Sweet Thing Gourmet
Some of my fondest memories are of Christmases spent at my grandparents. I’m not sure how she did it, but Grandma Vivian would have the screened-in patio table stacked miles high with cookie tins by the first hinting of snow. Sampling her confections took you on a culinary trip around the world. From Italy, we had crispy pizzelles and moist ricotta cookies. Powdered sugar dusted Russian tea cakes (a.k.a. snowballs) accompanied American chocolate kissed peanut butter blossoms and soft butter-rich sugar cookies cut into your favorite holiday shapes. Her German spritz cookies were always perfectly uniform and decorated with colorful candy sprinkles, while her Hungarian nut horns wore a coat of cinnamon and sugar. My favorite, the fruity jam filled Polish kolacky, always made an appearance. I cannot express how much I treasured helping my grandmother in the kitchen and I accredit my interest and passion for food to her. So, when I met Kyla of Sweet Thing Gourmet and she told me her inspiring story, I knew I had to save this ingredient for something special.
In the summer of 2003, Kyla Touris began cooking up a rather unique and sweet idea. After struggling to find a full time teaching job and raising three children under the age of three (including twins) she knew something had to give. Kyla wanted to embark on something she was passionate about while simultaneously being a stay at home mom. Much to her delight, she discovered Vosges Chocolates, and became inspired by Katrina Markoff’s story and her unique combination of flavors. From there everything started coming together. Kyla’s concept was to couple her adoration for cooking with the jam making secrets her mother taught her. When strawberries were at the peak of the season, Kyla packed up her children and put them to work in the fields picking fruit. As she recalled the story, she laughed remembering how chaotic it was. In fact, the original name of her company was “In a Jam” and sported an overwhelmed frizzy haired woman on its label. She rethought her image and knew that staying home with the kids, focusing on her passion and experimenting with food was a “sweet thing”. Hence, Sweet Thing Gourmet was born.
When I visited Kyla and her husband Mark at their home in Bexley, I was amazed to discover that they were making their jam in a moderately sized kitchen using cookware and utensils I had at home in mine. The fact is everything they do is in house, from scratch, and made in small batches by hand. Although this began as a passion for Kyla, Mark soon realized that it made sense for him to focus on jam full time as well. His help with the company’s brand, given his background in fine art and years of advertising experience, certainly didn’t hurt. During my visit, the jam making duo was busy cooking up a batch of Blueberry Lime. They walked me through the steps they take to pair plump berries from The Blueberry Patch with the citrusy bite of fresh lime. Kyla pointed out that “the acid of the lime makes the blueberries sparkle".
Sweet Thing Gourmet began with five flavors, and over time, in concert with local in season fruits, new combinations were added. Today Sweet Thing Gourmet’s standard line of jams that they maintain totals around thirty flavors. You can find their sweet concoctions at a variety of retail locations around Columbus including Celebrate Local at Easton, Whole Foods, the Bexley, Clintonville and Worthington farmers markets, Katzinger’s Delicatessen…and the list goes on and on. They even started a new Signature Line using high end spices and ingredients that result in flavors like Damson Plum Jam with Tangerine & Tawny Port. All of their products are simply delicious and incorporate the same basic principals Kyla’s mother instilled in her. Months after my visit, I had the daunting task to decide on which jam flavors would make the perfect fillings for my cookies. As I began following the instructions of my grandmother’s hand written recipe card, I couldn’t help thinking how sweet it is to keep her holiday traditions alive.
The Sweet Thing Gourmet Jam (pictured left) traveled 5 miles to Columbus, while the jam (pictured right) traveled roughly 2,500 miles to Columbus.
From a distance they all look very similar, but as I checked out all the fruit spreads on the grocery store shelf I began to wonder what the difference was between jam, jelly, preserves and marmalade. After a little research, I discovered the difference lies in the form of fruit each contains.
- Jelly – made from fruit juice
- Jam - made from pureed fruit
- Preserves - made from whole fruit chunks
- Marmalade – a term applied to citrus preserves
Grandma Vivian’s Kolacky Cookies
Click on the recipe cards to print your copy: