Pepperwood Preserves: Jam Sessions at Pepperwood

By Judith Fenley, Class Instructor & Holland Gistelli, Education Program Coordinator

If you peeked into the Pepperwood kitchen on December 4th, 2022, you would have seen a group of masked women huddled over the stove busily stirring mysterious bubbling pots. A sweet aroma may have drifted your way, arousing your curiosity. As well it should! Who can resist the deliciousness of homemade jam made from fresh-picked and homegrown fruits?? Here’s the story of how Pepperwood’s iconic Jam Sesh got started.

Years earlier, when Judith Fenley – a Pepperwood volunteer and almost-Steward – first learned of the existence of the homestead trees, there kindled in her a desire to jam their fruits. It amazed her that at over one hundred twenty-five years old, these fig and pear trees were still fruiting… and thriving! Judith’s goal was to nurture these trees and to share with others the process of turning their fruits into delicious jams and preserves.

The idea was nestled away, awaiting the right timing to germinate. Then one day in 2022 the timing was right and the idea came to fruition! After years of grappling with virtual classes only, or hybridized courses with physical distancing, it was finally opportune to present a fully in-person class covering jam-making and fruit preservation. When Holland Gistelli, Pepperwood’s Education Program Coordinator, contacted Judith about initiating the class, a deep friendship was born. The two women collaborated on the idea for a workshop where participants would have the opportunity to work together and make “Pepperwood Preserves.”

Holland and Judith conspired months ahead of time by picking figs and pears from the old homestead sites scattered throughout the reserve. They processed their harvest, froze the fruit–pulp, and scheduled the workshop just ahead of the winter holidays. This way participants could make Pepperwood Preserves to take home as a tasty offering for their holiday gatherings or to give as a special gift. Their bountiful harvest would leave ample preserves for Pepperwood’s larder as well – to serve as treats for staff enjoyment and Pepperwood events.

Judith and Holland prepared a working recipe, another collaborative effort gleaned from a collection of recipes they found. There were options for each of the workshop’s two cooking teams to personalize their preferences. Holland and Judith beamed happily, as the teams worked together creatively. Participants learned about canning methods, stirred their pots to thicken their batch, sterilized and packed their jars, listened to the pop of jar lids signifying a successful seal, and proudly took home their Pepperwood Preserves. Indeed, they’d been jammin’!

That first workshop was held on Sunday, December 4th, 2022 and was truly a happy jam session – well worth the tasty and sticky experience for all attendees. We’re proud to say that this year we were able to do it all again! Check out the Photo Gallery below and get inspired for next year’s Jam Sesh at Pepperwood!

View the Photo Gallery from Jam Sesh 2023

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