Laena McCarthy: She’s Jammin’

July 20 - On The Dot

What did you dream about last night? Sometimes dreams can be illuminating, captivating and, well, also just plain perplexing. For instance, last night, I dreamed I asked an older family member whether freshly picked peaches could be canned. I kid you not. What the heck does that mean? Was I hungry? Is peach cobbler in my future? (Please let peach cobbler be in my future!) Listen, I’m no expert when it comes to deciphering the meaning of dreams, but I certainly am an expert on one thing: eating. Today, grab your favorite culinary indulgence and take a big ol’ bite!

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: $127 Billion

Believe it or not, my fruity slumber may have been a premonition of today’s On The Dot. We’re talking about nature’s candy, and the many organic, handcrafted specialty-food items made with naturally sweet fruits that are flying off food-store shelves. One particularly delicious specialty-food item is sticky and perfectly luscious. I’m talking about jam, jelly’s first cousin and peanut butter’s real best friend. Of course, fruit preserves have existed for a surprisingly long time, since the first century, in fact, with a honey-based jam recipe appearing in the first-known cookbook.

But these days, this scrumptious, jammy treat is quickly becoming a staple of the specialty-food industry, which includes unique products usually produced in small batches with high-quality ingredients. And it’s a market that’s growing significantly every day. The Specialty Food Association notes that market has seen a 15 percent increase in sales between 2014 and 2016, with the industry now accounting for $127 billion in sales. Now that’s a sweet sentiment!

WOMAN TO WATCH: Laena McCarthy, Founder and CEO of Anarchy in a Jar

I dare say someone who has probably had her fair share of food dreams is today’s Woman to Watch, Laena McCarthy. Laena’s company, Anarchy in a Jar, is part of that burgeoning specialty-food market and is a thriving business in its own right. For the past eight years, Laena has brought her passion for preservation and plants to her business, ethically sourcing ingredients and handcrafting small batches of jam, marmalade, chutney, mustard and even magic skin-care elixir. Her Anarchy in a Jar products are now available in select stores nationwide and online.

Laena didn’t launch her career with jam in mind. She earned degrees in visual arts and ecology and library studies, then went on to teach design-and-art research at the Pratt Institute. But with a history of making preserves with her family when growing up in New York’s Hudson Valley and a passion for jamming, she often found herself making eclectic concoctions, like grapefruit and smoked-salt marmalade. Yum! So, in 2009, she made the leap to turn her hobby into a condiment company, and has been handcrafting unique goodies ever since.

By using her culinary talents and honed palate, Laena is doing far more than simply providing foodies with yumminess in a jar. She’s also supporting her local New York community by sourcing from small farms, like Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood.

For this entrepreneur, jam isn’t her only jam; she’s a savvy businesswoman too, deciding to launch her business just in time to meet the rising demand from consumers for more local and fresh food with a creative spin. If you want to try your own hand at whipping up condiments like spiced beer jelly or Easy Like Sunday Morning Blueberry Preserves, this jam queen has got you covered. Laena’s super-hip cookbook, Jam On, features tons of tantalizing recipes and promises to take “jamming out of Grandma’s kitchen and into the 21st century.”

So, all you jam lovers out there, revolt from the chemical-laden, additive-heavy, lackluster preserves lining the grocery shelves, and instead, embrace Anarchy in a Jar. As Laena says, “The revolution starts in you!”


I’ll leave you today with this tasty quote from Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, who said:

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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