KY Jelly Is My New Jam

If it’s sweet and smearable, you will find it spooned upon my morning toast. Jams, jellies, marmalades, conserves, confitures– I love them all.

I’ve had fig paste from Morocco, cloudberry jam from Newfoundland, and pearl jam from Seattle. If there is a place on earth whose fruit spread I have not sampled, it is only a matter of time before I do. So you can imagine my delight when I wandered into Walgreen’s and made rather unexpected discovery.

I was looking for shaving cream, but found myself lost in the feminine hygiene aisle when I saw it. Wedged between boxes of home pregnancy tests and Summer’s Eve, I came across a spread I never knew existed: Kentucky jelly. I was amused by its placement in the store, assuming perhaps that it was being marketed to pregnant women. Or at least very clean ones. If it was delicious enough to be recommended by gynecologists, it was good enough for me.  I snatched up a box and headed to the checkout line, forgetting all about the shaving cream.

When I returned home, I pulled the jelly out of its box after I put my bread slices in the oven to do their thing. The pale blue container I held in my hand gave little away as to what flavors lay hidden inside. I did, however, admire the packaging: a squeezeable tube. So convenient for spreading upon one’s toast, I thought.

Unscrewing the plastic cap to remove the tamper-proof seal, I replaced it and squirted a generous amount of the jelly onto my hot toast. I was surprised by the clearness of it but, undeterred, I bit in.

It was not what I imagined Kentucky to taste like. I was disappointed by its glycerin flavor and viscous mouthfeel. And it was not organic. My friends from there are colorful and interesting, so why wasn’t the official jelly of The Bluegrass State the same? I tried to imagine Kat and Jackie spreading it on their muffins in the morning. And then I immediately tried to imagine something else.

KY jelly does a great disservice to The Great Commonwealth, no matter what gynecologists may think of it. When I think of Kentucky, I think of bourbon, racehorses, summer heat, bourbon, cherries, and bourbon. I think of good old-fashioned traditions upheld like Derby Day and the making of burgoo and hot brown. And though I may think of Loretta Lynn using Crisco in her pie, I never, ever think of her using KY Jelly.

Old Fashioned Kentucky Jelly

I decided to make my own Kentucky jelly, the old-fashioned way, just to take the bad taste out of my mouth. And when I say “old-fashioned”, I mean like the cocktail of the same name.  Though my friends from The Hemp State might disagree, this recipe is how I imagine their signature spread should be:

Sticky, sweet, a whiff of bourbon, and the gentle kick of a thoroughbred thrown in for good measure.

Makes two 8 ounce jars of KY jelly. Keep one for yourself and give the other to someone you’d like to see use it.


• 1/2 cups Kentucky bourbon
• 1  1/2 cups black cherry juice (Knudsen makes a great one using cherries and nothing else, which is ideal.)
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 cup of sugar
• 3 or 4 good dashes of orange bitters
• The peel of 1/2 of an orange (large pieces are best, because you’ll want  easy removal.)
• 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or chile flakes, if you want a little extra heat.)
• 1 teaspoon calcium water (powder comes with your packet of Pomona Universal Pectin)
• 3/4 teaspoon of powdered Pomona’s Universal Pectin mixed with:
• 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar


1. In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot, add bourbon, cherry juice, orange peel, bitters, sugar, lemon juice, and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let stand for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle properly.

2. Remove orange peel. Add calcium water and stir into your liquid. Add the sugar/pectin mixture, bring to a boil, and stir, stir, stir to prevent the pectin from clumping. To see if the concoction has gelled to you liking, place a small spoonful onto a chilled plate and see how it sets up when cool. Too firm? Add a little more juice and try again. Too runny? Add a little more pectin and see what happens.

3. Pour hot jelly in to clean, sterilized jars and process according to instructions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

4. To serve: spread it on toast, on crackers, on cheese, on any food stuff that seems in need of lubrication.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
This entry was posted in Breakfast Time, Rants and Stories, Sweets and the Like and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to KY Jelly Is My New Jam

  1. ginny says:

    Ha! I use that stuff by the truckload at my day job (nurse-midwife–the second oldest profession) and thought we were the only ones who called it Kentucky Jelly 🙂

    • I am now trying to imagine a truckload of KY Jelly. What brand/color of truck is it? Also, I am glad to know I am not the only one who calls it Kentucky Jelly, too. I am in good company.

  2. Ryan says:

    This is perfect.

  3. Sharon says:

    Perhaps your original purchase would have been improved with a dose of cherry juice and bourbon as well? Certainly the bitters would have added a nice touch, and I, for one, am always a fan of extra heat in that department.

    • If you are a fan of extra heat in that department, I suggest you add the dried habanero I had in the original test batch.

      I still have the tube, but I’d hate to waste good bourbon on it. Perhaps after enough bourbon, I won’t care about the taste so much. I’ll get back to you on that.

  4. Shelly says:

    ” *snatched* up a box” ….I see what you did there.

  5. Alles says:

    Awesomely tasteless and tasteful!

  6. amy says:

    In bold even: And it was not organic.

    I am now wondering if I should make jelly from the liquid in one of my jars of ryed cherries.

    • Go for it! Making jelly from juice is really easy and mercifully economical.

      I should warn you to be careful when making boozy jellies. For the first experiment, I used 3 parts bourbon to 1 part juice. To say it was a waste of good alcohol would be putting it very mildly. Unlike the cocktail, the bourbon should take a back seat to the cherry juice in the jelly.

  7. Becki King says:

    My day started with an emergency dental appointment and a “low tire pressure” light on my car. Thank you for redeeming it.

  8. Garrett says:

    Love this post. XD

  9. Lindy says:

    Dear Lord save me………or not

    thank you!

    • You have just reminded me of St. Augustine when he asked of the Lord, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not just yet.”

      He will save you when you wish to be saved. Until that time, I hope you stick around here with me.

  10. Tina says:

    I love this post, you write so well, Michael 🙂 And thanks for sharing a great recipe!

  11. Ed W. says:

    I visited your blog for the first time tonight and I arrive to toast-spread KY Jelly. Interesting. It certainly cultivated a smile – that’s something, I guess. Anyway, I’ll be back.

    Found you from 5 second rule, by the way.

  12. Giddy says:

    I have an acquaintance who worked at a grocery store while in college. He tells an amusing story about being asked where to find the KY jelly, and dutifully leading the customer to the jam aisle and, not finding any, to the international aisle, and then giving up…. He was embarrassed in hindsight, but clearly not more embarrassed than the customer who didn’t correct his error!

    Anyway, your Old-Fashioned KY Jelly sounds delicious.

    • True innocence is to be treasured, is it not? He is a man after my own heart. There are many things about which I remained innocent, which caused me embarrassment– All of which are not mentionable, even on this site. xom

  13. Sandy says:

    I think I’m in love: “I tried to imagine Kat and Jackie spreading it on their muffins in the morning. And then I immediately tried to imagine something else.” You are on my faves list, mister.

  14. carole says:

    no mint? i went to the Derby yrs ago and got handed a glass of bourbon with a mint sprig hanging out. funny, i never did see a horse from that infield.

    • Carole, mint seems an obvious choice, doesn’t it? I did, however want to avoid making julep jelly. However, you have now inspired me to make a Derby Day Jell-o. I think that working with gelatin on a day set aside for celebrating our equine friends is entirely appropriate, don’t you?

  15. penandra says:

    I had to read the header 3 times to make sure I’d seen it right when I first opened the page. Then, of course, I had to read the article (after closing my office door) to see what you were doing with that jelly!

    Then I read the recipe (you know how I love to read your recipes!) and was surprised to find it actually tame this time . . . . except that I did not know about Pomona Pectin. How could I NOT know about Pomona Pectin? I promptly googled and ordered and have some coming my way — uh-oh, there I go again. How do I always find myself writing double entendre when commenting on your posts?

    • I think double entendres are unavoidable when commenting on my posts. The chief reason for this is that I will more than likely re-edit your comment to make it racier. I have that power and I fully intend to use it.

      And Pomona Universal Pectin rocks.

  16. Cheryl says:

    I usually like noting in my comments which particular lines of yours are my favorites, but but in order to do that with this post, I’d have to copy and paste the whole thing.

  17. Molly says:

    Oh dear me. I was lead here by Punk Domestics and fear the entire evening will be spent reading as many of your other posts as possible. Your recipe will have to go on the ‘must make’ list just so that I too, might have the pleasure of giving friends jars labelled with KY Jelly. Thank you for the delightful post and surely a lot of great reading in my very near future.

  18. Taress says:

    Love your use of “the gentle kick of a TB” – no such thing!!!! 😀

    Congrats on your nomination!!!!!!!

    • Well hello, Taress and thank you!

      Funny, but when I read “the gentle kick of a TB”, I immediately read it as “the gentle kick of tuberculosis” of which there is also no such thing. Let’s just pretend that when I use the term thoroughbred, I mean a child of good stock and breeding who is prone to tantrums and has spent the past two years at military and/or charm school in order to be mellow out.

      Would that work?



  19. Carrie says:

    Oh, my. What a giggle. Very clever writing! This article was just shared in my canning group on Facebook ~ lots of us enjoying it over there. Thanks for the early morning laugh and great writing & fab recipe… I look forward to looking at your site more!

  20. Your writing/stories are so incredible… I am so glad I found you. Internet time wasting crisis averted!

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