The story of Backyard Jams & Jellies sounds almost too sweet to be true, but it is. Krista Scudlark, founder, owner and chief jelly concocter, stars as the protagonist who converted her resourcefulness into an award-winning business—one jar at a time.
“It was just a hobby,” insists Scudlark, whose effervescent personality bubbles into her conversation, much like a batch of jam about to gel. This Baltimore-area native studied anthropology and biology at the University of Delaware, then spread her roots deep into Sussex County culture.
The plot continues with an almost predictable script: She and her husband moved to Milton. He is a backyard gardener, and she didn’t want to see excess produce wasted, so she made jelly. The first batch, Scudlark says, was green hot pepper jelly, followed by strawberry and then perennial favorite beach plum. The beach plums were harvested, with the property owner’s permission, of course, during visits with their young children to nearby Lewes beach.
“I made gifts—Christmas gifts, teachers’ presents, hostess gifts,” Scudlark says. Setting up a table at the Milton Holly Festival (30 years ago this year) was her first foray into sales. The green hot pepper jelly and champagne mustard sold out, and the hobby transformed.
A successful booth at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market followed, and “that is when the hobby turned into a business. This was never part of the plan,” she laughs.
State regulations require that she make jelly in a commercial kitchen, so Scudlark and her part-time helpers pack up pots, pans and jars to prepare the products in nearby Lewes. And while some of the fruits and vegetables are still harvested from her backyard, the current offerings extend into both sweet and savory, including a variety of mustards and chutneys that require purchased ingredients and unique processing times.
In the summer, Scudlark uses more than 100 pounds of sugar daily to create jams and jellies poured into more than 50 cases of jars every two weeks.
Beyond the chopping, cooking and processing, Scudlark also juggles the business logistics, including ensuring that each jar has a decorative fabric insert between the lid and ring. Then there are the labels, and the deliveries to 25 retail outlets—including some west of the Chesapeake Bay—as well as to 40 farm stands and farmers markets.
She even fills specialty orders, recently making quince jam for the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library gift shop from fruit grown and harvested on the grounds of the former du Pont estate.
“I can’t physically do much more, but I can’t imagine not doing it,” she says.
Visit backyardsjamsandjellies.com for more.