People often dream of turning a fun hobby into a profitable business. Although Sallie Porth didn’t originally set out to switch professions after more than 20 successful years in medical sales, she has turned her stress-relieving talent for putting up preserves into a highly successful enterprise endorsed by the likes of Oprah Winfrey. Sallie’s Greatest, her company that’s based in Cameron, South Carolina, is famous in the Southeast and throughout the country for its unique, fresh, herb-infused jams. These jams are used in recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, hors d’oeuvres and, not surprisingly, dessert. Sallie’s newest concoctions, simple syrups made from steeping the same fresh herbs as in her jams, are fast becoming a staple in fun and inventive cocktails, smoothies, teas, soda waters and sorbets.
It all started, as most worthwhile things do, with family. Although Sallie has always been a creative cook who loves to entertain, she credits her mother-in-law, Lois Porth (affectionately known to everyone as Miss Bud) with teaching her how to make jam. Miss Bud is known for her peach jam, and she hand grates every peach she puts in. “I learned really quick we couldn’t both take peach jam to all of the family functions,” Sallie says with a laugh, “so I started making strawberry and blueberry jam. Then I got kind of bored with that and tried to do something different.”
Naturally, she turned to her huge, overflowing herb garden, planted outside of her Cameron home by Gary Porth, her husband who comes from a long line of truck farmers. In the past, Sallie had tried to preserve the fresh herbs by using them in a variety of ways, but, as she says, “There’s only so much marinara you can deal with!”
According to Sallie, fresh herbs are perishable, but by hand-chopping the herbs, infusing her jams with them and heating them only for a short time, they retain their freshness. So Sallie began preserving and putting up her herb-infused jams as a relief from the stresses of her medical sales job, which required a great deal of travel. She would come home on the weekends and stay in her kitchen from Saturday morning to Sunday night, making jam. “I loved lining the finished jars up and looking at them!”
The pivotal moment for Sallie’s Greatest came in August 2010 when she entered her jams in the Garden and Gun “Made in the South” contest and won. The next big break for Sallie’s Greatest came in 2012 when she set up a booth at the Fancy Food Show in New York. Some representatives of O, The Oprah Magazine and Oprah Winfrey’s program on the OWN television network were scouting for new products at the food show and tasted Sallie’s Greatest Jams.
In the month following the New York show, Sallie’s Greatest learned that three flavors of its jams had been chosen for OWN’s “Favorite Things” episode and were to be featured in O, The Oprah Magazine: Strawberry + Basil, Blueberry + Lavender, and Oprah’s personal favorite, Peach Pepper + Ginger. As before, orders went through the roof, and the success of the company was ensured. After that, Sallie says, “We had no choice but to keep on going!”
Sallie’s next great idea was another line of products to sell alongside the jams. It all started when Gov. Nikki Haley requested a sweet-tea cocktail to serve at the South Carolina Specialty Food Association’s meeting a few years ago. Sallie concocted a Peach Sweet Tea Martini by mixing Firefly Vodka™ into the ingredients for an ice pop recipe she had invented for her Peach + Mint jam. The cocktail was such a hit that Sallie began to market to restaurants and bartenders, showing them how to use her herb-infused jams to make craft cocktails. Then the food and beverage director of the Columbia Marriott, Jeff Kaplan, told her he loved her flavors, but that she needed to figure out a way to get the pulp out of the jams so that the ingredients could be poured together for a smoother mouth-feel.
After experimenting, Sallie came up with the idea of pressing the fresh fruit into a syrup, rather than smashing it into a jam. She then steeped the fresh herbs in the pressing, along with real cane sugar. The result was Sallie’s Greatest Simple Syrup, in four of the same flavors as the jams, but in a form perfect for making craft cocktails, sangrias, mimosas, soda waters and desserts. The simple syrups have no added water, and with more than 1 1/2 pounds of fruit in every bottle, there is nothing artificial about them; they are simple, easy and fresh. Fun and easy recipes featuring Sallie’s Greatest Simple Syrups can be found in her new book, Mixology Made Simple.
And so, Sallie’s Greatest continues to evolve. Always a “foodie” who gravitates to the craziest thing on a menu, Sallie loves to experiment with new flavors. The jams can be incorporated into mouth-watering dishes such as Fig Sweet Onion + Rosemary Glazed Pork Roast, Scallop and Roasted Pepper Salad with Peach Pepper and Ginger Dressing and Strawberry and Basil Chocolate Trifle.
The syrups are just as versatile — some of Sallie’s favorite recipes are her Blackberry + Sage Peartini and her Blueberry Lavender Chocolate Sorbet. Sallie’s Greatest Simple Syrups are sold in many local grocery and beverage stores including Green’s and Total Wine, while the jams can be found in most of those stores, as well as other local specialty shops, including The Gourmet Shop, Cottage & Vine, The Crescent Olive, Hay Hill Garden Market and Uptown on Main.
Sallie has finally quit her medical sales job altogether, and she now has her hands in all aspects of Sallie’s Greatest, from creating new recipes, to riding with reps, to managing inventory, and she receives great help from valued business partners and employees: Brittney Myers, Michael Weeks, Rita Clementi and Dianne Lucas. Sallie’s Greatest has recently completed the arduous two-year process of getting a non-GMO (non-genetically modified) certification on all products, and the simple syrups have really taken off. Her latest project is developing craft beer recipes with unique beers from local breweries. “Running a business is not for sissies, but it’s been six years and we’re still here. I really feel we’ve proven ourselves! We are very blessed,” says Sallie.
Baked Brie in Puff Pastry with Lemon Fig + Basil Jam, Cranberries & Almonds
1 sheet frozen prepared puff pastry, 11 inches by 7 inches, defrosted
1 wheel brie cheese, about 5 inches round
2 tablespoons Sallie’s Greatest Lemon Fig + Basil Jam
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice brie in half across the middle. Spread the puff pastry sheet onto counter and roll it until 1/8-inch thick. Place one-half of the brie onto the puff pastry. Spread the jam on top. Sprinkle with the almonds and cranberries. Top with other half of brie. Wrap dough up and over the brie, starting at the corners. Turn over so the sealed side is underneath. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with water crackers.
Variation: You can simplify this recipe by leaving off the puff pastry and just remove the top rind from the brie, spread with jam to cover the entire top of the brie. Sprinkle the top with the almonds and cranberries. Bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Mixed Green Apple Salad With Fig Sweet Onion + Rosemary Dressing
1 bag mixed greens
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (or nuts of your choice)
1 red apple, thinly sliced
6 dried figs, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 heaping teaspoons Sallie’s Greatest Fig Sweet Onion + Rosemary Jam
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil (to your taste/I like less oil)
Salt and pepper to taste
Put mixed greens, apples, figs, walnuts and feta cheese together in a salad bowl. Mix Fig Sweet Onion + Rosemary Jam, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together. Toss salad with dressing. Delicious!
Blackberry Spice + Sage Jam Butter
1/4 cup Sallie’s Greatest Blackberry Spice + Sage Jam
1 stick butter, softened at room temperature
Blend jam and softened butter together until mixed well. Put into a crock and serve with hot biscuits. Sweet potato biscuits are delicious with this combination.
Variation: You can also make jam butters with Sallie’s Greatest Strawberry + Basil Jam and Sallie’s Greatest Blueberry Lemon + Thyme Jam.
Fig Sweet Onion + Rosemary Glazed Pork Roast
1 pork shoulder (4 to 5 pounds), bone-in
6 quarts ice water
1/2 cup pickling salt
Add the salt to the ice water and whisk until completely dissolved. Place pork roast in a large container or zip-close bag and pour the brine over it. Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.
1/2 jar Sallie’s Greatest Fig Sweet Onion + Rosemary Jam
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Drain roast, and place on a baking rack in an ovenproof deep-wall (2 1/2- to 3-inch) pan. Bake 3 1/2 hours, rotating 180 degrees after 2 hours. Remove from oven — meat should be VERY tender, and the bone should be easy to pull out. Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
Mix together the Fig Sweet Onion + Rosemary Jam, apple cider vinegar and olive oil to create the glaze and liberally cover the outside of the roast, reserving half of the glaze to use as a finishing sauce. Return to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until glaze has thickened.
Grilled Lamb Chops With Peach + Mint Jam
8 lamb chops
2 ounces teriyaki sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 ounces white wine
Mix teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire and wine together. Place lamb chops in a dish (or zip-close bag) and pour mixture over. Marinate for at least 1 1/2 hours but not more than 4 hours, turning several times. Grill chops on medium high about 8 to 10 minutes per side for medium rare depending on thickness. Glaze with Sallie’s Greatest Peach + Mint Jam the last 2 minutes. Serve lamb chops with extra Peach + Mint Jam on the side. Melts in your mouth!
Leftover Turkey Blackberry Spice + Sage Havarti Toasted Sandwich
1 ciabatta roll, sliced in half
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 to 4 slices of cooked turkey breast
2 tablespoons Sallie’s Greatest Blackberry Spice + Sage Jam
1 slice havarti cheese
1 handful arugula leaves
Spread mayonnaise on one side of bread and the mustard on the other side. Put the turkey on the mustard, top with Blackberry Spice + Sage Jam and layer havarti cheese. Top with the bread and toast in oven for 8 to 10 minutes to melt the cheese, lift top bread and add the arugula. Cut in half to serve.
Blackberry Spice + Sage Pear Crisp
4 to 5 cups fresh pears, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen, thawed
2/3 jar Sallie’s Greatest Blackberry Spice + Sage Jam
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
Cook pears with 2 tablespoons sugar to soften and reduce liquid in pears. Drain pears and add blackberries and Blackberry Spice + Sage Jam and mix together. Spoon into a lightly greased 8-inch dish or a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar and cut in butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle on pear blackberry mixture. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes or until top is bubbly and browned. Serves six to eight. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Delicious!
Variation: You can add 1/2 cup of oats and 1/2 cup of flour if preferred instead of 1 cup all-purpose flour.
Blueberry + Lavender Chocolate Trifle
Chocolate or red velvet cake cubed (I use box cake mix)
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed
1 jar Sallie’s Greatest Blueberry + Lavender Jam
1 jar chocolate sauce
Whipped cream (1 pint) with 1/3 cup sugar
Slice or cube cake. Place layer of cake in bottom of deep trifle dish or wine goblets. Spread with thin layer of chocolate sauce (1/2 jar). Mix Blueberry + Lavender Jam with berries and top cake with layer of fruit/jam mixture. Then spread a layer of whipped cream (half the pint of whipped cream). Repeat the layers in the same order. Top with berries, drizzle with chocolate sauce and garnish with sprig of fresh mint or basil.
Variation: You can use strawberries and Strawberry + Basil Jam in place of blueberries and Blueberry + Lavender jam.
Blackberry Spice + Sage Peartini
2 ounces vodka
3/4 ounce Sallie’s Greatest Blackberry Spice + Sage Simple Syrup
1 ounce pear juice
Chill martini glass with ice. Shake Blackberry Spice + Sage Simple Syrup, vodka and pear juice together in a shaker with ice. Empty ice from martini glass and strain cocktail into glass. Garnish with a pear slice and blackberry. (Can substitute apple cider for an appletini.)
Sallie’s Greatest Mimosas
1/4 cup Sallie’s Greatest Strawberry + Basil, or Blueberry + Lavender, or Peach + Mint Simple Syrup
1 quart lemonade, chilled
1 bottle Champagne, chilled
Mix Sallie’s Greatest Simple Syrup flavor of choice and lemonade together. Fill Champagne glass with 1/8 to 1/4 cup of lemonade mixture. Fill glass with Champagne. Garnish with a sliced strawberry and basil leaf, or blueberries and lemon curl, or a peach slice and mint leaf depending on flavor.
Blackberry Spice + Sage Cranberry Mimosa
1/4 cup Sallie’s Greatest Blackberry Spice + Sage Simple Syrup
2 cups apple cider or juice
2 cups cranberry juice
1 bottle Champagne, chilled
Mix Blackberry Spice + Sage Simple Syrup, apple cider and cranberry juice together. Fill Champagne glass with 1/4 cup of apple cranberry blackberry mixture. Fill glass with Champagne. Garnish with a green apple slice and blackberry if desired. You can make this in a pitcher and pour into glasses.
Blackberry Spice + Sage Hot Apple Cider with Rum
1/2 gallon apple cider
1 cup Sallie’s Greatest Blackberry Spice + Sage Simple Syrup
1 cup dark rum
3 cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
Simmer the apple cider with the cinnamon sticks and cloves together until bubbles appear. Add the Blackberry Spice + Sage Simple Syrup, rum and stir. Serve warm and garnish with a cinnamon stick and sprig of fresh sage.
Blackberry Spice + Sage Sangria
1 bottle red wine
1 cup cranberry juice
1/2 bottle Sallie’s Greatest Simple Syrup (12.7 ounces)
1/2 cup tuaca liqueur or brandy
Mix all ingredients together, chill for 2 hours. Serve over ice. Garnish with orange and lemon slices.
Singing the Blues Latte Martini
1 ounce Tito’s vodka
1 ounce Sallie’s Greatest Blueberry + Lavender Simple Syrup
1 ounce Café Granita liqueur (coffee liqueur)
1 ounce Tolon-Tolon Macadamia Nut Cream (can use Frangelico®)
1 ounce half-and-half
Chocolate syrup and blueberries for garnish.
Put all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake for 30 to 60 seconds to chill and strain cocktail into martini glass that has been swirled with chocolate syrup. Garnish with three blueberries.