Crystal Ooley knows how to pump up the Jams

Tabitha Fleming
Staff Writer

Butter on biscuits is nice, but jam is even better if you ask Crystal Ooley. “The first thing I made was wild plum jam,” said Ooley, “I don't care for plums much, but wild plum jam is one of my all time favorites now. Goes perfect on biscuits with butter.”
Of course the amount of jam Ooley can make depends entirely on the crops every year. This past year however she was blessed with a plentiful harvest. Her husband's uncle, who has plums growing wild on his land provided so many for preserves that she still has about 10 gallons of them in her freezer waiting to be processed.
This past weekend, at the Tri-State Fair judges agreed that Ooley has some serious skills in the kitchen. She entered six jams, and 4 of them placed in the competition. “I have never competed in the fair before this year, I was told I should by some of my friends and family, so I did,” she says, “I did really well.” There's no denying that the judges approved of her jams. Her Vanilla Bean Plum and Prickly Pear placed first, as did her Jalepeno Jelly, her Wild Plum brought home a third place ribbon.
With a busy schedule, like all people these days, it's hard to believe that Ooley can find time to make so many delicious concoctions, “I make time,” she chuckled, “I find making jam and jelly very therapeutic and gratifying.” She turns what would normally end up as chicken feed, or worse, in the trash, into yummy jams and jellies. “A couple weeks ago, I had a really rough week so I dedicated a whole weekend to making jam.”
Not every household could run smoothly with a weekend dedicated to preserves of various kinds, but Ooley says her husband took it in stride, “I have to give my husband a lot of credit though,” she says, “for putting up with the mess and the jars everywhere. He's so awesome.”
For now, Ooley isn't sure if she'll go on to the state competition with her jams, but she is considering it. Local residents might be lucky enough to get a taste of the winning jams if they use Facebook or attend local events. “I put my jams on Facebook [for sale] all the time, I need to make room in my panty so I can make more,” Ooley explained. She also gives the jams as gifts and sells them at local festivals. Recently she sold her jams at the Stinnett celebration and the Pampa celebration where she says they were a huge hit.
What advice does she have for aspiring jam-makers? “Just that making jam isn't as hard as you'd think. Just a fair warning though: it can be an addictive hobby.”