As the 2018 growing season begins – indoors at this point with little pepper and tomato seedlings sprouting (yeah!) amongst others, ideas have been circulating about how to garner some additional income with all my labour to produce food with the land.
The idea of a made to order canning service sprouted in my mind – pun intended! Sorry but I couldn’t resist.
Often when selling my hot bath canned goods, e.g. pickled asparagus in a variety of flavours, various tomato & pepper sauces, etc.., I have the occasional customer who reminisces about some canned product their mother or grandmother would make (remember this does tend to be women’s domain) and that they were always in search of this at the farmers markets.
I thought well why not then offer to such customers the service of made to order canning. This would of course be hot bath canning. (I can do pressure canning but selling such would be considered illegal to the authorities.) The customer could provide the recipe or at least key ingredients which have been missing from the canned products they have found thus far. The ingredients would be ones grown by me or sourced locally by me, organic whenever possible depending on what customer wants & can afford to pay.
So much of what is on offer at farmers markets is either the same old same old, or the same/similar to what others offer making it difficult to stand out from the crowd as they say. Also, much of what I have been selling is still considered somewhat novel. I mean where do you get pickled asparagus. Local corporate grocery chains rarely if ever carry this. You can find this product at the niche market food stores (I just found out that Pete’s Frootique stores are now owned by Sobeys 2015 – thanks Pete for selling out but then of course I understand you did this for your succession of the business and for making a shit load of $!), it is so expensive. So part of the selling is trying to convince someone to try the asparagus. With foodies or folks who are curious or adventurous with food, this is a much easier sell. For those who are not this way with food, well there is only so much one can do. I of course began providing samples and this certainly helped. If one tried the asparagus, 9 times out of 10 folks bought.
I have learned that I love the creative process of devising new products or modifications of more common versions. For example, I can apple sauce, something quite common. I then thought why not add some kick to it with my hot peppers. I mean folks eat apple sauce as a condiment with pork, so why not add some heat to the flavour. Another example is hot pepper jelly, again standard fare for the most part. I thought why not make grape jelly and add a kick of heat, again with my hot peppers. I have one customer that just loves it with her turkey sandwiches – who knew! Both products have sold relatively well. Realizing that the market for hot products is smaller here in this part of the country, I certainly don’t make large quantities of this.
I have also been specializing in fruit juices. I am a fruit juice gal, finding plain water just boring at times. I have made sour cherry juice, grape juice and black currant juice. (I do make apple juice/cider but not for sale since again this is quite common, this is also the cheapest juice you can find around here, often going on sale for $1/approx. 1 liter). Thanks to a customer, I learned that the sour cherry juice helps folks who suffer from gout. Again who knew – not me! Another selling point. I would actually like to make strawberry juice since for some bloody reason you can rarely find this in the stores or it is mixed with other fruits, e.g. kiwi, or it is ridiculously expensive. Strawberries are plentiful, grown locally. However, I would only make such a juice with organic strawberries. A word of advice if you care about what you eat – do not eat non-organic strawberries. See EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2018, for the foods you need to stay away from, in descending order: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers. There is finally one organic strawberry producer in the region. I have also decided to once again plant strawberries, just have to figure out a better way to keep the weeds at bay.
On a more positive note, here’s EWG’s Clean Fifteen: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydews, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower and broccoli. Oh how I wish we could grow avocados & papayas!
So back to made to order canning service. After more than a decade of canning, I feel confident in my canning abilities. I would of course provide the equipment and ingredients. I would also require a deposit, something in the order of 50% since I certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck with a product I might not like or might be able to sell.
Anyway this is an idea which won’t require a lot of work on my part to offer it. I do see a brochure in the making. I certainly wouldn’t expect this to generate lots of interest or $ but it is something I already do so why not expand the possibilities. I’m pretty sure I already have one customer, someone who contacted me last year wanting black currant juice which was going to be added to their homemade wine.
Now if only I could make the vinegar. I have actually made vinegar but as I am not a vinegar fan, I don’t put the effort into it as this would be an additional process. When vinegar of many kinds is still easy to acquire relatively cheaply in bulk quantities, I won’t add this to the harvest processing work just yet. There is also the matter that you need to make sure your vinegar is at least 5% acidity which requires some testing equipment which I don’t have at the moment. I am glad that I can substitute local honey for the sweetener (processed white sugar) in juices and jellies and some canned vegetables, e.g. carrots.
Readers what do you think?
One final comment. I won’t make pickles! I so dislike pickles! Pickles that are made with cucumbers, that is. Sorry all you pickle lovers but I have to draw the line somewhere.