ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) The Champlain Valley Fair isn't just about fried foods and rides, it's also a celebration of agriculture. And nothing says that more than jam and preserves with organic fruit. One woman from New Haven is using honey instead of sugar in her Made in Vermont preserves.
What V Smiley is doing in her Bristol facility is giving a fresh take to a traditional fruit-filled favorite.
"V Smiley Preserves is one of the few producers sweetening with honey instead of sugar. And not just any honey -- amazing local Vermont honey from a treatment-free beekeeper," Smiley said
It took a year and a half for Smiley to figure out how to make the honey for sugar substitution. "Because everything I read was -- you can't do this. You shouldn't do this or it will mess up the flavor," she said.
For Smiley it was a personal mission, since she stopped eating white sugar in her early 20's due to digestive issues. "Ending up on a special, super restrictive diet is what got me into cooking professionally," she said.
Although she grew up on a farm in New Haven, Smiley moved out west to Washington to try and satisfy her craving for cooking. It's also where she read a book by jam company owner Rachel Saunders that encouraged her that it could be done. She returned to Vermont with her partner in 2015 ready to bring her preserves to life.
"Cooking at maximum heat for as short a time as possible and then cooking in small batches is what makes for a special fruit forward flavor," Smiley said.
When it comes to fruit, there's no shortage. "These plums come from Cornwall, Vermont, and I make a special flavor called Cornwall Plums & Honey," Smiley said.
When it comes to flavor, the combinations are seemingly endless. "This is nectarine lemon marmalade with bee balm and lemongrass," Smiley explained.
There's also red currant raspberry geranium, pear lemon sage and Smoky and Spicy Tomato Jam, which recently won a national good food award.
She sells the more unusual flavors in a small 2-ounce jar. "I like to work in the small jars, because then people can grab two, three at the farmers market and discover something new maybe," Smiley said.
At a typical farmer's market Smiley will sell about 30 flavors of her preserves, but over the course of a year, she'll make more than 50 flavors. That's because she wants to get everything she can out of the fruit that's grown. "I've figured out ways to work with fruits that are around here that are cost effective and to get to grow all of these herbs and flowers and use them in the preserves. That makes me so happy," she said.
What used to be a sticky point to getting her business started, is now the sweet reason for V Smiley Preserves success.
V Smiley Preserves can be found in stores and shops from New York City to the Burlington's Farmer's Market. The best way though is through her website. Her cost is a little more than most jams and preserves, but that's because she's using Vermont fruits and local honey.