JACKO’S PEPPER JELLY: A WELCOME DIMENSION OF SPICE AND FRUIT THAT EMPOWERS EVEN THE SIMPLEST OF SEASONAL APPETIZERS. Lela Gerald’s pepper jelly will always be a staple for company and conversation, as the history of this local favorite is as engaging as the flavor.
Spanning 50 years, Jacko’s has evolved from treasured Christmas gift among family to specialty product on the shelves of more than 40 stores across the South. Lela’s father, Jack Bellows, aka Jacko to his grandchildren, originated the recipe. In 2018, Lela took his mango pepper jelly to market, and Jacko’s has been growing ever since.
Lela adds tradition to each jar: her mother’s penchant for entertaining, her father’s passion for local flavors wherever he traveled, and the family’s love of sharing good food. Lela never uses artificial colors or preservatives, and the ingredient list is purposefully short.
Recently, Lela chartered new territory by individually seeding 100 tiny kumquats, about which she responds, “Never again! Though, the jelly was delicious.” When we met, a pile of persimmons in Lela’s kitchen were awaiting their chance to star in a new recipe.
What’s next? Apparently, a book! For inspiration, Lela will turn to her 20-year collection of 100 vintage cookbooks dating back to 1910. Memphis, don’t blink – you might miss one of this entrepreneur’s newest flavor combinations or what promises to be a spicy tale told through the pages of a Jacko’s pepper jelly cookbook. JackosPepperJelly.com
Jacko’s Chicken Tacos
Lela’s friends and fans often give her ideas. The recipe shared here for chicken tacos with pepper jelly was inspired by long-time friend and fellow maker Jennifer Balink.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
1 or 2 onions, halved, thickly sliced (¼ inch)
1 whole garlic head, top 1/4 removed
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 - 1/3 cup Jacko’s pepper jelly (mango, cherry or cranberry)
Corn or Flour tortillas – (Lela loves Trader Joe’s flour + corn blend tortillas best!)
Thinly sliced red cabbage
Crumbled cotija or queso fresco cheese
Dutch oven or skillet with cover
Preheat oven to 300F.
2-hour preparation: Chicken can be cooked ahead of taco assembly. Slow cooking ensures chicken is tender, and roasted garlic and onions will melt into the finished dish.
To cook chicken:
Add oil to pan. Add everything except pepper jelly. Toss until ingredients are evenly coated. Cover and cook for 90 minutes. Add pepper jelly, adding more if you prefer a sweeter result. Cook 30 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove chicken and shred keeping all juices. Remove the garlic head and squeeze with tongs to release all cloves; toss the skin. Return shredded chicken and garlic cloves to pan and mix together; keep warm.
To Assemble tacos:
Warm each tortilla on a griddle or skillet until slightly crispy. Top with chicken, cheese, cabbage, cilantro. a slice of avocado and a squeeze of lime. Fold and enjoy!
Holiday entertaining tip: Use a round cookie cutter to cut mini taco shells from soft flour tortillas. After coating each with light oil or spray, microwave 10 seconds, loosely fold, and bake at 350F for 5 minutes. Fill these mini taco shells with Jacko’s chicken taco mixture for a colorful appetizer.