“Try the pineapple pepper jelly on some King’s Hawaiian rolls. Slice them in the middle, add ham, cheese, and the pineapple jelly, then brush the top with melted butter.” — Deane Boughner
The retirement life represents the chance to put your feet up, travel, visit grandchildren, and enjoy days with no schedules to keep. That’s generally the plan; however, today’s retirees also represent the second largest population of small business and franchise owners.
When Curt and Deane Boughner moved from Longwood, Florida to Moultrie, Georgia, in 2014, the idea of starting a pepper jelly business wasn’t part of the plan.
Over the years, Deane has tweaked her pepper jelly recipe, which uses Scotch Bonnet peppers to create the perfect mix of sweet and spicy—all with a bit of “attitude.” With her pepper jelly a favorite among her family and friends, Deane decided to make a few dozen jars to sell at a local arts and crafts event.
Setting up a table at the Calico Arts and Craft Show—an event that attracts thousands of people to the Moultrie area—the Boughners weren’t sure of the response they would receive.
“We just set up a table and handed out samples of the pepper jelly on cream cheese and crackers,” Curt says. “We were surprised at how much people liked it. That first year we sold about seven dozen jars.”
As the Boughners started attending other markets and events, they gained a loyal following—it was the start of Grumps Pepper Jelly.
“People started looking for us,” Curt says. “If we changed location from the previous year, they would find us and tell us not to move again.”
While COVID-19 has temporarily derailed participating in annual fairs and market events, the Boughners have shifted to more retail and online sales.
“We are expanding slowly and starting to get more retail accounts,” says Curt, about the increased availability of Grumps Pepper Jelly in Valdosta, Moultrie, Tifton, and regional stores that carry Georgia Grown products.
A homegrown business, in the most literal sense of the word, the Boughners grow the authentic Scotch Bonnet peppers they use in making Grumps Pepper Jelly.
The cumbersome production process includes traveling twice a week to a commercial kitchen—located in Newton, Georgia, about 40 miles from Moultrie.
“We make the jelly in small batches to maintain optimal quality control,” says Curt, who is retired from the hospitality industry. “There is a lot of handwork involved,” including picking the peppers from about 60 to 70 trees in the Boughner’s backyard.
“We hand cut all the peppers and other ingredients,” Curt says. “Deane is in charge of processing the jelly, and I handle the rest of the production,” which involves labeling and packaging.
After mastering the original pepper jelly—which comes in mild, medium, and hot—Deane started experimenting with different flavors to create blueberry, pineapple, cranberry, wine, and mayhaw.
“The uniqueness of the flavor comes from the Scotch peppers,” says Curt, about the petite pepper with a mighty punch. The pepper’s name is derived from the resemblance to a Scotsman’s bonnet, a variety that hails from tropical Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Jamaicans cook with Scotch Bonnet peppers,” Curt says. “They use them to spice up rice, make jerk chicken, and other dishes that tend to be a little spicy.”
While crafting the perfect pepper jelly has been credited to Deane, the Grumps name comes from Curt’s moniker given by his grandchildren.
Not a fan of the traditional Grandfather or Paw-Paw names, Curt says, “Grumps is a name I can work with. Maybe sometimes I’m a little grumpy, but now everyone calls me Grumps—I enjoy the name.”
A Southern Favorite
The perfect accompaniment to just about any meal, pepper jelly can be slathered on a sandwich or mixed in mayo for a sweet-spicy aioli. For Southerners, the most popular way is to smear pepper jelly over cream cheese and serve with crackers.
It’s easy to pop open a jar for a quick appetizer or to add some zest to the main entrée, Deane encourages people to experiment.
“Try the pineapple pepper jelly on some King’s Hawaiian rolls,” says Deane, a retired registered nurse. “Slice them in the middle, add ham, cheese, and the pineapple jelly, then brush the top with melted butter.”
Spread on hot cornbread, biscuits, or veggies for extra flavor, Deane says the blueberry pepper jelly is perfect on pork and all the flavors make a tasty glaze on chicken wings.
“I enjoy creating new flavors,” Deane says. “A future possibility is satsuma, which is good since we have some trees in our yard.”