown identity. “Farm-to-table is so popular right now and that’s where the appeal lies,” Duke says. A few local farms, such as Wagner’s Fruit Farm in Lowell, Ohio, grow Duke’s ingredients, which she freezes to use in future recipes. The actual jamming process is quite simple: Duke cooks the fruit in a gelling agent called pectin, adding sugar later. The jams are then left to sit, gel, and become edible spreads.
Look for Duke as she travels across the state from market to market. She might be creating preserves, but the one thing she’s really preserving? Memories.
WRITTEN BY CODY ROANE