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Crevolyn Wiley: Homemade jellies, jams, sorghum leave a legacy
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I had a friend ask me a very interesting question the other day.

As usual, our conversation circled around to cooking.

Then she asked me, “What items do you always stock in your refrigerator?”

I stumbled for an answer and eventually mentioned items such as milk, eggs, butter, mayonnaise and coffee creamer. However, the more I pondered this question, the more I thought about the items in my refrigerator. So I just opened the door and looked.

What I didn’t expect was my reaction to the top shelf of our refrigerator. On that shelf sits several rows of jars of homemade jellies, jams, butters and sauces made by family and friends. Each one is packaged in various sizes and styles of mason jars with lids and labels as individual as the giver.

I consider all cherished gifts. Many come with a history of a family recipe and time spent with loved ones canning. I know all have painstakingly spent hours in their home kitchens preparing these with fruits from their own gardens. 

Another items on this top shelf is my husband’s beloved sorghum syrup. A couple of years before Darrell’s dad died, he decided he would take on the task of manufacturing his own sorghum, packaging the syrup with custom photo labels in the process. Little did we know what a treasure a jar of sorghum syrup would soon become. Those jars were slowly rationed out and used sparingly, hoping to make them last as long as possible along with the memory of the one who made them.

My children often say to me, “Mom, does everything have a story?”

Yes, grasshoppers, everything has a story. And for Southern mothers, the stories are long and passed from generation to generation. I fully expect you, my dear children, will share the same stories. Because that is how we leave a legacy of love, fellowship and all things good to those who go after us.  Sometimes it’s as simple as the top shelf of our own refrigerator.

Old-fashioned Southern jam cake with caramel frosting

Cake ingredients:

* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

* 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

* 1 cup canola oil

* 1 cup buttermilk

* 1 cup raisins

* 1 cup seedless blackberry jam

* 1 teaspoon baking soda

* 1 teaspoon baking powder

* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

* 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

* 1 teaspoon allspice

* 1/2 teaspoon salt

* 1 teaspoon vanilla

* 3 eggs

* 1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

Caramel frosting ingredients:

* 2 1/4 cups brown sugar

* 1 1/2 sticks butter

* 2 teaspoons vanilla

* 3 tablespoons white corn syrup

* 4 1/2 tablespoons milk

* 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round baking pans.

Combine all ingredients for the cake, with the exception of the pecans (or walnuts). Mix well on low speed of electric or stand mixer. Increase speed to high until sugar is completely dissolved.

Fold in pecans and pour batter evenly into pans.

Bake for 40 minutes or until cake pulls away from the sides of pans.

Remove and cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Frost with caramel frosting.

For caramel frosting:

Melt all ingredients except powdered sugar on top of stove. Remove from heat and add sugar.

Stir and cool until the frosting has a glazed look and is of spreading consistency.

Spread between layers, on sides and top of cake.

Crevolyn Wiley is a Gainesville resident with her first published cookbook “Cooking with Crevolyn” available at J&J Foods. She can be contacted at

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