The worst thing about the local produce season is that it comes and goes so quickly. One minute you are enjoying some fresh blackberries, next you head out to the market and they are gone for the year. Turning it into jams and jellies is the best way to hang onto that flavor, in some form, for a little bit longer. Thankfully Southern Jewells is hitting the Westover Hills Farmer’s Market to take the work out of canning and introduce some nice new flavors as well.
Owner Amy Stilts moved up from Lafayette, Louisiana earlier this year after a long career in the food scene in the area. She began working in restaurants when she was 18 primarily dealing with seafood and pastries.
“I grew up cooking with my dad and baking with my mom, so I always had the best of both worlds,” Stilts says. “I enjoy cooking both sweet and savory and often like to blend the two together.”
Stilts went off on her own and developed the Southern Jewells brand focusing on jellies, jams, pastries, bread, and homemade worcestershire sauce.
While in Lafayette she started selling her products mainly through the farmer’s markets. Something she continued to do when she moved to Little Rock, mainly through the Westover Hills Farmer’s Market.
I love working in the farmer’s markets. It is nice getting to know everyone and have that one on one interactions with customers,” Stilts explains. “I would like to get into some local stores soon and create products that cater to people wanting to eat local.”
Stilts is working on her manufacturing license and hopes to have products around town in local shops soon.
Her products, produced out of ARkitchen, are still a wide mix of jams and jellies along with pastries and the worcestershire sauce. She uses local ingredients in every product, often from other vendors at the market, in addition to growing some of her own herbs.
Southern Jewells really shines however with their more creative jams, and especially when Stilts combines savory and sweet elements together into one. The blueberry basil, for example, was a big hit in my visit with her. It creates a nice flavor balance that is not too sweet and is loaded with flavor.
Also, be sure to dip into her spicy jams. The pepper jam was simply one of the best I’ve had of the style. She uses multiple types of pepper for a flavor profile that you can taste the transitions between various levels of spice from the different peppers. It starts and ends cool with a couple of nice kicks of heat in the middle. Even better the ones where she combines sweet and spicy, like her strawberry habanero, are a real treat.
Her pastries are nothing to skip out on either. She makes some very delicious bread styles, flatbreads, cookies, and other desserts that rotate at the market. Finally, her worcestershire sauce is unlike any storebought variety you have ever had. It is packed with flavor and has quickly been my go-to version of the sauce (I grabbed a bottle immediately after tasting it).
You can find Southern Jewells at the Westover Hills Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays from 3-6. You can also order online if you are not able to make it to the market.