A hobby is slowly evolving into a side business for Rehoboth’s Maria Boulden, who specializes in creating unusual jams that combine sweet fruits, wine and spicy peppers.
Boulden said she was inspired by her father, whom she called a Renaissance man who nurtured his love of cooking, baking and canning when he retired.
“After he passed away, I thought it was a cool way to continue his legacy,” she said.
When she began canning, she lived outside Philadelphia, and the only things she could grow were herbs, figs and hot peppers because local wildlife ate any other fruits and vegetables she planted.
“That’s where the heat and sweet combo idea began,” she said. “It’s a fun way to experiment with different hot peppers and combinations people don’t think of.”
So, Boulden started pairing ghost peppers with pineapples and mango, plums with habaneros, along with more traditional jams like berry, orange marmalade and peach.
For those with more daring palates, she has created a jam dubbed The Gauntlet, a fiery combination of cranberry, mango, habanero and Carolina reaper pepper.
“These aren’t your momma’s jams,” Boulden said.
Initially, Boulden would give away jars to friends and family, until neighbors started asking for a dozen jars at a time to give as gifts.
“It really caught on in the neighborhood,” she said, so she began selling her creations to friends and at craft shows. “I got into the habit of posting my ‘jam sessions’ on Facebook, and as a result, have a few followers across the country. So I ship as well.”
Boulden even devised a perfect holiday dessert hack: roll a little lemon zest into store-bought pie dough, spoon a jar of fig jam into the middle of the dough and fold it to make a crostata.
“Bake, serve and tell everyone you worked on it all day,” she said. “Seriously, there are so many ways to use the jams – charcuterie, crostinis, turkey sandwiches, fish tacos, baked Brie, you name it.”
Not all jams are hot, Boulden said, such as fig with lemon, honey, rosemary and thyme; fig with red wine; and fig with white wine.
Right now, she favors the plum jam with three habaneros. “The heat is present but not uncomfortably hot, and the plum just sings,” she said.
Boulden uses a boiling-water canning system, so all jams are processed 10 to 12 minutes in a boiling-water canner and vacuum sealed so they are good for 12 to 18 months on the shelf.
Jams are $5 per jar; email Boulden at email@example.com for details. Boulden’s jams will be available for purchase at the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company Auxiliary holiday arts and crafts sale, set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, at Station 1, 219 Rehoboth Ave.