Monday, June 21, 2010
"Why a Mason Jar??"
Ahhh - I've been asked this so many times. Everyone wants to know why we package our cookies in mason jars - Here's a little history....
Growing up, I never really believed I had a huge sense of where I came from - culturally.
It was only when I reached high school or even college that I realized just how much Italian culture was infused into my personality through out my life. And, of course, being an Italian American, many signs of my culture are expressed through food.
It's only in the last 10 years of my life that I've realized - not everyone has a room in the basement called "the wine cellar" and most people don't have capacola curing somewhere in the house. I've also learned that most wine bottles have labels on them and weren't made in someones backyard. However, in my family (and most Brooklyn Italian families) all of this is completely normal.
So, back in the day, we used to have traditional Sunday dinner as a family. If you're not familiar with the term, this is when every person in the family gets together - usually at Grandma's house and eats crazy amounts of pasta and meat while speaking as loudly as they possibly can.
As everyone's gotten older and busier, this tradition has drifted out of our weekly schedule but, the one thing that stays every time we do get together is the sauce...Tomato Sauce - some call it gravy or red gravy but as far as I can remember, we called it sauce.
The stuff is like liquid gold. I could eat a whole loaf of bread before dinner's served just standing over the pot as it cooks - dipping small pieces of bread in for "just a taste" - Grandma usually smacks me, shouting "get outta hea" before I can eat more than 2 pieces....sigh.
Before that liquid gold makes it to the pot and all of those bright red tomatoes have a chance to carmalize, they would always come from a mason jar.
Most people buy their tomotoes for sauce from the grocery store in a can. Not us. We make our own.
When I was a kid, we would all gather at my grandparent's house for a day or two in August/September - tomato season. We'd go to the basement where there would be a sparkling red sea of tomatos.
Bushels and bushels of 'em already cleaned and set out on tables to dry. We would all grab a knife and a cutting board and get to canning, or "jarring", our tomatoes for the year.
It was a long, messy and hot process - usually involving a whole lot of boiling water - but, it was totally worth it when it came time to make that sauce.
This annual ritual is something I will never forget.
As I look back, it's not just the tomatoes that were in those mason jars. Each member of my grandfather's family seems to have one or two things they specialize in when it comes to preserved food. One of my Great Aunts makes preserved peaches that are to die for while another makes preserved eggplant salad and so on.
There were seven children in my grandfather's family - back in "the old country". They grew up on a farm and ran the local grocery. They were poor and had to make due with what they were given.
Today, those acts of necessity have turned into honored traditions that I pay homage to with my cookie packaging.
But, it doesn't end with our cookies. Looking at these mason jars everyday inspired me to go back to my roots with Brooklyn Treat Shoppe as an outlet.
So, needless to say, I'm crazy excited and super proud to bring you the first of many preserved items now available on our menu!
....and, our "Fresh Strawberry Jam" is just the beginning!
With the summer officially here and local farms overflowing with super fresh fruits, we're hustling to get these old family recipes on our market tables.
NEW Brooklyn Treat Shoppe Jam is made with local fruit and is slow cooked in small batches.
We watch very closely as the fruit slowly thickens over a low flame. You'll never find additional pectin or preservatives in these products.
This time consuming process is totally worth it - just like the tomatos.
Jam Flavors currently available are:
Fresh Strawberry Jam
Blueberry Citrus Spread
Olde Time Apple Butter
NEW Brooklyn Treat Shoppe Artisanal Fruit Concentrates are excellent to have on hand when you're having a BBQ or get together.
Add water, to taste, and in seconds, you have a refreshing summer beverage. Everyone will think it took you hours to make it.
Get creative - add seltzer for a spritzer or some booze to make things even more interesting!
Artisanal Fruit Concentrates currently available:
Hand Squeezed Lemon-Limeade
Strawberry Mint Lemonade
Our concentrates are made with local fruit when possible and are never ever frozen. All the citrus is hand squeezed with just a touch of sugar added to sweeten the deal.
In the next week or so, we will be updating our website to include these new items on our menu.
However, readers of this blog can get a sneak peek this week!!
We're stocked with cases of preserves and heading to the markets.
Find our table June 24th through June 27th at St. Bernadette's Spring Festival - 13th Ave & 82nd st. Brooklyn, NY 11228
Be sure to visit us Sunday, 6/27 at the Kings County General Store at Southpaw in Park Slope, Brooklyn - 125 Fifth Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11217.
Kings County General Store is a monthly market with Brooklyn based designers, artists, food companies and shops.
We want to add this to our regular market schedule so, please stop by and show us your support!
I hope you enjoyed this bit of family history.
We have a lot planned for Summer 2010, so stay in touch!
Ciao for now,