A couple weeks ago my mother and I decided to visit the charming shops on Bridge Street in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio. As soon as we walked into the Lift Bridge Landing General Store, an attractive display of jams and jellies by Gatherings caught my eye.
The hot pepper jams and jellies drew me like a magnet. Each label had a little “heat index” on the bottom and being kind of a wuss when it comes to really hot peppers, I decided to buy the mildest jam on the shelf: Strawberry Loco. This combination of strawberries and jalapeno peppers is so spoon-licking delicious, I was tempted to dab a little on practically everything in the pantry. I plopped some on top of a wedge of Neufchâtel cheese (similar to lite cream cheese) and spread it on Wheat Thins. Then I mixed some with a little Neufchâtel and Cool Whip to make a dip for fresh strawberries. I still have half a jar left, but only because the scale has crept up and I think I’d better knock it off with the cheese and crackers for a bit.
If you visit Gatherings’ website, www.gatheringsac.com you’ll find out more about the other flavors they offer, like Zany Peach (made with fresh peaches and habaneros) and (fruit-free) hot pepper-packed Ghostly Burn – the most “caliente” in the bunch. Gatherings also concocts jellies made with beers and local wines. I think my mother chose a cherry cabernet jelly on our visit.
After tasting the amazing Strawberry Loco jam I thought, wow – I want to make some of that! I want to make it in cute jars and give it to friends and family for Christmas! I want to make enough to have it on hand every time I have a hankering for those sweet berries with a kick!
Fortunately, I did come to my senses (and not a moment too soon, since strawberry season is upon us). Since I’ve never actually MADE jam or jelly in my life and am too lazy, not to mention protective of my poor lower back, to go out and pick bushels of strawberries . . . I think the wiser course of action is to leave the jam-making to the experts at Gatherings.
When you visit their website, you can order all the jam you want. Yay! They also provide a list of retail outlets that carry their line, or you can check the calendar of events where the Gatherings staff will sell their jams and jellies personally in the year ahead. I was very happy to learn that I can buy their jams here in Madison at Bendelewski’s Meat Market, so I anticipate finishing up the jar in my fridge soon and seeing what other flavors I can find there.
And if you live in the area and haven’t been to the Harbor in a while, I have to say, it makes me so happy to see this exciting revival of an historic area. After decades of neglect, and thanks to local entrepreneurs who shared a vision and worked together to make it happen, Bridge Street now has an upscale restaurant, a coffee shop, chocolate shop, stores with unique clothing and home decor items, and even one little boutique featuring beautiful beach glass jewelry. You have to go! Google Ashtabula for more information in several places, and visit and “like’ the Historic Ashtabula Harbor Facebook page to keep up with the local news.