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The Culture and Heritage behind Scorched Bonnets

Updated: Mar 30

CHAPTER 1: An Island Love Story and Set of Fat Ankles

In the heart of Jamaica in the 1950's, Yvonne and John's love story began in the most unexpected way. Yvonne, enchanted by the freckles on the back of John's neck, and John, captivated by Yvonne's "fat ankles," shared secret glances in church. One day Yvonne dialed John's phone "Hi, I'm a secret admirer". Before she could hang up he said "I know who you are". From that moment they never separated and that phone call later blossomed into a lifelong love, surviving the challenges of migration and the test of time.



CHAPTER 2: The Greatest Grandparents: John and Yvonne


John's life, though prosperous, was steeped in hard work. Born to a pastor and entrepreneurial father and a horticulturist mother, he found himself reluctantly tending to yard work before school. His father's intention was clear; instill the values of diligence, follow the word of God and maintain a deep understanding of working the grounds.


Yvonne’s life, though filled with many trials and tribulations, couldn't keep this strong woman hidden in the shadows.  Yvonne was a story teller and regaled her grandchildren with adventures growing up in Jamaica.  


After migrating to Toronto in the 1960's, John and Yvonne began building a life together with their daughter, Judy. Following many years of hard work, they settled into a beautiful house in the developing city of Markham. It was no surprise that John developed a green thumb and a knack for cultivating beautiful flowers, trees, fruits, and veggies, transforming their backyard into an oasis visited even by deer and other animals. His two grandchildren, Tyfanny and Yvonne would walk through the garden, plucking apples, pears, cherries, mulberries, and apricots straight from the tree.


Their childhood memories were punctuated by the sight of their grandfather toiling in the garden under the hot sun; they would often walk out to offer him a cold drink. On the other hand, their grandmother, a fashionable social butterfly, the life of the party, full of life and laughter shared all she knew with her grandchildren through stories. Often hosting a party or heading to one, she never left her daughter or grandchildren behind. John and Yvonne were pivotal in shaping their granddaughter's childhood which was nothing short of vibrant, shaping their perspective on life and instilling in them a love for living joyously surrounded by friends and family.



CHAPTER 3: Harvested Season 


Every year, during harvest season, John diligently gathered his yield of scotch bonnet peppers, a cherished tradition from Jamaica. With the house brimming with peppers and pepper plants, John would share his scotch bonnets with friends, family and even the local nursery. Yvonne made good use of the remaining peppers, crafting something special, a pepper jelly. But this wasn't an ordinary creation; it was a radiant jar of orange jelly that tasted as enchanting as it looked. Gathered around the kitchen table, the children indulged in this annual delight, pairing it with cheese and crackers, savoring a treat they wished would never end.



CHAPTER 4: Secret Ingredient


At family dinners, Judy added more than just flavour to her family meals; she added a secret ingredient - Tender Loving Care (TLC). The simple act of infusing meals with love became a family tradition, a tradition that would later inspire something extraordinary.



CHAPTER 5: A Christmas Tradition 


Yvonne and John's granddaughters continued the pepper jelly tradition, and shared the recipe with a close friend Silvianna. As the Christmas holidays approached each of them created jars filled with their favorite pepper jelly with one rule: always make the recipe in a good mood and with the special ingredient, TLC. Friends and family eagerly awaited their yearly pepper jelly gifts, a symbol of love and a reminder that some things are worth the wait.



CHAPTER 6: From Tradition to Business


After many years of spreading joy in jars, their friends and family became ardent fans of the annual gift, yearning for more with each passing season. The three women began to entertain the idea of sharing their unique pepper jelly with the world. What began as a Christmas tradition became something more - a product born out of love, tradition, and the desire to transform meals into experiences.



Quick Fact: 

You may have noticed that the story refers to a ‘pepper jelly’ and not a ‘pepper spread’.  In all honesty, when the co-founders speak about their product to each other they also refer to it as a pepper jelly.  However, in accordance with Canadian Food Guidelines Scorched Bonnets is not in fact a jelly but a spread simply because we choose to maintain small chunks of fruit and pepper and seeds in every bottle.  


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