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10th Annual Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival

10th Annual Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival

Unicoi Preserves founders Suzy & Clark Neal took home the First Place and Consumer Choice Awards at the 10th Annual Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Amateur Cooking Competition on September 19th. Their recipe for Good Enough Shrimp and Grits with Candied Bacon included their Georgia Apple Cider Pepper Spread and four other Georgia Grown ingredients.

This is the second award Unicoi Preserves has received for their Apple Cider Pepper Spread. Earlier this year, they were awarded as a finalist at the Flavor of Georgia, an annual food contest hosted by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences with the support of the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Unicoi Preserves products are the Neals’ home recipes, made by hand in small batches. Using locally sourced fruit grown in their mountain region and picked at the peak of ripeness allows all varieties of their products to be flavorful and low in sugar with no artificial ingredients. Unicoi Preserves is proud to be a Georgia Grown company.

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We're going to the Island!

We're going to the Island!

Hello again!
We have been jamming and jelly-ing as fast as we can around here, but its time for me to stop, and type a little bit to get you up to speed.
Exciting news!
We are one of 10 amateur cooking teams selected to compete at the Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival. The event is the weekend of September 18 and we’ll be cooking on Saturday.
Cooking with local ingredients is important to us, so we have developed a delicious recipe that uses our award-winning Georgia Apple Cider Pepper Spread, as well as several other Georgia Grown foods.
Our friends at Nora Mill Granary are the official grits sponsor this year, and they are the only grits that I’ve cooked with for over 20 years, so I feel pretty confident with the grits portion of our dish.  Recipe development is fun, but finding local shrimp in our beautiful mountains is not possible, cause, you know, its the mountains, duh! We don’t buy pond raised shrimp from overseas, so locally, we haven’t had any luck buying shrimp for our recipe. Luckily, we are out and about pretty frequently to Atlanta, so I was able to buy wild caught Georgia shrimp at Buford Highway Farmers Market the last time we were there for product demo and they cooked up sweet and tender.
Closer to home, we can find wild caught gulf coast shrimp in Gainesville at the Atlanta Highway Seafood Market. In addition to the seafood market, they have a restaurant as well that serves some of the most well-prepared and delicious seafood I’ve had. You should definitely check them out next time you’re in the area, especially if you enjoy Cajun & Creole spice.
While we are no strangers to competition, this is our first live and timed cooking competition. It would be wonderful to see you on Jekyll Island and have you there to cheer us on. Let us know if you’re coming. If you can’t get away, you can follow along virtually through our hashtag for the event, #UnicoiPreservesGoodEnough. We’ll be posting to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. Keep your fingers crossed that our recipe will be Good Enough to win!
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Everything's Peachy!

Everything's Peachy!

Hi blog readers! We’ve had a hectic few weeks here at Unicoi Preserves Spread Headquarters. Let me get you up to speed!

Back at the beginning of June, we attended the Macon Georgia Grown Farmers Showcase. It was the first time we had been to an event that far south. We got to visit with a lot of the Georgia Grown companies that we’ve gotten to know since the Flavor of Georgia competition and meet a lot of nice people.

As the day grew to a close at the Farmers Market, our smokin’ hot friend Abby J of Abby J’s Blackhawk Salsa, came by with a case of Lane Southern Orchard Ruby Prince peaches and suggested I go buy some as well. Clark tried to say we didn’t have room in the car because he knew how many peaches he’d have to help peel and process but I went ahead and got them anyway. I just couldn’t leave peach country without them, they were fragrant, delicious and perfect for jam.

Unicoi Preserves’ founding principals are based on our belief of  supporting local – farmers and business,  and cooking and eating foods that are in season. As we worked together through that half bushel of peaches, we cooked multiple batches of jam and tweaked our recipe to dial in the ingredients that would allow those sweet Georgia peaches be the number one ingredient, not sugar.

We were able to stay in line with that goal and are proud to introduce Salted Caramel Peach Spread. Weighing in at a mere 20 calories a tablespoon, we are a low sugar product with no artificial ingredients — sweet Georgia peaches lead our ingredients, not sugar. The FDA regulates the name of our products based on the sugar level, so we cannot call it Jam on the label, but you can, I won’t tell!

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Treehouse Master & The Mrs.

Treehouse Master & The Mrs.

Clark and I had the honor and privilege of being the first overnight guests at the new tree house located at ZipNTime in Helen, Georgia. Camping is one thing, but staying in a treehouse, its even better and is the perfect way to rough it.

We had talked about taking our camp stove and different things we could cook but when we got to Ingle’s and started discussing what to make, we noticed they had fried chicken on sale. Nothing says “Buy Me” on a Friday afternoon after a busy work week like crispy fried chicken and King’s Hawaiian Rolls. We picked up a few other camping necessities like Terrapin Recreation Ale and Jiffy Pop and headed back to the tree house.


Terrapin Recreation Ale for Clark, Habersham Winery Signet for me

There’s a campfire ring by the cabin, so Clark staged our fire, we ate dinner and decided to go exploring on the dirt roads and trails that are throughout the property. There’s a beautiful little creek just steps down from the cabin and the mountain laurel and honeysuckle were blooming beautifully.

After our hike, we came back and lit the fire and enjoyed some beverages, listening to the sounds of the forest. The whippoorwills were calling to each other and I learned that was one of Clark’s Granny’s favorite birds. He said she loved whippoorwills and owls, which are my favorite. We stayed up pretty late talking, reconnecting and watching the flames of the fire dance. There were so many stars and the moon was beautiful.


There is no electricity in the treehouse but there are beds. Wonderful, squishy, memory foam beds. They suggested we bring sleeping bags, but I went full on Martha Stewart and brought pillows,

sheets, a fluffy blanket and quilt. Our bed looked and felt quite cozy. I am a light sleeper but it was so dark, quiet and peaceful that I actually slept through the night.

If you haven’t been up to ZipNTime lately, you may not know about all the enhancements they are working to make your stay so much more fun.

Would you like to stay in the treehouse? They are running a contest until June 8th on Facebook and Instagram. Go on and enter, follow the directions and use #znttreehouse.

I can’t wait to hear about your adventure!

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Unicoi Preserves Apple Cider Pepper Slaw

Unicoi Preserves Apple Cider Pepper Slaw

Cooking is challenging when your stove is on the fritz but its not impossible.
I made this tasty, spicy & sweet slaw using our award winning Georgia Apple Cider Pepper Spread to accompany The Pioneer Woman’s Spicy Dr. Pepper Pork that I cooked in our crockpot.
Clark got this crockpot when he went away to college in 1986 – 29 years ago! It still works perfectly, unlike our fancy Electrolux stove that we bought in 2011!
Here’s what you need
Unicoi Preserves Apple Cider Pepper Spread + Duke’s Mayo + Georgia Grown Vidalia Onions = Yumm-O!
2 Granny Smith apples, 1 grated, 1 chopped (1 apple was late to the party & missed the photo shoot)
1/2 Vidalia onion, grated
Bag of coleslaw mix
Finely diced jalapeno, optional *
Salt & pepper to taste
Mix the ingredients in a large bowl & refrigerate for flavors to blend.
*I omitted the jalapeno this time because the pork was spicy enough for our taste. The sweetness of our Unicoi Preserves Georgia Apple Cider Pepper Spread and the tartness of the Granny Smith apple combined with The Pioneer Woman’s recipe is the perfect trifecta for dinner on Taco Tuesday
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ZipNTime Adventure

ZipNTime Adventure

We live and work in a vacation destination but often lose sight of that and sometimes work more then we play. Last week, we changed that and kicked off the start of a fun weekend by going zip lining at ZipNTime with our friends from Habersham Winery.
I was apprehensive about going at first and didn’t mention being invited to Clark right away because I knew he would want to go. The more I thought about it, though, the more I knew it was silly to be afraid. It’s healthy to have respect for dangerous things but ZipNTime is a professionally built and maintained venue, not some third world set up built in banana trees.

Afterwards, we headed outside to get geared up with harnesses and safety equipment.

The staff was very friendly and helpful explaining things  and helping us get into our harnesses.
After some laughs and lots of pictures, we loaded up into the military transport vehicle and headed out on to the course.

As we prepared to zip, I thought, don’t live in fear, go for it! Taking the step off the platform was not easy and as I was zooming through the sky to the next platform, there might have been some screaming heard throughout the Sautee Valley.

Mountain laurel are in full bloom, the ferns have come in thickly and the trees have shed their winter drab brown clothes for fresh, lush green ones.

The very last zip line of the day is the longest dual zip line in Georgia. Clark and I got to race on that and I won.  It didn’t hurt that I had a head start and jumped off before him. Ha!
When we got to the last platform, the sun was setting and there were deer on the ground looking up at us. A truly magical scene on a fun Thursday evening!
Thank you Emily for including us and to Danny and the staff at ZipNTime for hosting us. We had a fantastic adventure and you have a first class staff and operation. I will not be fearful the next time we come a zippin’!
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Happy Birthday to Unicoi Preserves

Happy Birthday to Unicoi Preserves

Unicoi Preserves turned one year old at Habersham Winery at WineFest this past Saturday. What a fitting place for us to celebrate our first birthday since it’s where we debuted our products last May.
                                The Pot Stirrer and the Spread Specialist


Phickle Chickle Angie, Spread Specialist Suzy, GM of Habersham Winery, Emily &  her fun sister Sandi
WineFest coincided with the Kentucky Derby this year


It was really like Habersham Winery threw a party for us, with great live music from Tim P. White, awesome food from Mully’s Nacoochee Grill, 19 local wineries and a fun photo booth from Fancy Doodle. We had lots of friends stop by throughout the day, including Sarah who jumped in and helped us fix samples (Yay! Sarah) We were set up in the tank room and were in good company back there with  Angie Tillman of Phickle’s Pickles fame, Christina from VIP Southern Tours as well as Southern Distinctions magazine. Pappy was set up out back smoking chicken and fish on his grilling planks and even glazed some with our award winning Georgia Apple Cider Pepper Spread.

           Beautiful people and new fans of Apple Cider Pepper Spread

Saturday’s weather forecast was for sunshine and no rain, the perfect spring day in the mountains and we knew we were going to be busy. We actually shopped for sample supplies and started our prep work early in the week so we’d be organized for the day. Friday Clark packed the car while I readied sample supplies and took care of last minute details like signage (a big shout out to Betsy!)  Amazingly, we were done in time to make the kick off of First Friday in Sautee at Sheilah’s Village Market.

Sheilah and Steve have worked hard turning this monthly event into something that benefits the community. Every month, they, along with their employees and volunteers from the Smithgall Humane Society are at First Friday with food, music and beverages under the shade trees in their park. We saw people there over the course of the night that we’d lost touch with over the winter months and were able to catch up with everyone.

At the end of the night, Clark and I sat out under the stars and bright moon talking to friends who wanted to know how we wound up moving to Sautee from south Georgia. We have a diverse group of friends but our common thread, outside the love of great wine and food,  seems to be the peace and tranquility of the Sautee Valley and our mountains, along with the sense of the community that makes you feel a part of it, regardless of where you were born. There are some places that may make you feel unwelcome if you weren’t born and raised there, but Sautee isn’t one of them. “We weren’t born in Sautee but we got here as fast as we could!” Thanks Debbie & Donna!

We’ve learned a lot over the past year and each day in the jelly business brings a new adventure and realization about who we are personally, as a company, how we fit into our local community, economy and the  food community. What will the next year bring?

I don’t know but I’m ready.

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Flourless Chocolate Cake with Georgia Vineyard Spread

Need a fast and tasty dessert that also happens to be gluten-free?

My friend Donna is not only a great cook, she’s also the one who keeps my hair fabulous. I was in today to get my hair spiffed up and she told me she had made a delicious dessert.
Flourless chocolate cake made more yummy with the addition of Unicoi Preserves. After she took it out of the oven and let it cool a few minutes, she poked holes in it and spread it with our Georgia Vineyard Spread. We both decided that we need to try it using Georgia Vineyard Fire. Spicy chocolate?  Yes, please!

Here’s a recipe from Epicurious that sounds very similar to what Donna made.


  • 4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling
  • Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper. Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.
  • Poke holes in cake and spread with Unicoi Preserves Georgia Vineyard Spread. The warm cake will pull all the yummy moisture into the cake.
    Dust cake with additional cocoa powder or powdered sugar and serve
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Flavor of Georgia Showcase - Buford Highway Farmers Market

Flavor of Georgia Showcase - Buford Highway Farmers Market

Unicoi Preserves has really been hopping here lately and my blogging has taken a bit of a backseat. I apologize and promise to try and do better this spring. I owe you a blog post about the Flavor of Georgia competition and Ag Awareness Day in downtown Atlanta that we participated in back in March and will get that post up soon.

                           Photo by Buford Highway Farmers Market

As a result of that competition, we were invited to participate in the Flavor of Georgia Showcase at Buford Highway Farmers Market in Doraville, Georgia. The event took place this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday inside the market, which was a true blessing given the rainy spring season we’re experiencing.

My sister Betsy introduced me to BHFM many years ago and we both love to shop there, Betsy having the home town advantage since she’s local to the area. But any time I go down to visit her, I always bring a cooler so we can shop there together. With this history, it was especially exciting for me to be there in the store representing our brand, doing product demo and meeting the diverse shoppers that come in.

We were set up under the tasting tent in the produce section with finalists and winners from the Flavor of Georgia contest. So many different nationalities of people shop in the market, but what I have found, a smile is a smile regardless of what language you speak. Connecting with people isn’t  hard when you speak with food. The people working in the market have to be some of the nicest folks we’ve met as well.

tent in the produce section with finalists and winners from the Flavor of Georgia contest. So many different nationalities of people shop in the market, but what I have found, a smile is a smile regardless of what language you speak. Connecting with people isn’t  hard when you speak with food. The people working in the market have to be some of the nicest folks we’ve met as well.

Clark is ready to share food with the happy shoppers

If you haven’t been to BHFM lately, you owe it to yourself to go and see what’s different from the last time you were there. The market is always evolving. Some of my favorites, besides the produce and seafood, are the expanded specialty cheese area, the European bakery area, and of course, The Flavor of Georgia area.

Atlanta and Buford Highway Farmers Market thank you for the warm reception! We appreciate you supporting our Georgia Grown, family owned business and  look forward to doing product demo there again soon.


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Plain vs. Milk Chocolate

Plain vs. Milk Chocolate

One of my all time favorite candies is M&M’s. When Clark and I got married some 19 years ago this June, we used pastel colored Peanut M&M’s in little tulle packages tied with ribbon as wedding favors. Clark’s young cousins thought they were great to throw at us when we ran from the church to our awaiting get away car but hopefully our other guests ate them.

Now, you’re wondering by now, I’m sure, what the heck does this have to do with Unicoi Preserves?

M&M/Mars is a huge company, with a lot of people working all facets of the company, to include product research, consumer testing, marketing. Basically, the polar opposite of Unicoi Preserves.

Do you recall, back in the 90’s, Plain M&M’s became Milk Chocolate M&M’s? How much consumer research did it take for that to happen? Why did the change come about? Were people just not buying Plain M&M’s? Milk Chocolate was exciting, Plain was boring?

We debuted Unicoi Preserves in May 2014 at Habersham Winery’s WineFest with two products, Georgia Apple Cider Pepper Spread, which became a 2015 Flavor of Georgia Finalist. Our other product, Georgia Chambourcin Spread, highlights one of our favorite wine grape varietials that are grown here in White county. We think its a great way to showcase our Unicoi Wine Trail by making products from local ingredients like Chambourcin grape juice.

However, doing product demo and talking to people, we have found 

people have a hard time saying Chambourcin and understanding what it is.

So with that being said, may I introduce to you, Georgia Vineyard Spread.

Elvis presents, Georgia Vineyard Spread! Georgia Chambourcin by another name, still as sweet!

Its the same Georgia Chambourcin Spread that you know and love, simply renamed. We are not pulling Georgia Chambourcin Spread and sending it to Big Lots, so there will be a transition period and you will see both labels on the market for a short time.


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Flavor of Georgia - We're a Finalist!

Flavor of Georgia - We're a Finalist!

Excuse me while I gush….
Our Georgia Apple Cider Pepper Spread is a Finalist in the Flavor of Georgia contest!

We will be going to “The City”, aka Atlanta, on March 9th to present our product to a panel of judges for tasting and  evaluation.

Then, on Tuesday, March 10th as part of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Ag Awareness Day, we’ll be set up doing product demo to the public from 10 am til noon at the Georgia Freight Depot. This is a great opportunity for us and we would love if you would come out Tuesday and see us and the other great Georgia food products that are in the contest.

Winners will be announced on the afternoon of March 10th, so stay tuned. We are so flattered to be in the finals and really appreciate all your support, encouragement, kind words, recipe ideas and parting with your hard-earned money to buy our low sugar, locally sourced, all natural spreads. We couldn’t have done it without you!

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Everybody loved Bonnie

Everybody loved Bonnie

This blog post is long past due. Its not about Unicoi Preserves or a recipe, but a blog post about our family. We’re two people and we share our home with some retired racing greyhounds. That number of greyhounds went from three to two on December 19th.


                             Night time playtime with the trio
 We lost our Bonnie after a 5 day stay in the veterinary teaching hospital at University of Georgia. It was unexpected and the little things that we were attributing to her aging wound up to be cancer.


                                                    A perfect day


                    Bonnie loved being outside in the green grass and snuggling

Bonnie was with us for over 10 years and she was the dog most likely to be stolen. Everyone who ever met her fell in love with her gentle nature. She was funny, and she demanded attention in a very quiet manner. If you were sitting by her and stopped petting her, she’d reach out her front paw, hit you with it, chattering and looking intently at you to will you to continue to pet her.

       I don’t like Halloween. Leave me alone for a minute with this fluffy thing.

Greyhounds are notorious for being snackers, but Bonnie was particular. She wouldn’t eat a crust off the piece of bread, you could forget giving her something like a piece of apple or a pretzel. Meat, now that was another story. When Clark grilled some meat, she immediately appeared. Roasting chicken or making chicken broth, she was there. Pizza night, oh yes, but not the crust, how about the cheesy part. Vanilla ice cream, yes. Ritz cracker, no.

She was the last dog that we had from our life in south Georgia, so it is very bittersweet that we let her go on the anniversary of our move to Sautee. Outliving Joe and Chloe and accepting Colbie and Fox into her pack, and Betsy’s Hannah as well, she was an even tempered and tolerant greyhound. She was not an alpha dog by any means, but after her passing, Colbie and Fox both did some rallying to see who was in charge, so we steered them to the thinking that the humans are in charge. That is only partially true, some days we do better then others!

Bonnie enjoyed good health her whole life, except for the last week of her life. Not many people can say that they lived their entire life that healthfully. Now that some time has passed, I can say that without as much water leaking from my eyes.

Bonnie and Chloe. Together again. Photo by Cindy Frezon Photography

Run free, sweet Bonnie. You were loved and you are missed. We will never forget you.

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