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  • Diana Parker | The Journal Gazette As co-owners of Ms. Maggie’s Artisan Jams, Heidi Erdman, left, and Peggy Puzzello offer a variety of unique flavors such as blueberry lavender lemon and honey apple cranberry jams.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 4:56 pm

Friends get creative for jam business

Diana Parker The Journal Gazette

What started out last year as an endeavor to make jams for friends and to sell at craft fairs has morphed into a small business for friends Peggy Puzzello, 39, and Heidi Erdman, 44. 

The Fort Wayne residents began canning about two years ago but have been operating Ms. Maggie’s Artisan Jams since the beginning of September.

Puzzello says the name for the business comes from her first name, which is Margaret, and when Erdman’s mother called her "Ms." as a child. 

 "We opened by accident. Heidi made cherry jam last year, and she gave it to a friend. And I made blueberry to give to another friend," Puzzello says.

Soon their friends were asking to purchase more, Erdman says.

There are eight flavors offered in the regular line. Each month also features a seasonal flavor. During November and December, the special flavors were Carrot Cake and Jingle Bell, respectively. The seasonal jam for January is Cherry Amaretto.

Asked where they got the idea for the different flavors, Erdman, who is also a speech-language pathologist with Fort Wayne Community Schools, says, "We had 17 jams and invited friends and family over – all ages."

The group was given paper and a pen and asked to pick their favorite flavor combinations.

"We asked for their honest opinions," said Puzzello, a stay-at-home mother and culinary student at Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast. "We sold jams at that event, too. We get inspiration online, but we modify them. We think of flavor combinations. We’re doing a pairing in February, a his-and-her combo for Valentine’s Day."

Each 8-ounce jar of jam sells for $7 and is available through the Ms. Maggie’s Artisan Jams Facebook page.

Q. You referred to a jam that was a "good fail." What did you mean?

Puzzello: Jam that’s repurposed. We had a pajama party in November. We made mojitos with strawberry basil jam. It was a "good fail."

Erdman: That’s how we came up with the strawberry mojitos. We thought of it as an ice cream topping as well. 

Q. What’s your favorite jam?

Puzzello: That’s a hard question for me. The Jingle Bell jam.

Erdman: Oh, that’s like choosing your favorite child. I would say the honey apple cranberry. It’s the only jam in our line that doesn’t use sugar.

Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?

Erdman: It’s Betty Crocker. Simple, basic, home cooking.

Puzzello: I just got Julia Child’s "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

Q. What’s your favorite vegetable?

Erdman: Depending how it’s prepared, Brussels sprouts. Roasted with lemon juice and garlic.

Puzzello: We’ve been eating rutabaga lately. I like the root vegetables a lot.  

Q. Who’s your cooking idol?

Puzzello: I’ll just say Julia Child because she was a home cook. I love her story.

Erdman: I really don’t know. I get a lot of inspiration from Ree Drummond. I want to tap my maple trees, have bees and I want chickens. We’ve got space for berries.

Puzzello: People at church refer to her as the "pioneer woman." I just had my first garden last year, and I have a black thumb.

Ms. Maggie’s Apple Pie Jam

10 apples

2 cups water

10 cups sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 (3-ounce) pouches liquid pectin

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Peel, core and chop apples. Place apples and water in large stock pot. Add sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a full, rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add pectin and return to full boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in spices. Pour into sterilized half-pint canning jars. Place on lids. Process jars in water bath, boiling for 10 minutes. Remove from water bath and allow jars to cool 12 to 24 hours before storing. Makes 14 half-pints.

Thumbprint Cookies

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 stick salted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1/4 cup jam of choice, divided

Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar until combined. Add in flour, a little bit at a time, just until incorporated. Cover bowl and chill for 1â ¯hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop dough in 2-tablespoon balls, roll them into rounds, and place them on the cookie sheet. Lightly press your thumb in the center of each round. Fill each indentation with a 1/2 teaspoon of jam. Bake 12 to 13 minutes. Cookies should be lightly browned at edges but still soft when removed from oven. Cool for 10 full minutes on the baking sheet. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Makes 15 cookies.

Cook’s Corner is a weekly feature. If you know of someone to be profiled, write to Cook’s Corner, The Journal Gazette, P.O. Box 88, Fort Wayne, IN 46801; fax 461-8648 or email