Walker Creek Confections, Nashville Jam Company's goodies grab top picks
Almond toffee and apple bourbon jam are two locally-made goodies mentioned this month in national magazine Southern Living.
Walker Creek Confections - in Watertown - delectable almond toffee and The Nashville Jam Company - near Mt. Juliet - savory but sweet apple bourbon jam were tabbed in Southern Living's December issue edition of "The Daily South," a popular column in the magazine that features a staff member sharing his or her favorite southern-made products of the moment.
Walker Creek Toffee's Cathy McCook and Bruce Mott and Nashville Jam Company's Gary Baron all were ecstatic and "tickled pink" to be mentioned in such a popular and prestigious magazine. And they are friends, as well, and shared the news with big smiles.
The Southern Living staff member who gave the loud shout out is Abigail Wilt. Dubbed "Southern Living's very own Christmas fanatic," Wilt shared her top five Southern-made picks for the season, with McCook's toffee and Baron's jam in the mix.
"This almond toffee has a sweet crunch and the perfect amount of creamy chocolate, making it an easy hostess gift," said the staff member of McCook's confection.
She said she loved Baron's unique jam. "This cinnamon-spiced jam tastes like and upscale version of apple butter and would make a great holiday appetizer when paired with goat cheese and crackers."
Both Baron and McCook laughed when asked if they think they might be slammed now that their products have been raved about in the magazine.
"Of course we will be ready," Baron laughed. "It's fantastic anytime you have such raving press. We are elated. We always keep our fingers crossed, and we keep coming up with wonderful products."
Along with the apple bourbon jam, Baron makes blueberry, strawberry, three pepper, blackberry and the only other jam with a touch of spirits, peach brandy.
"Our signature jam is the strawberry jalapeno jam," he said. "But, now I betcha apple bourbon might take that slot over!"
Gary said he got a phone call from the Southern Living staff member a while ago.
"She said she loved our jam and asked if I could send her a few samples," Baron said.
Next thing he knows his apple bourbon is the bomb and mentioned in the mag.
As far as divulging his recipe, Baron's not shy at all. (Though he may have left out one or two of the ingredients on purpose).
"It's apples, bourbon, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, lemon juice and sugar," he said. "You don't taste the bourbon immediately. There's a decent amount. It takes a few seconds to get that waft of bourbon."
This jam is very versatile.
"Like Abbi said, it tastes amazing with goat cheese," Baron noted. "But, I use it on our pork chops, Brie, of course, our biscuits."
He said apple bourbon jam came sort of like a revelation.
"It occurred to me I didn't have any apple products," he said. "Adding the bourbon was a brilliant addition."
So brilliant, this now famous jam also appeared on last week's ABC's weekend edition of "The Today Show."
"I had gotten a call from one of their chefs," Baron said. "They included it in a segment where they were showing how have gift box products with bourbon."
The Nashville Jam Company is seven years old. Gary and his wife Courtney started the company out of necessity when the economy tanked. They have three children. At that time he utilized some fertile soil on his dad's farm and decided to plant heirloom tomatoes. They started making salsa and then morphed into jams and so much more. Gary's won multiple professional cooking competitions with his culinary prowess. The couple opened Nashville Jam Café on Saundersville Road near Mt. Juliet seven months ago and it's been wildly popular. Breakfast is a huge draw (because of the jams and Baron's unique recipes) as well as dinner with such menu items as shrimp and grits and thick cut pork chops. And, there are those cookie dough eggrolls.
"Our gift store is blowing up as well," he said. "Of course we carry Walker Creek candy! Bloody Mary mixes, grits, pancake mix and the jam are great in the gift boxes."
Gary said he's in "good company" in the mention with McCook. He said she showed up to deliver that week's toffee order and Baron told her about Southern Living. Both said it was a "jolly moment" together.
McCook said she's glad Baron carries her now nationally-known almond toffee in his cafe.
"I think two companies from Wilson County on that list is simply amazing," she said. "It shows a lot is going on in Middle Tennessee. It's wonderful to represent our area this way."
All McCook knows is a "person" came on the excursion train to Watertown and went on a tour of their kitchen and store and went away with some samples."
Those samples apparently impressed the right people.
"It's awesome," she said. "We also make caramels and southern pralines. The almond toffee is my husband's family recipe."
They started making toffee about seven years ago when they cooked it up for some friends.
"It's been a very busy year," she said.
That's an understatement.
"Santa's workshop's been busy," she said.
Last week was their peak week thus far. They made 860 pounds of toffee, 104 pounds of pralines and 200 pounds of caramel. And Cathy's not mum either about this famous toffee recipe.
"It's very buttery," she said. "My husband tweaked the recipe for years."
Must have gotten it right. She said toffee is tricky. It's about the "color and feel of it." As far as ingredients, they are: butter, sugar, almonds and dark chocolate on top. It's not too late to order from their website walkercreektoffee.com.
"There's just a real artisanal food movement in Tennessee these days," Baron noted. "We all support each other and don't compete. We share in each others' success and failures. Cathy and I love sharing this mention in Southern Living. "
Nashville Jam Café is a smoke house, grocery and biscuit joint at 5234 Sandersville Road, (615) 288-2223. Walker Creek Toffee is located at 114 East Main Street in Watertown, (615) 295-4137.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.