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"Jamming" in the Pines
(ed. note: Niki Giberson is no longer making james at Buzby's, although she does try to keep The Cheshire Cat, (Marilyn Schmidt's gift shop) stocked with her delicious jams!

If you're lucky, the next time you visit the historic "Buzby's Chatsworth General Store" in Chatsworth, you'll be greeted by the wonderful aroma of blueberry jam. Here, tucked into the rear of the renovated building, now "The Cheshire Cat" gift shop owned by Marilyn Schmidt, is a spotless kitchen where on select days, Niki Giberson of Port Republic creates wonderful homemade jams made from "Jersey Fresh" fruits. I was lucky enough to catch her mixing up a batch of Blueberry Jam one July afternoon.

 


Niki Giberson stirs a batch of fresh blueberry jam, made with only Jersey blueberries, sugar and pectin.
"I learned about making jams when I was eight years old", said Niki, "watching my Aunt Millie make it. She learned from my Grandmother, who had a Russian Tea House in Princeton during the '30's. I never met her, but I am thankful I have part of her legacy."

As Niki carefully pours her jams into the freshly sterilized jars, she reminisces: "I used to love to hear the jars pop, when I watched with Aunt Millie. I knew even then I wanted to make my own jams - it's my passion!"


Niki proudly shows her finished product, displayed for sale in the shop.

"I'm not really a Piney", she laughs, "but I married one. We met when I was working at Batso during college. I actually grew up in Princeton, but I've always been a Piney at heart. I'm just so much more comfortable in the Pine Barrens."

Nikki's husband Gary Giberson's family has been in the Port Republic area since the 17th century. She and Gary live on the same property as his ancestors. Gary, the Mayor of town, is a master decoy carver. (See his well-known beautiful work at www.masterdecoycarver.com)

Niki offers Blueberry, Blueberry Peach, Peach, Strawberry, and Tripleberry (strawberry, raspberry & blueberry) jams, as well as a reduced sugar version (but no artificial sweeteners are used). Fall harvest will bring some delicious varieties containing cranberries as well. At this time, they are only available at the CHESHIRE CAT GIFT SHOP at "Buzby's Chatsworth General Store" on Route 563 in Chatsworth. Call for days and hours of operation: (609) 894-4415

Some of Niki's baskets are displayed for sale at The Cheshire Cat.

Niki's talents aren't limited to the kitchen - she's also an accomplished basket maker. She even offers hands-on classes to small groups She has many designs for her students to choose from, so they can take home their own hand-made work of art. The classes are given at the barn/studio at her Port Republic home.

Another unique feature of their home is "Mayor Gary's Garage", a 1931 gas station complete with antique cars, including a 1931 Model A pickup truck! Visitors are welcomed, by advance appointment, please!

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The Pine Barrens is becoming a popular tourist destination. It offers history, nature, boating and fishing, swimming, and most of all, peace and tranquility. It's important to families who live here, whether for a few years or many generations, that our peace and tranquility be preserved. Keep in mind that the local lawyer or doctor won't look any different than his neighbors. Thousand dollar suits aren't what impresses people of the Pines - taking care of nature and fellow man is what matters. To that end, it is important for you to know that as a visitor to our precious Pine Barrens, you should show respect for the flora and fauna, for the historical buildings or their remains, and show respect for the "locals". Walk and drive gently. Treat our Pine Barrens as you would would want a visitor to treat your own home town.


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