By Ryan Miller
When Kim and Mitch Cortez’s son Jake was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2, the family started selling homemade jams at local fundraisers for medical bills and cancer research. After the success of their fundraisers and growing demand for their products, they turned their small startup in to a full-time business. Kim and Mitch’s son is now cancer-free, and the family is enjoying the fruits of their labor with last year’s Fresh Batch Jams storefront opening in Chesapeake.
Kim originally learned to make jams from her grandmother when she was young, starting with the more nuanced fruit flavors of blackberry and strawberry before developing her bestsellers such as the Aloha Jam, a basic pineapple recipe enhanced with coconut to taste like a piña colada. Many of the recipe ideas are inspired by drinks, from spirits to wine. Their Blackberry Bourbon Jam mixes basic blackberry jam with Kentucky Bourbon. Originally made for the Hampton Blackbeard Pirate Festival, Pirate’s Paradise is a summertime favorite that combines peaches and rum.
Photo by Jim Pile
Much of their jam is made from fruits and vegetables sourced all over the state, including strawberries from Hickory Ridge Farm, Chesapeake, peaches from Knotts Island, apples from Charlottesville, raspberries from Richmond and peppers from Suffolk and Surry for their hot pepper jelly. “We do as much as we can to use local farms,” Kim says. “Usually the ones we visit are either longstanding farmers or very involved in organizations like what we are, those that buy fresh, buy local, Virginia-grown, organizations that support local farms and agriculture.”
Fresh Batch Jams offers 26 flavors, distributing nearly 50,000 jars annually from its Chesapeake location. They are also expanding into the hospitality and foodservice industries, as a strong following for their homemade products has come to fruition.
Fresh Batch Jams and other products can be found at its location (232 Centerville Turnpike N., Chesapeake), at stores across Virginia and online at FreshBatchJams.com.