This summer will be the first in 30 years that Marjorie Wiles Sayre doesn't spend her days selling jelly at the family stand on the corner of Rt. 6 and Briar Lane in Wellfleet. Instead, she will pass the torch to her daughter-in-law Terri and watch with a grin as the 76-year-old business carries on.
Sayre's retirement is the second since her mother, Esther Wiles, opened up shop after the Depression in 1932 to help make ends meet. While the family's original garden and orchard are long gone (having disappeared under the highway when Rt. 6 plowed through in the 1940s), Terri now tends to a new one off-site. "I've got grapes, apples, quince, zucchini," she tells me as the cars whiz by. "I put up all the juice as they come, and then make the jams and jelly over the winter."
On the freshly painted white shelves today are 45 varieties of preserves, in every flavor from zucchini pickles to cranberry & quince to beach plum jelly. Though she doesn't officially open for business until Memorial Day, Terri says she's been keeping the window up for fresh air and the occasional sale to passers-by. A young girl emerges from the back with a roll of labels for the latest batch of rhubarb jam, and Terri introduces her as her daughter. "It's her first day of training," she explains, and a fourth generation gets underway.
While she didn't give up any of the guarded family recipes, Terri did let me take home a jar of corn relish that she put together from the local farmers' market last summer. The sweet kernels and bits of red pepper made a marvelous topping for an oyster at lunch: the sugar balanced by brine, with this year's land harvest coupled with today's from the sea. I suppose if it's been 76 years and the recipe's still going strong, it shouldn't be a surprise that it tastes just right.