Tucked away on the shore of Lake Superior between Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor on the Keewenau Peninsula of Michigan’s U.P., you’ll find a slice of unique bakery heaven to share this holiday season.
The Jampot is a bakery owned and operated by monks of the Order of St. John who founded a monastery on the rugged shores of Superior in 1983. The remote location was chosen to “embrace the struggle of life in a hard place” and to meditatively live in harmony with nature and the cycle of the seasons.
The monks have blended their closeness to creation with the need to work in order to support their monastic lifestyle. For years they collected wild berries to make into jams and preserves. As time went on, they added a bakery. More recently, as their business has grown, they’ve purchased land to grow berries, added a coffee roasting operation, and expanded their humble bakery.
Strictly speaking, this community on the shores of Superior is a “skete” which is a smaller group of monks commonly found in the Eastern European Christian churches. Such institutions provide seclusion and isolation which allow the monks to pursue their chosen lifestyle of devotion and work.
Years ago, on a trip up to Isle Royale, made a side trip to the humble bakery. The colorful onion-domed monastery was so startling that we missed the small bakery across the road. We turned around and came back.
Inside we were blanketed in the smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, almond, vanilla and baked bread. We wiped the Pavlovian drool off our lips and stepped up to the counter where the attending monk warmly greeted us and began carving off samples. We were smitten, especially with the face-sized cinnamon rolls. We bought more than we could possibly eat and stuffed ourselves to the point of queasiness in the parking lot. The next day we would pay the price on the big waves of Superior as we ferried over to Isle Royale.
A few months later, I placed my first mail order with The Jampot for a fruit cake and some preserves. This isn’t the laughable fruitcake: the butt of all holiday food jokes. I chose their Jamaican Black Cake and have never changed my order since.
The Jamaican Black Cake is dense and moist, with a pudding-like texture. The dried fruits (raisins, currants, glacéed cherries, prunes, and candied lemon and orange peel) are marinated in wine and rum for months. When cutting off a slice of this heaven, I felt if I squeezed a little too hard rum would come drizzling out. The aroma, flavor and texture are amazing; amazing in the true and original sense of the word.
This year I see they’ve added coffee. Being a coffee guy who, but for one exception, hasn’t been able to find good coffee since January 30, 2016, I’m looking over their selections with a lot of hope. If even a fraction of the monks’ hard work that they pour into their bakery operation translates into their coffee roasting, this should be pretty good stuff.
I’ve got my eye on you Finca La Comuna Coffee of Colombia with cupping notes of soft melon, sweet, balanced, milk chocolate from the Santa Gertrudis estate grown at 1,700 metres and roasted Vienna dark. A cup of this fine joe, an English muffin with a generous swipe of Poor Rock Abbey Thimbleberry Jam and daydreams of that Jamaican Black Cake just waiting for me on the cutting board has become my new Christmas tradition for a couple weeks, or until the cake runs out. Jamaican Black Cake is also my new fudge.
So if you’re looking for new things to share with friends, family, co-workers or a We Love Dexter reporter, you can visit The Jampot’s online store here.
You can learn more about the monks and their lifestyle on their website.