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I don’t know the origin of this bizarre, delicious sauce, but I like to think some enterprising lady with a cupboard full of preserves got creative one day and hit on something good. Jezebel sauce was introduced to my mom by her friend Debbie many years ago and is synonymous with the New Year’s Eve feasts I remember from my childhood. Earlier this month, I made it for the first time in many years and the first smell of bubbling goodness hit me like a memory bat, taking me back to my mom’s kitchen where all our favorite foods were lined up on the table for the smorgasbord that was our family New Year’s tradition. Baked ham, rolls, vegetables and dip, cheese and crackers, shrimp cocktail, crab dip, cocktail meatballs, marinated mushrooms and Jezebel spread, in its golden glory, served over softened cream cheese. The treats of my youth.

So, what exactly is Jezebel spread? As I mentioned, it is something only a lucky cook or mad scientist could have come up with: a combination of apple jelly, pineapple preserves, horseradish, mustard and pepper. As a child, I delighted in telling people what was in it and watching their faces register shock or confusion, betting whether they would dare another taste. Most people dared, because the flavor is actually a pretty straightforward sweet and sour sauce, with a nice peppery kick. Today I am sharing a classic version (courtesy of Mom’s recipe box) made in less than fifteen minutes with store-bought, prepared items– it is a cinch to put together and ready to eat almost immediately (though I found that I prefer cold or room temperature to warm, so it needs time to cool). It lasts close to forever in the fridge. My mom and I joked that one recipe of Jezebel sauce makes enough for an entire year of entertaining. When I am through this batch– next winter?– I have some ideas for updating the recipe with some of my homemade preserves.

In the meantime, I hope you will give this a try. It’s beautiful to look at, unique, a true conversation starter for your next gathering (the name alone!), and really tasty. The traditional serving method is over cream cheese or chevre with crackers or bread, but I would love to hear your ideas for other ways to serve this sweet-sour Jezebel sauce. I always like to get a little bit on my ham sandwich, and I’m writing up a meatball recipe to share soon. Until then– Happy New Year!

Jezebel sauce

Jezebel Sauce

  • 6 oz. pineapple preserves
  • 6 oz. apple jelly
  • 5 oz. prepared horseradish
  • 2 oz. yellow mustard (not powdered)
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and stir until the jelly melts and the mixture is completely blended. Cool to room temperature before storing in a tightly-sealed jar or container in the fridge. Keeps for at least 2 months; ingredients may be doubled. Serve over cream cheese or chevre with crackers or similar.