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Since that very first time at Smithville little more than a year ago, Joanne Bocchino has been doing a steady business making the rounds at different craft and holiday fairs.  Recently she was doing a blueberry festival so she whipped a special batch of blueberry hot pepper jelly and after renting a space at a cranberry festival she did the same with cranberries.  The result added two more winners to her lineup of jellies. 

Her displays are pristine, with crackers on individual little doilies.  Her best bet with hot pepper jelly for those who want a little something extra is to drizzle that jar of jelly over cream cheese and then just scoop it onto crackers.  “It changes plain old cream cheese into something “Wow” said the cook. 

“I belong to the Jersey Fresh Council and use only Jersey Fresh vegetables in my jellies.” Said Bocchino, who uses sweet and hot peppers.

Now that Bocchino has shared her taste-temping treat beyond her immediate family and friends, many more have jumped on board.  She participated in the Atlantic City Food Show and won the Veal Oscar Award for best condiment.  She was also featured on the ED Hitzel weekly TV program, where she shared other applications she has for her jelly, as a glaze for pork tenderloin and ham.


Spicing up winter with her own local jam session 
By Juliet Fletcher
Staff Writer, 609-272-7251 
Every winter, for more than a quarter-century, Joanne Bocchino has stirred up a batch of her unusual jam as a cold-weather treat. 

The jam, a hot-pepper jelly, was a family secret, with pots often given out at the Bocchinos’ Christmas Eve gathering until a few years ago, when Bocchino, a Margate native, said she was persuaded to cook a batch of 18 cases and sell it at a local Oktoberfest. The tangy mixture was a hit. 

“I never thought of selling it,” she said. “I just used to cook it around the holidays.” 
And she’s not the only one: A growing number of cooks have turned to the colder months as a time to experiment with jam-making. 

When the snow’s blowing sideways, Bonnie Shershow looks out the window and thinks of marmalade. 

The Cambridge, Mass., entrepreneur, whose line of Bonnie’s Jams is sold at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge and Boston and at Eli Zabar stores, said that’s not unusual. 

“Most people who like to play around in the kitchen, as I do, think of making jam in the summer.  Doing it in the winter is much better,” she said. “It’s the time for citrus.”  She experiments with flavors such as raspberry-lime, lemon rind and port.

 Bocchino’s creation named “Jo’s Original Hot Pepper Jelly,” is now available in gourmet stores, and has spawned three new varieties, using local New Jersey fruits.  Her blueberry jalapeno jam is available at the Blueberry Factory in Hammonton, which features local fruit-based produce.

The store’s co-owner Jim Austin said he has been more of a need for locally-marketed jams, as the habit of making jellies at home has waned.  “I do sometimes hear folks saying, ‘Oh, we made some at home,’ but mostly the younger generation doesn’t know how,” he said.  But Bocchino said summer-picked hot peppers - just like fruit - can be frozen and used throughout the winter. And she sees her December invention making its way into all sorts of dishes – even the supreme summer one.

 “Put a scoop on top of ice-cream,” she recommends. 

Bocchino’s jam is available at Mazzeo’s in Northfield, as well as at area food festivals, or can be ordered at 609-214-4753 or info@joshotpepperjelly.com.  Shershow’s marmalade can be found at www.bonniesjams.com.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.
E-mail Juliet Fletcher:

Tips for using spicy jams  

Spicy jam works well for cooking, explains Joanne Bocchino: “It caramelizes as it goes.” It can also be used as a tangy contrast in these dishes. 
Spoon on top of a bagel and cream cheese.
Spread it on rich pastry dough, top with latticed strips of the same dough and bake like a crostata.
Mix it with a little soy sauce and olive oil to use as a glaze on pork, chicken or duck.
Stir it into yogurt.
Serve it with soft goat cheese as an hors d’oeuvre, or mix with a little chopped fresh pepper and then fold into soft goat cheese.
Use it as a filling for thumb print cookies. 

From staff and wire reports