A Spicy Taste of Home (published in Chile Pepper Magazine)

A Spicy Taste of Home

Paula’s Pepper Jelly drew me in from my first spoonful. I’m a west coast girl brought up hiking the cascade range of Washington and Paula’s award winning Pacific NW marionberry pepper jelly had me gasping in delight.  I couldn’t believe the freshness or the authenticity of flavor.  It evoked all the best tastes of my childhood. That bite of true marionberry flavor was as good as I remembered the sun warmed berries found on my childhood hikes to be. My next spoonful of Paula’s red raspberry pepper jelly instantly reminded of my Grandmother brewing and bottling her famous red raspberry jam.  This stuff was flashback good and I almost giggled as I tasted, transformed into my five year old self once more.

Every spoonful brought a new and specific flavor to my mouth: from pumpkin spice to red raspberry even to garlic, each bite burst with its own unique and marvelous essence.  My spoon didn’t cease and it even wavered back to my favorites for several more “tasting notes.” As I looked around at my fellow samplers the consensus was mutual; we wanted to know more. Who was Paula? What was her secret? And how could we get additional samples?

Paula began manufacturing her divine pepper jellies in 1998 due to laws requiring that she and other food retailers use commercial kitchens or factories in lieu of home canning.  Initially she had made her products for family and friends covering them with fabric tops and tying them with red ribbon.  As her reputation grew, so did her desire to change her hobby into an occupation.  Today, Paula’s Pepper Jelly has its second retail home in Monroe, Washington (they quickly outgrew their first retail store which was a boat anchored in a pond). This new 16,000 square foot facility offers Paula’s new wines, delectable pepper jellies, and many more gourmet products.  The store also awards customers with an opportunity to “try it before they buy it.” Paula’s generosity includes free tastings as well as free recipes, including her huckleberry pepper jelly glazed salmon, see below.

All her pepper jellies are made from one hundred percent natural ingredients and are harvested from fruits and peppers of local farmers.  Her fruits are never frozen and her pepper jellies are made the day after Paula receives her fresh produce. She jars when “fruit is at its ripeness; when it’s perfect.” The difference in taste is unmistakable.  Paula swears the trick is not in the flavor (she has no issue there) it’s in attaining “the proper heat level for a certain fruit.” Each of Paula’s pepper jellies is specifically heated and paired with its complementary pepper. Her strawberry pepper jelly is on the milder side to keep the strawberry’s delicate sweetness.  However the complexity of a fresh peach allows Paula to whip out the habaneros and go spicier still.

Try Paula’s top selling garlic pepper jelly spread (great on shrimp, salmon or flanks steak and a real crowd pleaser with the masculine set) or its fruity competitor which is her pacific NW marionberry pepper jelly which won a first place Scovie Award in 2009.  Second place went to Paula’s wild blue huckleberry pepper jelly which is notable because blue huckleberries are a true Pacific Northwest berry, cousin of the blueberry, and grow best at high altitudes, and are picked wild.  We are talking sweeping vistas, evergreen cloaked mountains, and the beginnings of Paula’s delightful jellies.

You’ll find these pepper jellies at Paula’s retail store, at farmers markets and they can even be ordered online at paulaspepperjelly.com. Don’t stress over the vast array of options. Trust me and get one of everything. These pepper jellies will keep you warm year round and you’ll taste the seasons through these perfectly harvested fruits and peppers. So, thank you Paula for rekindling my western pride and for all the fruits of your labor.

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