On a rainy October afternoon, Dennis Kolb was working on a fresh batch of muscadine jelly, pouring in just the right amounts of juice from muscadines from the vineyards on his property and adding in sugar and such. His wife, Linda, shared with me their story.
The Kolbs, owners of Bear Kingdom Vineyard Inc., have been selling jams and jellies for years and began their retail business in 1995. Most of their business is wholesale, but you'll find their products included in many Arkansas food gift baskets, including those from the Rice Depot and Gifts of Arkansas.
Bear Kingdom isn't a winery, but its jellies are flavored with wines from the Post Familie vineyard in Altus. “We sell a number of jellies made from their Niagara and their cabernet sauvignon,” she said. The cooking process removes the alcohol but retains the wines' familiar flavors.
Bear Kingdom sells three different types of Vino Pepper jellies ? concoctions of white wine, sugar, and peppers. Linda Kolb set me up with a sample of all three while her husband set up the sterilized jars. My opinion? The mild, with just a little bit of heat at the end, is sure to please just about everyone. The hottest variety brings habanero to the table and leaves you a few minutes later in a round of sudden sweat ? a good purchase for anyone who wants a little bit of startling in their pepper shock.
I also sampled Cherub's Rapture. “It was inspired,” Dennis Kolb told me. “I woke up from a dream and had the idea to combine raspberry and cinnamon.”
Inspired, indeed. That simple blend somehow elevates jelly to a new and delectable level. It's sweet with a hint of Christmas, but not cloying.
I watched as Dennis carefully poured the jellies. After sealing the heated jars, he started to label them by hand. He let me in on another secret.
“We only use sugar in our jellies. Corn syrup may be cheaper, but real sugar is worth it.”
You can buy Bear Kingdom products at the Kolbs' cannery and display showroom at 13106 Arch St. The shop isn't open all the time, but if you call the Kolbs at 888-1015 when you drive up, they'll meet you there.
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