Her name was Jeanne Oliner Schlossberg. But to the world, she was best known simply as “Bubbie Jeanne.”
A longtime Pikesville resident, lifelong Temple Oheb Shalom congregant and later-in-life cooking sauce entrepreneur, Schlossberg died on Jan. 20. She was 98.
“She was a celebrity, and she loved it. Everyone knows her,” said her youngest son, Roger Schlossberg of Hagerstown. “At North Oaks [Senior Living Community, where Jeanne Schlossberg lived for a decade], there was a Bubbie Jeanne poster on the wall. So all of the nurses there called her ‘Bubbie Jeanne,’ and at the end [of her life] a lot of them came by to say goodbye to her.”
A Baltimore native who grew up in the Liberty Heights and Reservoir Hill communities, Jeanne Schlossberg graduated from Western High School and took classes at what is now known as the Maryland Institute College of Art.
During World War II, she worked as a draftsperson at Martin Marietta Inc., in the same vein as the iconic “Rosie the Riveter.” wartime character. “My mother was very proud of her work and contributions during the war,” Roger Schlossberg said.
After marrying Paul H. Schlossberg, an installment salesman and Army veteran, Jeanne Schlossberg worked as a homemaker until the late 1960s when all of her three sons were either in high school or had graduated.
“She really ran the show at home, since my dad worked a lot, and she was tough! What was on her mind was on her lips,” Roger Schlossberg said. “She had no filter and took no prisoners, although she did mellow over the years. She was very loving to us and others, but she didn’t pretend. Even with her grandchildren, she let you know if she thought you were doing something wrong.”
After her sons became young adults, Jeanne Schlossberg returned to the workforce as a medical studies interviewer for the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan, until retiring in the 1980s.
“She was smart and she worked hard,” said Roger Schlossberg.
As far as her culinary talents were concerned, he said, “I can’t call her a fabulous cook. She wasn’t always very creative [in the kitchen]. But her brisket was always the best, her number one thing. She used to tinker with it. I recall she once used Coca-Cola to sweeten it. … In our family, she was known for her brisket. It was the highlight.”
Roger Schlossberg said his mother first started experimenting with her brisket sauce recipe after his eldest brother, Mark, became a bar mitzvah at Oheb Shalom in 1960.
“My mother loved the [bar mitzvah reception] caterer’s brisket, so she asked him for the recipe and he actually gave it to her,” he said. “So she spent a lot of time tinkering with it.”
It wasn’t until becoming a septuagenarian and after the 1991 death of her husband that Jeanne Schlossberg — who lived at the One Slade condominium building in Pikesville for many years — became well known in the area. She served as the inspiration and trade likeness for Bubbie Jeanne’s Brisket Magic all-purpose cooking sauce, a kosher and gluten-free product that was developed and marketed locally and nationally by her son, Lee Schlossberg.
“She really had nothing to do with the business,” said Roger Schlossberg. “She encouraged it and went to a lot of the marketing events, and of course it was her original recipe. She was very involved in the concept. But it was my brother Lee, who lived in California, who really made it commercially viable. He was a caterer and was in the food production business. That was his real passion. So it was all his idea. He wanted to do something special for my mom. She was quite a character, and so was he. …
“I remember when he showed her the mock-up for the label, with her photo on it, and she busted up laughing. We all did,” Roger Schlossberg recalled. “But it was immediately popular in a niche market. It was mainly a Jewish market, and a high-quality market.”
Shelley Lev Kelly, owner of Edmart Deli in Pikesville, said she carried Bubbie Jeanne’s Brisket Magic sauce for a while at her recently closed store. “We sold her product at Edmart and it was very good,” Kelly said. “My father [the late Martin Lev] bought cases and cases of it all the time. You couldn’t keep the stuff in the store.”
Kelly said she knew Jeanne Schlossberg virtually all of her life and had several family connections with the brisket sauce maven.
“I grew up with her and her family. She really set the bar for women,” Kelly said. “She was five steps ahead of [‘Leave It To Beaver’ matriarch character] June Cleaver. She was a true lady.”
After Lee Schlossberg died in January of 2008, local restaurateur and gourmet food industry veteran Lee Cohen purchased and distributed the Bubbie Jeanne’s product line. Over the years, the product was sold at such supermarkets and stores as Giant, Gourmet Again, Graul’s and Eddie’s.
Cohen — who was a longtime friend and associate of Lee Schlossberg — said while Bubbie Jeanne’s has not been sold on the market in several years, he hopes to retool the product in some fashion.
“Hopefully, we can bring it back. It has a very special place in my heart,” he said. “I’m not planning to change the recipe but abbreviate the ingredients and reformulate it and bring the costs down before bringing it back to the market. I’m hopeful that the recipe will not go away. That’s my goal.”
Cohen said he likes to tell people that Bubbie Jeanne’s is the second best brisket sauce out there, “next to your mother’s or your aunt’s or your grandmother’s or your sister’s. I’m never going to tell someone that this is better than your grandmother’s, even though it is.“
Even after the family was no longer involved in the business, Roger Schlossberg said his mother enjoyed her fame around the local Jewish community, due to the cooking sauce and her beaming countenance on the label.
“She just loved being ‘Bubbie Jean,’” he said. “It was fun for her.”
Jeanne Schlossberg’s funeral was held Jan. 22 at Sol Levinson & Bros. Interment followed at Beth Tfiloh Cemetery.
Schlossberg is survived by her children, Mark Sanford (Robin Flax) Schlossberg, and Roger (Susan Miles) Schlossberg; her former daughter-in-law, Lynn Schlossberg, her grandchildren Jennifer (Andy) Palich, Andrew (Lauren) Schlossberg, Raven Schlossberg, Rebecca Schlossberg (Michael) Danielson, Aaron (Mina) Schlossberg, and Daniel (Cecilia) Schlossberg; and by her great-grandchildren, Allyson and Jackson Palich, Brett, Lilly, Jin, Mateo, and Alyssa Schlossberg.
Contributions in Jeanne Schlossberg’s memory may be sent to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 900 South Broadway, Suite 200, Denver, Col. 80209, or to Brooke’s House in Hagerstown, for adult women recovering from alcohol and substance use disorders (brookeshouse.org).
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