Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Field Trip: Harvey's Citrus Grove in Rockledge, Florida and Jalapeno Pepper Jelly

We returned home from our Spring Break trip to Florida late on Sunday night. I need to go to the grocery store, but I've been busy unpacking and doing laundry instead. In the absence of fresh ingredients, I've been heating up meals that I prepared and froze over the last couple of months. With nothing new to post on the cooking front here, I thought that I'd share about our visit to Harvey's Groves while in Florida.

The whole reason that we ended up at Harvey's was because of their Jalapeno Pepper Jelly. We arrived at my parent's place in Florida a few days ahead of them. I found a jar of Harvey's Jalapeno Pepper Jelly in the fridge and employed it as a snack on crackers. Wheat Thins, if I remember correctly. As a fan of the spicy preserve, I've tried quite a few varieties of pepper jelly over the years. Something about Harvey's jelly was just a little bit different and I was crazy about it! After reading the ingredients, I think that the difference between most pepper jellies that I have tasted and this one is that the very first ingredient listed on the label is "citrus juices". Well, that made sense. A citrus grove would use juice rather than sugar water to make their jelly...

By the time that my parents arrived, I had worked my way through half of a jar and had even tried it on a turkey sandwich! (Not too bad, if you're wondering) Once my mom had unloaded her suitcase, I grabbed the jelly jar out of the fridge.

"Where did you get this?!" I asked.

She answered "Oh, that's from Harvey's. I can take you there if you like. We need some fresh orange juice and grapefruit anyway."

Yes. Please. Take me there.

On Thursday of our vacation it rained all day. My husband had some work to catch up on and my dad had flown out on business for the day, so my mom and I loaded my daughters into the car and headed down the highway for Harvey's store in Rockledge, Florida. We entered the bright gift shop and were instantly greeted by some friendly ladies offering us a sample of freshly squeezed orange juice. After browsing the store, we stepped out the back door to the sorting room to purchase some #2's. Harvey's ships premium Florida Indian River citrus all over the country. The fruit that isn't pretty enough for their gorgeous gift baskets and other shipping orders due to coloring or a blemish on the skin goes into the #2 bins. Beneath the skin this fruit is still delicious and perfect...AND less expensive! We filled the provided paper bag (the gift shop ladies recommended that we double up the bags to keep them from ripping) full of Valencias (the last orange of the season) and grapefruit. The charge for one bag full of fruit is $9.75 (give or take a few cents...I can't actually remember the amount, but it was under $10). Get this: each of their bags holds roughly 25 lbs. of fruit! You can't beat that price in your local supermarket!

Here are my girlies posing at the orange grove.

Pure Florida Valencia, baby! While many people think this is a "juicing" orange, it's wonderful for a peel-and-eat fruit as well.

Picking through the bins....

Harvey's has been growing, packing, and shipping premium Florida citrus for 84 years. You can read about their story HERE. Harvey’s Groves is one of the few remaining family-owned groves in Florida. The reason for the dwindling number of family owned groves is this: It's hard work growing citrus and running a grove. Over the years, many of the family-owned groves have sold to larger companies or found that it was more lucrative in the moment to sell their prime Florida real estate for development.

This trip to Harvey's was nostalgic for me. When I was growing up, my great-grandparents were "snow birds" who spent their winters in Delray Beach, Florida.  Not the type to sleep in or play golf after selling their Indiana farm, they spent their retirement working in a family-owned and operated orange grove. Every year we'd make the trip to Florida to visit them and while we were there, pay a visit to Blood's Hammock Groves where they were employed. The owners and their co-workers were like extended family to my great-grandparents and when we arrived on the scene we were treated like guests of honor. We were able to walk the rows of trees and view the behind-the-scenes operations of the grove.  As Gene and Delight's grandchildren, when we showed up in the offices or the gift shop, we received VIP treatment. I loved going to the grove. The smell of orange blossoms, the smiles received from the workers, the stickers from the people in the office, and seeing how it all worked. When I was in elementary school I even made a documentary and wrote a report for my class about the grove to make up for a week of missed school (my school principal's idea). Being in the back of Harvey's reminded me of this time in my life and I was happy to share it with my young daughters. The grove where my great-grandparents worked has since sold to another grower who ships for Harry & David. It was refreshing for me to see that Harvey's isn't planning on selling out or going away. This family’s commitment to providing premium products and excellent service is stronger than ever.

We caught Harvey's at the end of their growing season on this trip. They don't ship at all over the summer and resume again in mid-November (just in time to send a holiday fruit basket to your loved ones!) If you'd like to order the pepper jelly featured in this post or any of Harvey's products now, you have to order before the end of this month...or wait until November. You can shop online HERE. Just see the "Shop by Product" section in the left sidebar. You can also request a catalogue HERE. Of course, if you are in Florida and you happen to stop at any of their store locations, I highly recommend picking up some of their fresh-squeezed orange juice and their fudge is surprisingly amazing. It's easily some of the smoothest, creamiest fudge I have ever purchased!

But back to the pepper jelly....

We're two days home from vacation and I'm already missing palm trees and sunshine. It actually snowed here today. In April. Ugh.

In an attempt to re-capture the spirit of the trip, I busted out the jar of jelly I purchased at Harvey's for snack-time. I'm sure that most of you have seen a block of cream cheese smothered with pepper jelly and accompanied with crackers on an appetizer table. Nothing new there. It's always good. I took this traditional favorite just one step further. My 3 year old has been completely addicted to oranges since our trip. She begged me for an orange for her afternoon snack. I happily obliged, but not before zesting some of the orange peel over my cream cheese-spread, pepper jelly-smothered butter crackers with my new fine microplane grater. Talk about a bite of sunshine! As if on cue, the snow clouds overhead blew away and a ray of sunshine shined through our windows! It was perfection, I tell ya! Perfection.

When dinner-time rolled around, I was still clinging to my pepper jelly obsession. I decided to make a new version of grilled cheese, enlisting the jelly as a key ingredient. I wanted to use my new Pampered Chef grill pan and press, making the sandwich "panini-style". A regular skillet would work fine here too.

To begin, I lightly buttered a piece of bread and placed it butter-side down on the pre-heated grill pan.

Then I spread some cream cheese over the bread and topped it with the delicious pepper jelly.

I topped it with another piece of buttered bread and placed my grill press on top before cooking until golden brown and crisp.

Perfection again! The warm melty cream cheese, mingling with the sweet slight heat of the jelly on the crisped bread was sooo good!

I couldn't resist taking a bite or two before snapping just one more picture.

Yep. Perfection.

I hope that all of you are enjoying your Spring so far!


Unknown said...

Cream cheese and jalapeno pepper jelly is one og the best combinations :-)

We had it a lot, when I was an au pair back in 90-91....
Unfortunately I have never been able to finde jalapeno pepper jelly in Denmark

My best,

Ty'sMommy said...

What a fabulous post! I just love stories like this. I make my own pepper jelly, but the idea of the citrus in this one has me drooling. Yum!
I adore sharing traditions and memories like this with my son, just like you did with your daughters. Good times.
And as for the snow, yeah, I'm sick of it, too. Supposed to be 70 here today! Yay!!

Mary | Deep South Dish said...

That press really does a great job - I need one of those! You know we love our pepper jelly down this way. Try it in a pan sauce on pork sometime - divine. (course I have a recipe :) Hope you have a beautiful weekend - stop by sometime!

Katy ~ said...

I'm salivating here. I love love love jalapeno pepper jelly. Oooooh...I am languishing away for the want of this!

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