Seasonings and Salts

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Well, winter is here to stay, so I will post weekly until we get into full swing around March. I will try to post bi-weekly or at least monthly throughout the growing season. Fall and Winter are just about the only time we have to catch up and process shelf stable products. It’s been another week of planning for the growing season and another batch of homegrown seasonings completed. We are getting closer to having the jar and label sizes perfected. This year we will be offering almost 20 varieties of seasonings and finishing salts!

We have expanded our line, improved several of the recipes, and grew more of the ingredients. We successfully grew and dried enough cayenne and paprika as well as Onion powder, Garlic powder, and herbs for many of the seasonings! Our goal is to grow as many of the herbs and spices as possible, and source the salt and really exotic spices (that we can not grow) from the highest quality sources. We are figuring out what we can grow with protected culture…Turmeric and Ginger are in our sights, as well as Helichrysum (Curry plant). We are planning on growing sizable Fennel, Dill, and, Celery for seed.

We use mainly sea salt and Himalayan pink salt, as well as volcanic salts which are rich with minerals; our spices are designed to make foods which are already iodine rich (Greens, Fish, Eggs etc.) tastier without excess iodine, and thus we don’t use iodized salt.

There are 4 sizes this year:

  • 1.75 oz. sampler size of most if not all the varieties, $4.00
  • The 2 oz. short spice jars will be phased out in favor of the sample size, $6.00
  • 4 oz. taller spice jars $8.00
  • And of course the 4 oz. shaker top jars, but we are only offering the finishing salts in that size. $8.00

Finishing Salt lineup:

  • Pele’s Fire Volcano Salt is our flagship finishing salt, and it is even more volcanic than before…without being overwhelming. Before it was more like the smooth “pahoehoe” lava flow…now it’s sharp like “a’a”! Not quite as explosive as “Pele’s tears”! (types of lava).
  • Cajun Heat is back with even more herbs and spices (including Filé: ground sassafras leaves). The perfect way to heat up a pot of jumbalaya or to top a bowl of gumbo.
  • Fatali Citron Infused Salt packs a punch of caramelized citrus and a hint of curry aromatics, but then finishes with that Fatali pepper heat and unrivaled flavor.
  • Habanero Hickory Smoked Salt, which actually has some of all the super hot peppers we grew last year (Trinidad Scorpion, Carolina Reaper, Habanero, and Habenada). This salt starts with robust tropical pepper flavor, then is extremely hot, and finishes with a smoky sweetness…it’s addictive!

Some of the flavors we began to work with last year seemed more fitting as seasonings than as finishing salts.

Jamaican Jerk: is more of a marinade than a seasoning, so we loaded ours down with thyme and allspice and balanced the Scotch bonnets and added Trinidad Scorpions! It is designed to be blended with Worcestershire or soy sauce, Green onions, fresh peppers, onions and garlic into a brine/marinade, so it does contain more salt than the other seasonings.

Thai Curry Powder has replaced Caribbean Curry as we already have a Jamaican jerk seasoning and the Fatali Citron Infused Salt covering Caribbean and Curry finishing salt flavors. Although we did not grow many of the spices used in Curry powders last year, we are determined to grow the ginger. turmeric, lemongrass and galangal used in most Thai Curries. A Red curry powder had to stay the list, as Thai Cuisine is one of the first that I mastered and am particularly fond of.

We infused salt with Szechuan peppercorns, and then created the tongue tingling, mouthwatering #1 Szechuan Seasoning by adding ginger, garlic and Thai chilies; the combination of which is loaded with “Mala” flavor. It is like a sleeping dragon…just simmer a teaspoon or so in a few Tablespoons of vegetable oil to waken the hot chilies and peppercorns; then create the Szechuan sauce with a little rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, and Chinese cooking wine. Or toss some fried chicken in the infused oil for a more potent (and authentic) numbing-tingling experience from the higher concentration of hydroxy-α-sanshool in the peppercorns and capsaicin in the peppers. Real “Mala” Chicken should fill the tactile and olfactory senses with a euphoric experience!

We came out with out first batch of Chili Powder last fall, and since have developed a Taco Seasoning, White Chili Powder, and a Mexican Poultry Seasoning suitable for roasting a whole bird, marinading for fajitas, or turning into mole (just add fruit, nuts and spices: raisins, almonds, cinnamon, and sesame seeds). This variety is quite versatile. With just a few additions one can create just about any Mexican dish.

We also created a Vegetable Seasoning that works well with greens, in salad dressing, or on vegetables as they cook. We used traditional southern greens seasonings (paprika, garlic, onion Powder etc.) as well as a trifecta of bright licorice flavors from dill, fennel and celery seeds. An excellent way to add aromatics to, and make vegetables more palatable to those who are veggie averse.

The Pork Rub is a roasting seasoning. Due to its layers of complexity from the herbs, onions and garlic, black and Szechuan peppercorns, the subtle sweetness of the mango powder (Amchur) and grains of paradise, this seasoning makes excellent pork chops in the oven or stove-top. Is excellent for picking up smoke flavor and caramelizing on the grill, and even works on Beef roasts, as well as Poultry.

I wanted a seasoning for frying chicken that would rival the colonel but also work for breakfast potatoes. So, I went with those southern staples (garlic, paprika, onion) again, added herbs like tarragon, thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary, added spicy complexity with Cayenne peppers, peppercorns (White, Black, Red, and Green) and a hint of the citrus and peppery grains of paradise…I call it Southern Fried Seasoning!

Pizza Sprinkle: With the perfect balance of Herbs, Aliums (onion family), Red pepperoncini and Shishito peppers, paprika, and sun dried tomatoes, this seasoning will even make frozen pizza edible! It also avoids making an already salty pizza too salty with just the right amount of Himalayan Pink mineral salt. We even use it to make marinara and pizza sauce!

And last but not least…Our Herb Salt blends:

  • Fleur de Montecuq (typical Herbes de Provence), named for the region of France where Sara’s family came from and still operates vineyards. The herbs are all homegrown, except for the lavender, which was not established enough to make harvestable flowers last year.
  • The Salmon Run was a big hit with its dill and citron flavors, perfect for any fish, but especially on an omega rich fish like salmon!
  • Our Lamb Rub is a Mediterranean inspired seasoning based upon the synergy created by the earthy Sage, ascorbic Sumac, and woodsy Rosemary with the citron infused salt and black pepper. The herbal lemon-pepper flavor is then clarified from the coalescence of mint and parsley. We meant for it to be used on lamb, but it actually works on any protein, even Deer!

That’s all we’ve come up with for now…We are trying to stick to shelf stable products that fall within the Missouri cottage food law, That means we won’t be offering any canned pickles, hot sauce, or salsas anytime soon, nor do we want to produce those items at the scale necessary to make it worthwhile for us. That would take us away from the garden, and force us to rent a commercial kitchen in the height of the growing season. We will eventually become certified to produce acidified and low acid food. Our endgame is to produce a range of fermented and canned products, but this year we are sticking to Dry or Fermented foods, and Jellies.

Food preservation via fermentation is one area we might have an advantage. We have the facilities, tools, and ability to ensure clean fermentation, and to test for pH (has to be lower than 4.6 to prevent botulism). That is if we were allowed to produce it in our own facilities and market it. This is one area where the F.D.A has authority, and we just have to get the process approved. Until then, certain markets will allow us to sell our fermented foods, along the same lines just with less red tape. We may eventually have to seek F.D.A. process approval and Mo.D.H.H.S. approval/inspection for our facility. That is once we have more product than we can sell at the market. So, we will bring sauerkraut, kimchi, naturally brined pickles and fermented hot sauce to market to test the waters.

Regardless, half of the fun of shopping at the farmer’s market is seeing the abundance of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc., and getting inspired to make your own pickles and salsa from fresh ingredients. There may be a niche in do-it-yourself food preservation. Where it gets tricky is figuring out the ratios of spices, salt, vinegar, and water. Online recipes are rarely perfect spice wise. Furthermore, those seasoning packets in the canning section of the grocery or farm store are missing a certain je nes sais quoi that really makes canning at home worth the effort. Salsa mix and pasta sauce mix come in the the freeze dried instant form mainly to absorb excess water and speed up the process, thus they assume a lower quality and flavor than cooking fresh tomatoes down slowly. A problem which can be solved with fresher seasonings and more flavorful salts. I believe that our customers would appreciate if we took the work out of it by formulating the dry seasonings. Perhaps even put together do-it-yourself kits. Down the road we will work out several pickle seasonings designed to make about a half-gallon of brine or so. Also, Salad dressing seasoning in a salad mixing bottle (kind with the measurements for: W, V, and O).

We have both an edge in the growing of the produce/herbs, and formulations of the recipes over our customers. Mainly because Market Gardening is how we make a living. We have the time space and ability to grow more raw produce and seasonings and more efficiently. That is the goal of all of our effort…to add value by providing a service/role that we do best, which affords us lower opportunity cost. In a sense, the consumer plays a role in adding value to our products in that they observe and decide for themselves whether it is more worth it as a hobby for them than the value we add as a convenience. Some customers actually have a lower opportunity cost in processing because they are saving money by making it them selves in their free time; we would just be wasting valuable time trying to make a profit with inefficient means and subsequently lose to overhead. In which case our products would be too expensive and would actually extract value from the market by taking it from the consumer above willingness to pay and not being sold.

At some markets, there are competing vendors who source from global and regional produce auctions are at a clear comparative advantage…they can buy more produce way cheaper, and sell it all cheaper (Due to folks who shop price and aren’t that picky). We aren’t really in competition with those vendors, because our customers want something different. We have to grow novel, obscure, or trendy varieties to compete. We straddle the line line between our niche and mainstream expectations. We are doing so with a premium substitute that is more valuable dollar wise and yields higher returns per item sold. Because producing canned foods commercially requires lower input costs and greater scale for it to make sense to produce the item from higher quality produce. It would be highly inefficient for us to then organize, transport, hire labor, pay for facilities, and then waste the fossil fuel energy it takes to make, distribute, and market an acidified or otherwise finished product when we are already marketing higher quality and fresher produce than what they use to make commercial (even small scale) acidified foods. Especially if that finished product is something that would turn out better and would better suit the customer’s preference to make it themselves. I would like to think that our clientele appreciates the tangible and intangible value to their lives that the farmer’s market culture creates, over the convenience of picking a ready made item off the shelf.

Our vision for the farm and its role in the community is taking shape, but we just have to work out the details of our business model. Moreover, we have to both develop our specialty products and adapt to a rapidly evolving farmer’s market and local food scene.

That’s all for today…Thanks for reading!

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