Today I would like to put aside my planned post about sprouting lentils to say a word about my beer jelly. I know, I know! Please quell the outcry! The lentils will come soon.
Farmer’s market season has begun and a whole new crowd is being exposed to beer jelly and I get a number of questions. What?! Beer Jelly?! How did you ever think of that? Why did you start making jelly? Etc….
Turn the time clock back 3 years. Tall-Dark & Handsome and myself quit our rewarding and ever interesting careers in archaeology so that we could re-locate to Vermont where TDH would attend the Vermont Law School. While TDH honed in on cultural resource law, I found my food loving self, smack in the middle of a local bounty like I had never experienced. People in Vermont are truly interested in where their food comes from and how they obtain it. I found myself amazed at the sheer determination of Vermonters to produce everything on their own despite any challenges. Growing up in Florida‘s strawberry country, I cannot tell you how long it took me to wrap my head around strawberries grown in Vermont. You might as well have written the book Strawberry Girl about me (ok that’s an exaggeration but you get the idea). I have even met a hopeful peanut farmer in Vermont, talk about optimism!
With no leads on finding a job, I took the next natural step and began cooking up a storm (and writing about it!). My first batch of jam was made after a trip to the Thetford Strawberry Festival. Floridians, do not be fooled, there is no day off school here and no carnival rides, just good ol’ farm fun.
TDH and I picked 10 pounds of berries and I knew that I wanted jam. After many calls to my mother I finally produced my very first batch of heirloom strawberry jam, which immediately led me to making strawberry chipotle jam.
Cooking and jamming a year later, TDH and I purchased a tiny little love nest that just happens to have a blackberry patch bigger than the house. Blackberry jelly was obvious. In fact, blackberry jelly was necessary. My grandmother had always made blackberry jelly (I can hear her now, “don’t squeeze the jelly bag!”) and her patch of blackberries was on the outs. Someone had to make the jelly!
I made no less than 6 batches of blackberry jelly that year. By batch 3, I was bored with plain blackberry and began making flavors like blackberry chipotle, blackberry basil and the like. I was hooked on jelly and had the cupboard to prove it. I decided to share my jellies and put any profits from it towards TDH’s student loans (hahahahahaha).
I discovered wine jelly (grape jelly in adult form) and wondered why couldn’t I make beer jelly. Turns out, I could. The best part about beer jelly, it tastes like the beer it is made with!
Oh the choices I have! I live in the land of cheese, beer, maple syrup, and Subarus. My first beer jelly was made out of the amazing craft beer left in my fridge from our good buddy Chris (guest blogger). As the jelly became more popular and people began to look for it I realized that I needed a consistent source. While I could reach for the widely available and very consistent Bud Light, that didn’t sound interesting and certainly wasn’t inspiring. I did want any good wanna-be Vermonter does, find a local source.
Harpoon, Long Trail, Otter Creek, Magic Hat and so many more great breweries are just a stones throw away from me. I can even find the beer at the local general store. That is a win-win for all parties involved. As awesome as that is, I have found that I can get even more local! I can source beer direct from a brewer who grew the hops himself. That’s Vermont for you.
You see, craft beer here (and no doubt across the country) is experiencing a boom or a “Golden Age.” Chris Fleisher of the Valley News tells us a little bit about it and mentions my friend the Homebrew Guru and myself in this article.
One of the most unexpected and most wonderful side stories of this whole journey is my beer-ducation. I have learned so much about beer styles and the brewing process. I have met, and get to work with, a wonderful group of home brewers and like-minded individuals. Each of us is committed to preserving a craft and sharing the art with others.
Craft beer has never been so good or so popular. I encourage you to seek out a local brew or try making one yourself. You will be amazed at the flavor and might never go back to main-stream watered down beer again. The same can be said with jelly. Tell me, does that jar of Smuckers really taste like strawberries??