What started as girlfriends getting together to share laughter and life and their secret canning recipes, turned into a loving memory of a beautiful daughter and the love of her mother.
They say life is built off of a million small simple moments. They are right.
For years my girlfriends and I would carve time out of our hectic lives as mothers, professionals and spouses gathering together for canning parties. We traded secret recipes, laughed a lot and shared life stories.
During one of these parties I was introduced to my good friend’s grandmother’s recipe for pepper jelly and immediately fell in love with the complex flavors of the jelly. I knew I had to recreate it for my family and set out to make my own.
At the time, my daughter Carlee was 14 and, having a sweet tooth, she became my biggest supporter and most devoted “guinea pig”- always willing to give my sweet creations a test and to provide me feedback. Like many kids, Carlee was not a fan of vegetables, so initially I refrained from telling her that the jelly we were making contained peppers. It wasn’t long and she realized the jelly contained peppers but her love of the jelly was steadfast and our annual partnership won out.
Each year, Carlee would be my faithful “taster” and she began encouraging me to give out the jelly to others and soon the pepper jelly became “our family gift”. Eventually, Carlee’s encouragement and enthusiasm for the jelly gave me the courage to try to sell it. Of course, her marketing strategy was to not tell anyone that it was made of peppers— in keeping with her preference for anything not vegetable. We started selling at the annual Beaver Garrison Days and would sell out before the end of the day. Because it was a partnership, she and I decided that the monies raised would be earmarked for our family vacation. Knowing that we were creating something together that would ultimately give joy to others and contribute to family fun made this time making pepper jelly together all the more special.
In the summer of Carlee’s senior year of high school- our world was forever changed. On her way home from attending a concert in Ohio with her best friend, Carlee was tragically killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. She was 18 years old with her entire life ahead of her. The hole that was created by her passing was unimaginable.
A year later, as Garrison Day approached, I debated on whether or not to continue the tradition that was very much a part of Carlee’s and my life together. With the enthusiastic support of my husband, Scot, we embarked on the next chapter in the history of the pepper jelly– and hence, Jan’s Peace Jelly was born. Scot quickly stepped into the role of my biggest cheerleader standing with me at Garrison Day and encouraging all who passed to “Give it a try!” This tradition that once belonged to mother and daughter is now carried on by mother and father-- in honor of their love for a daughter lost far too soon.
Bolstered by the love and support of friends and family, that first Garrison Day after Carlee’s passing was both heart wrenching and heartwarming all at the same time. So many of those who knew Carlee stopped by to share the stories and memories of times spend with Carlee. There is no doubt that Carlee was with us that day -- it was like Carlee was watching with a big smile. We never made it to the end of that day as Jan’s Peace Jelly sold out in record time and has continued to do so every year since.
From that day forward, all proceeds of Jan’s Peace Jelly go to the scholarship fund created in Carlee’s name. Each year a scholarship is given to a local Beaver High School Senior. Staying true to Carlee’s spirit- the girl who said “hi” to everybody and felt everyone deserved a chance- there are no stipulations on who can receive the scholarship other than they have to be a Beaver High School Senior.
With every jar of Jan’s Peace Jelly, I am happy to pass along one of my simple life moments that turned into a tradition with much deeper meaning that continues to heal this mother’s heart. I hope that you and your family and friends create your own moments spending time together enjoying this pepper jelly - my Peace Jelly.
Carlee Houghtelin Scholarship Info
RECIPES using Jan's Peace Jelly
Zippy Bagel: Spread cream cheese and Jan's Peace Jelly over toasted bagel.
Dinner Rolls: Spread Jan's Peace Jelly over hot dinner rolls with butter.
PB&PJ: Replace jelly on your peanut butter and jelly sandwich with Jan's Peace Jelly.
Pork or Chicken Last ½ hour of roasting a pork roast, spread Jan's Peace Jelly and bake. Last 10 minutes of cooking chicken– spread Jan's Peace Jelly and finish cooking.
Spiced-Up Vinaigrette: In the bottom of a large salad bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, grainy mustard and Jan's Peace Jelly until emulsified. Add lettuce, tomato and other salad ingredients to bowl, and gently toss to coat.
Fish-n-Dip: Mix together equal parts horseradish sauce with Jan's Peace Jelly; serve this dip alongside any deep-fried fish for a uniquely tangy and spicy bliss.
Glazed Honey-Drunken Salmon: Mix together bourbon liquor, honey, melted butter and Jan's Peace Jelly until evenly incorporated. Spread over salmon, and cook until done.
Appetizer Delight: Cut a block of cream cheese in half and pour Jan's Peace Jelly over cream cheese. Serve with Ritz crackers or square pretzel snaps.
Simple Stir-Fry: In a skillet, sauté chicken slices in canola oil, add a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies, season with teriyaki sauce and crushed red pepper and finish by stirring in Jan's Peace Jelly until melted.