Photo by Sydney Cromwell.
5ive Oaks pepper jelly is the creation of Tim and Heather Murphy, Hoover residents who live near Spain Park High School.
Pepper jelly has always been a part of Tim Murphy’s life. His childhood memories include his grandmother standing in her Mobile kitchen, making jams, jellies and preserves.
“It’s just an old tradition, and every year she would make a special pepper jelly,” Tim Murphy said.
It’s a jelly so good that he brought it with him to Auburn University for tailgates, where his future wife, Heather, first tried it and thought: “This is good stuff.” The couple even gave out jars of pepper jelly at their wedding.
“It’s always been a part of our life,” Tim Murphy said. “People loved it.”
From his grandmother’s tradition, the Hoover couple created their own recipe and started their business, 5ive Oaks, to spread the goodness.
5ive Oaks started out selling jars at farmers markets in Pepper Place, Ross Bridge and the Summit, Heather Murphy said. Since then, 5ive Oaks jellies can be found at the Piggly Wiggly stores in Homewood, Liberty Park and Bluff Park; Alabama Goods in Homewood; Western Supermarket in Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills; and other stores in Birmingham, Huntsville, Gadsden, Mobile and the Peach Dish food delivery service in Atlanta.
The name, Tim Murphy said, was the hardest part to create. He spent a long time thinking of possibilities before he remembered the set of five oak trees on his grandmother’s land, where he spent much of his childhood climbing trees, riding ATVs, hunting and playing.
“What do I really remember from growing up down there? Five Oaks was the first thing that hit me,” he said.
The name’s history fits, as Heather Murphy said their jelly has “a feeling of home and a feeling of local tradition.”
Naming their company was difficult, but learning to make pepper jelly was no walk in the park, either. His grandmother made it look easy, but Tim Murphy described his learning experience as “brutal.”
“I’ll never forget it, the first time I processed a bunch of habanero peppers,” Tim Murphy said.
He didn’t use gloves the first time he handled peppers, and a food processor incident landed pepper juice in his eye.
Despite that painful beginning, Tim Murphy said he was determined to push forward.
“She’s the master,” he said of his grandmother. “I wanted to be able to go back to her and say, ‘Look what I’ve done.’”
After many test batches, the Murphys had a pepper jelly that was the right balance of sweet and spicy, with a red color Tim Murphy said was difficult to get right without using food dyes. Since then, the 5ive Oaks jelly has been a hit at farmers markets and at stores.
Heather Murphy said one of her favorite parts of the business is going to markets to watch people try the jelly for the first time and to hear from regular customers about their favorite recipes with pepper jelly.
While it’s commonly served with cream cheese and crackers, Heather Murphy said pepper jelly can also be used with meats or vegetables. The 5ive Oaks website keeps a list of many recipes they’ve heard about or tried themselves. “It’s just so unique with how many things you can do with it,” she said.
Tim Murphy said he also likes going to the markets, but for a different reason. His grandmother used to call him “the mouth of the South” due to his childhood chattiness, and even today, “I could probably talk to a brick wall,” he said. Meeting and talking with his customers is the fun part of the job.
“When I get to personally see someone … and I see a reaction, I love it,” he said.
Though they only sell the one type of jelly, Tim Murphy said one of his goals for this year is to start developing more flavors such as fruit pepper jelly and other preserves. Heather Murphy said creating those recipes will take “more tinkering in the kitchen.”
Tim Murphy said he also wants to continue expanding the stores where 5ive Oaks products sit on the shelves.
“I’ve got huge dreams and big ideas for the company,” Tim Murphy said.
Learn more at 5iveoaks.com.