Jam session: Monk makes sweet treat with blackberries

(June 29, 2014 SHAWNEE — Shortly after sunrise prayer, the Rev. Simeon Spitz trades his monastic habit for a T-shirt, cowboy hat and blue jeans before he slips out the doors of St. Gregory’s Abbey.

Bushes filled with berries — a sea of green speckled with ruby, violet and ebony dots — beckon the Benedictine monk this sunny morn.

By day, Spitz plucks succulent blackberries from the bushes sprawled on abbey grounds.

By night, he transforms the fruit into sweet jam.


Laughing, the monk and recently ordained priest said he didn’t earn his masters in theology degree to reap this type of harvest.

And yet, the berries that he picks so faithfully have yielded certain rewards.

Spitz’s Honey Berry Jam, so-named because it includes honey — also harvested at the abbey — is sold at the abbey and the adjacent Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art.

The jam is a definite crowd pleaser; it has sold out in about two weeks each of the four years it has been offered.

Spitz, 30, said he initially made the jam for St. Gregory’s monastic community, but visitors sampled the fruity treat and wanted some for themselves.

They offered to give a donation in exchange for the jam and thus the monk’s annual jam sessions began.

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