Julia Sforza is the jam-tastic force behind Half Pint Preserves, based in New York's Hudson Valley. A longtime contributor to Punk Domestics from her personal blog, What Julia Ate, Julia brought home the gold for the second time in the 2013 Good Food Awards, of which Punk Domestics is proudly a media partner. (Entry for the 2015 awards is open now, through July 31, 2014.) She took some time out of her busy canning schedule to chat with us. (Image: Carolina Weick)
Kudos on the Good Food Awards for your apple plum jelly! What was it like when you received the news?
Thank you! It was deeply satisfying on a professional level in that the judges are all so highly qualified. Getting their vote meant a lot. And being among a group of preservers I’m inspired by was also very special. The Good Food Awards is really doing so much by showing appreciation and support for these small and thoughtful businesses.
Tell us a little bit about how you developed your apple plum jelly. What were the "aha" moments?
The essence of the recipe is actually on my blog. Apples for pectin, plums for color, and star anise to put it over the top. I think if there’s an “aha” moment, it’s the star anise. It imparts just the slightest bit of mystery.
What's your philosophy in making preserves?
My philosophy is based on what some might call current buzzwords: local, sustainable, and small batch. But it’s not just hype. I take it all very much to heart.
How did you get started making preserves?
After becoming a stay-at-home mother, I began preserving in earnest. Jams were always a part of my life—I made them as a child with my family, though never canned—and the passion for it just blossomed into something much bigger.
Tell us about the name of your company.
"Half-Pint Preserves" is named so for quite a few reasons, but most plainly because everything is sold in half-pint jars. I like how it refers to something that is small, which is fitting for a local-centric micro-business like mine.
When did you make the decision to take your preserves to market? And why?
I was just obsessively making so much jam, that I had to do something with it. And, I had the notion that it would be something I could make money on. The jury is still out on that theory though!
What were the challenges in taking your preserves to the professional level?
Many. I don’t think I’m the only one who ever thought: well, yes, small business is hard, but how hard can it be? I’ve always been a fan of the steady paycheck and a job that ends when you leave the office. I now know why people say make sure you love what you do, because you will never be reimbursed for the time you put in!
Got any new flavors in development?
It all depends on what the season holds. Fruit farmers have a lot of challenges with the Hudson Valley weather, especially in the last few years, so it’s more about what we get. That said, I’m hoping for a good crop of tart cherries.
What does the future hold for Half Pint Preserves?
I’m really not sure, but my motto lately has been “slow and steady wins the race.” My only goal is to make great preserves from local fruit for local people. There are no plans to conquer the world. I’m just making jam.