"It really was a 'jam' good idea," Sallie says through a smile to me on one particularly humid and lazy southern Saturday afternoon in Cameron, South Carolina. We're sitting on her front porch, a large, farm-house style front porch big enough to entertain several party goers all night yet intimate enough to share the kind of timeless moment we're having right now. You've read about places this serene in magazines, but to actually be here with Sallie, you'd think you've traveled back to an antebellum past, where cotton fields and endless acres of crops are as commonplace as sweet tea and collard greens.But this is Sallie's world. And I'm lucky enough to be experiencing all the local freshness and unique palate combinations in every flavor of her new line of herbal jams. I don't know how she's done it, and I doubt she'll share her secrets, but Sallie has somehow combined locally grown strawberries and basil to create a jam whose taste is incomparable to anything I've ever tasted. "Strawberry + Basil, that's the jam that started it all," says Sallie as I try to hide my excitement when she hands me a slice of moist pound cake to try with her jam. I'm about to toss my manners aside and just dig in with my fingers when she continues, "Garden & Gun magazine gave me their annual 'Made in the South' award for that one. It just makes everything taste better. A cheese appetizer, a breakfast biscuit, pound cake, and even vanilla ice cream!"
As I brazenly lick my fingers clean and watch the sun begin to set, I can hear crickets chirping and the distant sound of a dog barking. I've made myself delightfully comfortable on a porch swing built for two as Sallie steps inside to prepare more delicious jam combinations for us to try. "You just have to try my Fig Sweet Onion and Rosemary." I can hear her voice traveling from the kitchen at the back of her home, down the long wooden hallway filled with floor to ceiling family portraits and southern art, and through the screen porch door where I await with anticipation.
Sallie arrives with a pork roast. I jump up to help her set the exquisite dish down, selfishly fearing the worst spill imaginable as she rotates her body around the screen door and completes the half-step down to the porch. It's only then that I get a close-up with my eyes of what my nose has been enjoying for the past eternal minute. Before me is not just any pork roast, but Sallie's pork roast. It's been graciously glazed with her Fig Sweet Onion + Rosemary jam creating the perfect food pairing. The dish is decorated with rosemary stems and surrounded by an assortment of soft roll-style breads. At the end of the plate is a bowl with additional Fig Sweet Onion and Rosemary jam, as if she knows I won't stop with just the pork roast and glaze.
"My jams are not just for breakfast," she says matter-of-factly. "I've always been a 'foodie,' so I wanted to create jams for all of my favorite dishes, from appetizers and salads to grilled meats, panini sandwiches, deserts, and drinks!" Sallie tells me about all of her other flavors and combinations, from Blueberry + Lavender to Peach Pepper + Ginger. I'm so happy right now sitting on this front porch with Sallie. Her sincere southern charm and sweet disposition can be tasted in her jams. She continues to tell me her story and how it all started, but she doesn't have to do this. Just sitting here listening to the crickets build a new symphony as the fireflies begin to light the night around us is all the explanation I need. Sallie's jams are the local farmers, the fruits of their labor, the grace of her herbs, and the sustainability of southern life.
Sallie then demonstrates how to create a small sandwich with the pork roast and bread, and uses the bowl of jam as a spread. "Go ahead, try it. But I think we should make a toast first" she says laughing. I smile back because the joke's on me. Once again I've set aside my manners, tuning out the fact that I'll be leaving this southern haven tomorrow, focusing only on the sweet smell in front of me, and I'm once again lost in Sallie's world and she knows it.
She's laughing because I'm already on my second helping of Fig Sweet Onion + Rosemary glazed pork roast.