Susan di Zerega blends familiar and unexpected flavors in City farm foods’ fruit spreads and jams.
by Michael J. Solender
All it took for Susan di Zerega to transition from a career navigating corporate boardrooms to handcrafting delectable fruit spreads was a little inspiration, a global pandemic and childhood memories of her mother’s strawberry-rhubarb jam.
In 2017, after di Zerega came up empty looking for just the right gift for her stepdaughter’s schoolteacher, she created a personalized gift basket including homemade jam inspired by preserves she enjoyed as a child.
“I love to cook and started making jam to share as gifts for family and friends,” says di Zerega, a former technology executive and consultant. “They were so well received, I was encouraged to start a ‘side hustle’ selling jams, fruit spreads (with a slightly higher sugar-to-fruit ratio than jam) and pie filling at retail and online.”
City Farm Foods was born, with di Zerega cooking up small batches of jams with tasty combinations like blackberry mint, strawberry balsamic and blueberry lemon. With demand soaring last year, she left her corporate gig to get her jam on full time.
“I saw an increase in sales of more than 130% in 2020,” says di Zerega, who makes her wares out of a local commercial kitchen. “It’s very satisfying to hear from people who love the products and share with me how they use them. I’ve expanded into charcuterie board kits and love to suggest various jams for pairings that go well with cheeses and smoked meats.”
These sophisticated flavors are adorning much more than toasted bagels, too. City Farm Foods’ jams are delicious slathered on hot biscuits, in yogurt parfaits, as cheesecake toppers or as the base for custom PB&J sandwiches. Her peach-bourbon spread is favored for its smoky back notes and lends a sweet and sultry taste to glazes for grilled ribs. Spiced marcona almonds recently joined City Farm’s offerings to round out the product mix.
Handcrafting micro-batches of jam — only about 10 pints each — allows di Zerega to deliver attentive quality control and extra TLC. “People enjoy special flavor blends like orange chili, peach sriracha and apple cinnamon,” di Zerega says, citing the appeal of her jams. Customers can choose from 15 custom-blended flavors. SP
WHERE TO BUY: City Farm Foods’ products start at $6 and are sold at retailers including CLT Find at 7th Street Public Market, Reid’s Fine Foods, Mere’s and online at cityfarmfoods.com. Gift sets, samplers and individual jars can be shipped to all 50 states. Find news about pop-up markets, recipes and pairing suggestions at the website or on Instagram @cityfarmfoods.
Photographs by Remy Thurston