When I started to think about recipes to share for the holiday season, I had a sudden, overwhelming memory of Jezebel Jelly. I would never have put it on my list of stand-out memories, but it popped into my mind quicker than lightening and that I could not ignore.
Jezebel Jelly is a quickly made tangy condiment that seemed to have a real heyday when I was a kid. At every Christmas function someone, who had been asked to bring an appetizer, would sail into the kitchen in her party dress and clacky high-heel shoes with her most festive Christmas plate and spreading knife, sometimes all tucked away in a basket with a colorful napkin. Talking a mile a minute undoubtedly, she’d pull out her plate, unwrap a block of cream cheese, plop it down – just the block, as is. Out came the jar of Jezebel Jelly, with its hand-written label and little fabric cap tied with a gold stretchy cord., and it was poured over the cream cheese and served with crackers (frequently Triscuits, if I remember correctly). That was that. Jezebel Jelly was the refuge of the non-cook. It was, I believe, a popular gift, easy for even the most kitchen-phobic to stir up and prettily package, with the appearance of being homemade without the work. Eventually, the Jezebel and cream cheese appetizer was replaced by the even-less-work block of cream cheese smothered in Pickapeppa sauce from the bottle. Call that a bonus recipe.
There are lots of people who seem to want to trace the origins of Jezebel Jelly, or Jezebel Sauce as some call it, and figure out why this spicy spread was named after a biblical woman of ill repute. I don’t know. Frankly, it always speaks to me more of 1938 movie Jezebel, in which Bette Davis plays a fickle Southern belle whose wily ways hoist her on her own petard in the end. It is said that Bette was denied the role of Scarlett O’Hara, and this was her chance at Southern belle stardom. Personally, I think Bette’s sassy, strong willed Julie is a better performance and a richer character.
At a party not too long ago, where all the ladies brought some sort of pick-up food for the buffet, one contribution stood out. A lovely pottery dish with a cheesy, bubbling spread, full of flavor and punch. Everyone tracked down the person who brought this and begged the recipe. To our surprise, she told us it was “just that Jezebel Jelly.” She’d prepared it the way her mother had for parties by whipping the cream cheese with a little cream, spreading it in the dish, pouring the jelly over it and heating it until bubbly. She served it with baguette slices and it was a huge hit. Most of the people in that room had not had Jezebel Jelly in ages and we were all delightfully surprised, and reminded that things become classics for a reason. Her presentation, I must say, was much more elegant than the sauced block version.
So all these memories made me want to share Jezebel Jelly again. Jezebel Jelly has a real kick to it, so it goes well with creamy cheeses. Try it poured over a block of cream cheese if you want, or in the hot dish version. It goes well over a baked brie. It makes a great spread on a turkey or ham sandwich, and is an excellent accompaniment to pork. Use it as a glaze for a pork loin or a sauce for pork chops. And it is wonderful with that other classic Southern party tradition, a great silver platter of sliced, roasted pork tenderloin or a joint of country ham served with bite-sized biscuits or rolls. Jezebel Jelly in a silver bowl alongside will be a real treat, and probably bring back some happy memories.
And for the record, the nice little bonnet and tie on the jar in the photo are from, let’s say, a vintage set found at the very, very back of a drawer in my mom’s kitchen, from the days when she gave jarred gifts. I do like to be authentic.
My version is adapted from several recipe cards I found tucked in a drawer. I think they came from my mother, but they are not in her handwriting. Traditions do pass around.
1 (12-ounce) jar apricot jelly
1 (12-ounce) jar pineapple preserves
1 (5-ounce) jar prepared horseradish
1 (1.38-ounce) jar dry mustard powder (1/2 cup)
Coarse ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, mix the apricot jelly and pineapple preserve until smooth and combined. I like to use a hand mixer, but you can stir vigorously with a spoon. Blend in the horseradish until combined, then sift in the mustard powder and mix to combine. I really recommend sifting the mustard. This jelly has got enough kick without a lump of mustard powder in one bite. Grind in lots of black pepper and stir to combine.
Leave the jelly in the bowl for an hour or so to blend the flavors, the scoop into airtight jars or containers and refrigerate. The jelly will last for a month.
The Cilantropist says
Wow this is totally new to me but sounds SO interesting! And you say it is good with cheese? 🙂 Well I am sold.
OMG! I totally remember this stuff. I haven’t thought about it in years. My mom used to make it. Have to try, she’ll be so surprised.
This brings back fond memories for me as well! It is fantastic with roasted meats, and the brie idea sounds delicious! Sometimes the classics are the best!!!
I’ve not had the “jezebel jelly” version, but my Mom used to make hot pepper jelly to pour over cream cheese for an appetizer ((the hot peppers came from our garden out back — in the 50s). If there’s a Trader Joe’s near you, the cream cheese is also good with their “pumpkin butter” stirred into it and served on the obligatory crackers!
flour power says
This just proves what William Faulkner said: “The past is not dead, it is not even past.”
Thanks for this! I’d never heard of Jezebel Jelly till now. It looks lovely and very festive!
This was a BIG hit twice recently….I think it will become a staple in my pantry. It couldn’t be easier, and looks lovely too.
Jeffrey Mathews says
Might I say as an avid reader of cooking blogs, how much I enjoy yours. It is ALWAYS a real treat when checking my email to find something from the ‘spoon awaiting me. I just wanted you to know that this 60 year old New Orleans resident appreciates yur work and your kindness in making all this available to your readers.
Happy cooking and God Bless!
I remember this from years past. I haven’t made it in a while; but have thought about making it as gifts -to go along with gifts of pepper jelly.
I was wondering if I could process it/can it as I do my pepper jelly; so that it can be given as a gift in the jar without having to refrigerate it until opened? Thought I could heat the ingredients (as I do for my jellies I can) and put it into hot and sterilized jars and process them in a hot water bath. Do you think it will be a safe jelly to fix if I process it in a hot water bath in canning jelly jars? Thanks.
The Runaway Spoon says
I don’t think that will work as the products used have already been processed and in reheating you’d lose the texture. I just can’t recommend it.
This sounds delicious! I’m a little concerned about that much mustard. It’s the dry powder mustard, correct? Thank you!
The Runaway Spoon says
It is dry mustard. It gives a nice tang balanced with the sweet jams
Mrs. King says
Hi, I can’t seem to find apricot jelly anywhere. Could I substitute with apple jelly or apricot preserves? Thanks so much.
The Runaway Spoon says
Apricot preserves would be fine, even peach jelly.
Ellen Trovillion says
Hi, I was looking for Cheddar and Pepper Jelly Crumble Bars which I guess are only in your book? At any rate, ran across this and it reminded me way back ~40 + years ago when I got a recipe almost exactly like yours out of a Southern Living magazine and tried it…lasted forever! Same name and all. Couldn’t sell the idea to my husband years later though 😉 As you say, traditions pass around–probably everyone tried it back then for a party. Thanks for sparking a long time memory!