Fun with Dazz’ and Cheese
Cheese platters are fun ways to experiment with the boundaries
of Dazz’ and discover your favorite combinations. I had so
much fun with this the other day. I laid out several delicious
cheeses from local Vermont creameries: Grafton Village Cheese
2 year aged Cheddar, Jasper Hill Farm Kinsman Ridge, West River Creamery Londonderry Reserve, and. I opened a couple different flavors of Dazz’ so we could try the various combinations and decide what we like best.
You can do a tasting too!
Let us know what combinations of cheese and Dazz’ you like best.
I have some recommendations for you to start with if you’d like:
Pear Dazz: Jarlsberg, Brie, Saint-Nectaire,
Apple Dazz:: Gruyere, Gouda, Aged Cheddar,
Blueberry Dazz’: Brie, Blue cheese, Sharp Cheddar,
Tomato Dazz’: Gouda, Chevre/Goat Cheese, Mozzarella
The thing I say most often at farmers markets is “It’s not jam!” And it’s not! I promise. The flavor is much more savory than jam, much less sweet. Instead, I wanted to emphasize the pure essence of the fruit or vegetable, capturing the ripeness, the sunshine, not overwhelmed by sugar. So this is for those of you out there who are also put off by the sweetness in some many foods now! Or for those concerned by the added sugar, refined extensively, with all its extra calories. I also add in a couple things so it ends up with a burst of flavor that complements cheese, sandwiches and other lunch, appetizer, and dinner dishes.
For some reason, everyone who comes by my booth thinks it’s jam. Maybe this is due to the shape of the jar being similar to a typical jam jar, or maybe its something else. So I’ve thought about changing the jar to a tall skinny jar, or something shorter and squat.
It’s not jam. You have to taste it to believe it.
What do you think? What convinces people my products are jams? And how should I fix this?
‘The work is already done for you’
One of my customers pointed this out to me yesterday at the Shelburne Farmers’ Market, and I liked how she put it: The work is already done for you! Buying the fruit, chopping, cooking, making the sauce is all done for you already. It makes it so much easier to make a delicious healthy dinner. Gives more variety in the recipes you fall back on. Makes something simple into something gourmet, servable at your next dinner party.
Asparagus: an early harvester
Two weeks ago at the South Hero Farmers Market, there were huge buckets full of asparagus, ready for customers to pick out a bunch and bring it home for one of the treats of late spring- early summer. I was amazed how many asparagus spears one tent had- especially since asparagus takes several years of growing to become mature and ready for picking in a particular spot. The plants are perennials, a new spear stem poking its way out of the dirt every spring from the same root system - so make sure you don’t plant something on top of them! Growing healthy asparagus plants also requires leaving a couple spears to continue to grow, not harvesting them, but letting them become the mature plant of a four foot tall tree sort of, with tiny wispy leaflets like fans. (this is way spears picked too large are a bit woody. . .) These leaflets photosynthesize and provide sugars and nutrients to the plant and root system, energy that will be stored and used in the spring to make the spears that we harvest and enjoy. This is the stage most asparagus patches are in now; the main harvest season is over, so the remaining stems are happily left alone for the rest of the summer.
Farmers Markets picking up
It’s summer! Farmers Markets started up in May, but are just picking up now, as spinach and lettuce are coming in from the fields, plus a few bunches of vibrant bright pink radishes. More and more varied produce will gradually come in over the next few weeks, piling high on the tables and in bins to the sides. However right now those bags of baby lettuce and bouquets of red and deep green chard are the focus of attention in the center of the table. It puts more emphasis on other non-produce products vendors have at farmers markets, like the last few packages of last fall’s lamb italian sausage, or eggs from chickens spoiled by their royal treatment - access to fresh, nutritious, bug-filled grass twice a day at Savage Gardens in North Hero. In the next tent, Gloria of Grand Isle Pasta has oh-so-delicious handmade pasta, unique flavors such as beet flower- shaped or jalepeño, and one of our customers suggested using Gloria’s pasta and the Carrot Dazz’, onions, asparagus, and spinach to make a pasta salad in celebration of summer. So you might think that the markets aren’t worth a visit yet, but I would stop by - you can still get ingredients for dinner!
Strawberries are here
I saw the first green pint buckets of luscious red strawberries at the South Hero Farmers Market last week. Local field ripened strawberries are so different from those shipped from California you can find in a grocery store, which are picked days before they are ripe in order to allow for travel time. Local strawberries ripen on the plant, which gives them more sweetness due to the prolonged connection to nutrients from the soil and the sweetening power of the sun. Especially when I go pick my green paper buckets full of delicious berries, I know exactly how they were grown and all the ingredients and care that went into those delicious berries.
Yesterday we got a shipment of local tomatoes, and what beauties they were! Boxes and boxes of multicolored heirlooms, not quite perfect enough on the outside to sell to customers, but oh-so-wonderful flavor: we had to sample just to be sure! There was everything from dark green and purple striped, to yellow and orange spotted, to yellow green with bright green insides, even when ripe! This treasure trove came from our friends at Cedar Creek Farm in Danville, Vermont- Thanks! Another source of delicious local tomatoes this summer has been High Mowing Seeds in Wolcott. With the heirlooms yesterday, we partially processed them, by boiling them and sending them through the food mill to make a puree, then putting it in 5-gallon buckets in the -40〫F blast freezer; this will save their amazing flavor of summertime for use when we make another batch of our Tomato Dazz’ later in the fall or winter. Check out these beautiful pictures!
Lovely Midsummer in Vermont
Local sweet corn and tomatoes are here, and they taste amazing! There’s nothing like a fresh off the vine tomato, grown within miles of your house - the juicy interior so rich and sweet and fruity. . . these words really don’t do it justice.
I have seen yellow and orange tomatoes at farmers’ markets already this season, in addition to deep red. There are a few nearly ripe ones in my garden, among the many green. There is a much larger variety of tomatoes available from local farmers than the grocery store: orange, gold, yellow, pink, striped, even purple and black different shapes from pear shaped to irregularly shaped, long, flattened, bite-sized to as big as a salad plate! These unique shapes and colors also bring the most important part: a striking multidimensional flavor!
Local sweet corn is another summer treasure. When it’s fresh, picked that morning, it barely needs cooking, just a touch to bring out even more flavor! Then I use the leftovers for pancakes or black bean corn salad.
We are so lucky in the summer weeks when we can get these two scrumptious local treats, especially at once!
Rhubarb in excess
One of the yummy local item available now in the early summer is rhubarb! Rhubarb is a large plant with huge ruffled leaves. The part of the plant we eat is the stalk or stem of the leaves. The leaves are actually poisonous.* Many rhubarb dishes, such as strawberry rhubarb are sweetened quite a lot, by sugar or by other ingredients in the dish, covering the natural tartness of the rhubarb, so some people who come to taste my Rhubarb Dazz’ expect something sweeter. However I like to taste the real pure flavor of the luscious fruits and vegetables I eat, so my Rhubarb Dazz’ is tart, just like rhubarb.
(What is rhubarb anyway? A fruit or a vegetable? or something else? I looked this up, and fruits are defined as the swollen ovary of the flower; in other words develops from the flower protecting the seeds inside. So, rhubarb the crop is not the fruit of the rhubarb plant; thus it must be classified as a vegetable.*)
Another interesting thing about rhubarb is that the outside of the stalk is pink, but the inside is a light yellow - green, not a particularly beautiful color. Thus when cut up and cooked the The color also differs with the variety. The majority of the rhubarb that went into our Rhubarb Dazz’ has recently been of a variety that is more green than pink in general, which makes the end product light green as well, thus some people are startled at the color in the jar in front of them. However it is the natural color of the rhubarb I used.
We are developing a new flavor: Carrot! I’ve made a couple small test batches at home, and it has turned out well! It is a wonderful bright orange color. I tried it at dinner with my family a couple weeks ago, alongside pizza - it was great, but it’s also delicious as a new pizza sauce! Last night we made a fabulous pizza: Carrot Dazzle as sauce, chopped crystallized ginger, walnuts, caramelized onions, and pecorino cheese- Yummy yummy!
From my testing with my family, Carrot Dazzle is also wonderful with salmon burgers, on turkey sandwiches, or with steak; I’m sure you all will come up with many more yummy ideas! We brought it to a couple farmers’ markets last week to test it out, and it proved quite eye catching - nearly everyone wanted to try it, and we got lots of thumbs ups. Some comments were: “Quite a delicate flavor” “Looks a bit like baby food, but boy, it doesn’t taste like it” (I’m not sure whether to be happy about this or not) “Wow that’s bright!” “Yum!”
A Glimpse into Producing our Products
The last two weeks were big production weeks, with three long and tiring, but productive, days in the kitchen! Monday the first week was an Apple Dazz’ day, and Thursday we made Ketchup. Then this past Thursday we made Tomato Dazz’. We use the kitchen at the Vermont Food Venture Center to chop produce, cook, mix, and jar our products. They are a small food business incubator in Hardwick, which means each production day is lengthened by an hour-long drive from Jericho on each end. The kitchens there are much bigger than a home kitchen though, allowing us to make large batches in a shorter amount of time. The facility is certified for food safety, and our kitchen workers have also completed a ServSafe food safety certification program, which is very important to us in delivering the best quality and safest product we can.
The production actually starts before the production day, with collecting the ingredients. Two weeks ago I went to Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall to pick up 8 bushels of apples from last fall, which have been in storage since October and still looked great! That was enough to fill two giant 40-gallon pots on Monday. Wednesday I spent nearly 4 hot hours harvesting rhubarb in the record breaking temperatures, but ended up with a lot of good rhubarb on Thursday. Tomatoes around here are not quite ripe yet, so we are using canned crushed tomatoes for now.
I took a few photos of various stages in our production process so you could all be a fly of the wall and learn a bit more about how our products are made!
Each day starts with getting together all the necessary elements for the day:
First, washing and prepping our raw produce, and collecting the equipment we will need
Cooking it down in giant steam kettles;
Sending the resulting mixture through the food mill or food processor to take out the skins and seeds and get a smoother texture;
Filling lots of jars with hot Dazz’ (it’s so satisfying to line them up and survey the results of our hard work!)
Then there’s clean up and loading the car with our finished jars to go home and collapse on the couch!
Our first Restaurant
Suzanne’s Sweet Savories is on the menu of our first restaurant! Not only that, but its the opening week for the restaurant too! Positive Pie Pizzeria just opened third location in Hardwick, VT, with the grand opening last Friday. I was able to visit the new location, and see and taste some of the food. At the center of the restaurant's activity is the wood-fired oven where they make their pizzas. Speaking of pizzas, they are delicious! Crispy crusted, and topped with fresh mozzarella, pesto, roasted eggplant, sausage, or other fresh ingredients from Vermont and the region. Naomi Hahr, the General Manager of the new Hardwick restaurant, is trying to source as many menu items as possible from local farmers and producers. Their salads, sandwiches, and other dishes are also beautiful and taste fabulous; one example I enjoyed trying was the Treehugger, a sandwich of tender roasted eggplant, pesto, fresh mozzarella melted on top, served on a crusty Italian roll with tomatoes and spinach.
Our Dazzle is featured as part of two of their dishes: the Artisan Cheese Plate, paired with crispy focaccia and a variety of cheeses, beautifully plated; and the Sampler, with some cured meats as well. With its emphasis on local products, Positive Pie will be a wonderful new part of Hardwick’s vibrant local food scene, and we are quite excited to be part of the fun!
I met Mark Bittman, NYT Food editor!
Last week, I had an amazing opportunity to join a group of other food entrepreneurs to set up my booth and hand out samples for a special group of visitors to the Vermont Food Venture Center. New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman came to Hardwick last week to experience the exciting food scene that has popped up there in recent years, exhibiting food innovation, entrepreneurship, and local food. Mark had a busy day meeting people and touring Sterling College’s food program, Pete’s Greens farm, and others. Then, at our gathering, he graciously went around to every table, sampled the products displayed there, and met the eager company owners. As a frequent reader of Mark’s columns in the NYT, it was wonderful for me to have my new company be part of his visit to Vermont. It was also fun to have a gathering with the other food producers of the Venture Center and Hardwick; some of them I had seen their products, but never actually met the owners or tasted. There was a great energy with all the producers excited to show the results of their hard work to all the guests who came to visit; conversations and connections were going on everywhere. Thanks for coming, Mark! It was a pleasure to meet you during your visit and give you a sample of my products!
June Farmers Markets
Yesterday was a busy day at the Farmers’ Markets! It was a gorgeous day for it. We had booths set up at both the Middlebury and Rutland Farmers’ Markets, giving out samples and meeting all sorts of interesting people. Vermont Farmers’ Markets draw a great group of people, from locals with their shopping lists to visitors from out of town, taking in a bit of the Vermont lifestyle. It is fun to tell people about our company, and hear their comments after tasting our Dazzlin’ Dips. Heard from the Suzanne’s Sweet Savories tent: “Wow!” “Mmm. . .yummy!” “That is good!” “There’s a lot going on there!” “Now that’s top dog!”
Everyone has different personal tastes and thus a different favorite flavor, which is interesting to see. Everyone has different ways they are planning on using it, even within one flavor; for Tomato Dazzlin’ Dip, we’ve heard everything from meatloaf, to burgers, to ribs, to cheese, from pizza to pork to salmon to chicken!
People have also been coming up with some great new ideas of how to use our products in easy gourmet meals throughout the day, every day: “The blueberry would be great on roasted duck!” “I’m thinking on top of cream cheese with crackers” “Really quick Sloppy Joes- just mix the Tomato Dazzlin’ Dip with some ground beef.” “Just on toast!” “How about over ice cream?” “The other day I made a pizza-Tomato Dazzlin’ Dip with grilled eggplant and Jarlsberg cheese- delicious!” “What about on pancakes?”
We always love to hear any ideas you have for new ways to serve our products-
Let us know what you create!