When it comes to monasteries, it is easy to think of them as ancient institutions, built throughout Europe centuries ago. Surely there can’t be any in America in the 21st century?
Well, I know of at least one, and if you like jams, preserves, and pastries, it is well worth the trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula, where the Jampot Bakery is located beside Jacob’s Creek Falls, five miles west of Eagle Harbor on M-26, which skirts the scenic southern shore of Lake Superior.
The Jampot Bakery is Run by Monks
My wife and I had each heard rave reviews from friends about The Jampot prior to our trip to the Keweenaw, but no one could remember exactly where it was or what it was called. And we’d heard that monks ran the place. Monks! That right there made us want to check it out because monks are cool.
So while I was at the Keweenaw visitor’s center I made sure to inquire about this mysterious bakery. “Is there some sort of bakery up here that’s run by monks?”
I asked. The visitor’s center guy smiled wide. “And they make a rum bread that’s got more rum than a bottle of 151!” Then he proceeded to tell me exactly where it was. I’m really starting to like visitor centers.
Strictly speaking, this monastery is a skete – a small monastic institution common in the Eastern European Christian churches that provides seclusion and isolation for its monks while allowing them to congregate together for meals, worship, and the labors which provide the skete with income or provide a community service of some kind.
Founded in 1983 as Holy Transfiguration Skete, of the Order of St. John, the remote location was chosen to “embrace the struggle of life in a hard place,” and to live in harmony with nature and the cycle of the seasons.
One of the ways in which this manifests itself in the daily life of the monks is in the collection of wild berries for making into jams and preserves. This activity has grown into a well-known local business that provides for the physical needs of the skete.
The Jampot Bakery is Next to Jacob’s Falls
A breathtakingly scenic drive along the southern shore of Lake Superior and the northern edge of the Keweenaw Peninsula brings you to a curve in the road where it crosses the stream that flows over Jacob’s Creek Falls.
We found the place easily (immediately off 26, south of Eagle Harbor but before Eagle River) and it’s awesome.
Right next to the falls is the Jampot Bakery. Inside, the small shop is stocked floor to ceiling with the most exquisite handmade jams, preserves, and baked goods, including many I had never heard of, such as chokecherry jam, and some that are almost impossible to find, like my favorite gooseberry jam.
My wife and I pulled into the Jampot’s parking lot and I swear you could smell a mix of heavenly spices before we even got out of the car. The scents coming from that place were like the scents from the best bakery’s I’ve been to in Europe wrapped into a burst of olfactory heaven.
The Jampot Bakery’s Treats are a Taste of Heaven
There are muffins, cookies, rock cakes, brownies, and traditional dried fruit cakes, soaked in rum and wrapped in cheesecloth. These can be washed down with a ginger beer at a picnic table in the shady parking lot before continuing your travels along the lakeshore, perhaps after a quick hike up the falls.
When I inquired about the “abbey cakes” (think raisin bread) the nice guy (monk?) behind the counter let me know they are each moistened with a different type of liquor. My wife and I were like kids in a candy store. “Okay, you grab two things and I’ll grab two things,” I said, giddy, but attempting to throw down some limit so we didn’t end up spending more than we should have.
I grabbed an abbey cake moistened with bourbon, and after slicing into it later I can vouch for the visitor center guy’s description. I also grabbed a wild strawberry jam and a burgundy jelly (Yes, I broke my own rule). Erica snatched up a wild apple butter and a brandied peach jelly.
If you are unable to make it to the Jampot Bakery in person, they now have an online store, where you can order their products to be shipped anywhere in the continental USA at very reasonable rates.
The Jampot Bakery is a Keweenaw Peninsula Destination
The Keweenaw Peninsula is a popular destination by any measure, but no trip there is complete without a stop at the Jampot Bakery where, for me at least, jam is the new fudge.
So, while your cruising down the picture-perfect stretch of 26 that runs from Eagle Harbor to Eagle River, plan a stop at The Jampot to stock up on a few treats. It’s definitely worth a stop and is a well-positioned driving break between the two towns.
It also happens to be just feet away from Jacob’s Falls, which is also definitely worth exploring while you’re there.
Bottom Line: The Jampot is a very worthwhile stop if you like baked things, especially baked things soaked with liquor!
Photos via Anthony Rodgers. Content via Anthony Rodgers & Jesse Land.