by Allie Misch
Photos courtesy of Anne Reese
UPDATE: Congratulations to John and Anne Reese for bringing home yet ANOTHER win from the Good Food Awards for their "King B" preserves! full list of 2015 good food awards winners here.
We were gushing with local pride when Black Radish Creamery along with several other Ohio artisans were announced as finalists for the 2015 "Good Food Awards." The Good Food Awards is a national competition celebrating authentic foods that are sustainably produced. The GFA seal found on winning products is a badge of honor to let consumers know that a product is not only delicious, but also represents environmental and social responsibility. Black Radish Creamery hopes to take home yet another GFA this year for their "King B" Ohio-Grown Black Raspberries Preserved With Vanilla Bean Candied Lemon Zest.
We caught up with John and Anne of Black Radish Creamery to learn about their world of small batch products, how they got into designing an apparel line for FOOD52 and when they plan to put the "creamery" in Black Radish Creamery.
Edible Columbus: "All Hail King B!" What does being a finalist for the Good Food Awards mean for Black Radish Creamery?
Black Radish Creamery: It means a lot on many levels. For our products to be recognized by panel of people who have tasted and experienced some of the best creations in America is a real compliment to our methods, ingredients, and final products.
Also, because we are still a fairly young company, it really helps us to stay motivated and continue our dedication to creating the best products we possibly can. We are truly honored for this national recognition.
EC: We see you are in good company with other Ohio finalists, what do you think it is about our state that makes us excel at great products?
BRC: We believe a lot of it is the culture in Ohio. We see a lot of dedication within the artisan food industry here. One of the main reasons we moved back to Ohio [from New York] to start our venture was because of the opportunities we saw in the local food movement here and as well as the seeing the potential it has. From our experience, in order to create great food products, you have to have a passion for good food and the artisan food community here shows great passion. We are excited to see Ohio get recognized for its artisan food.
EC: Tell us what it’s like to be a small batch producer.
BRC: We got into this knowing the importance of loving what you do and we thrive in knowing that what we do contributes to the success of our local food communities and small-scale farms. Discovering the next best farmer that grows food the right way, tasting new fruits, getting inspired from totally unrelated things, testing new recipes, seeing our customer’s feedback at markets are all things that we enjoy experiencing. When someone tastes one of our products and lets us know that it brings back memories of grandmas cooking or they say how they went home and got creative in the kitchen using our products, in all seriousness, those are the best compliments we can receive. We won’t lie; it is not all glamorous though. Most days we work well over 8 hours and our weekends are full with markets almost year round. So of course, every now and then we have times where we think it would be great to have a job that you work only 8 hours, go home at 5 o’clock, and be done working for the day so we could spend time with the family or friends, but the other 99 percent of the days are great.
We really do love what we do and feel that is the key to being a successful small batch producer.
EC: What is the importance of small batch products? What do you think sets your product apart from conventionally made jams?
BRC: There are many important aspects of small batch products:
Support local economies: We buy our fruit from small family farms and when customers buy our goods, the money stays within the local economy. A small circle with a big impact.
Quality & Flavor: by sourcing our ingredients locally with diligence and extra careful preparation, food of supreme quality and reputation is nurtured and not lost in the process. Often you will find that large commercially produced food products loose the small nuances in flavor profiles because of their processes and standardized recipes. We adjust our recipes for each batch by measuring the natural sugar levels in the fruit. We then adjust the recipe for the batch based off that number. This process allows us to highlight the natural flavors that occur within the fruit instead of overpowering it with the sweetness of sugar.
Our products are created for quality not quantity.
We go out to the farms and see how the fruit is grown and create relationships with farmers. We pay more for our fruit then conventional jam companies because we choose our fruit for its flavor not for its price. Most commercial jams use a standard 50/50 ratio of sugar to fruit. Our ratio of fruit to sugar is much higher. We like to express that we are selling flavor not sugar.
EC: What do you think this movement toward small batch means for the world of food?
BRC: We hope this movement will help re establish interests in understanding what real food is. It is important to educate others on the importance of real food not only for our health but also for the health of our earth. As long as you can find reputable growers (it’s not as hard as some may think) by sourcing locally you get food that is so ripe it wouldn’t survive a long trip or extended stay on a shelf. This extra time on the vine (for example) gives the fruit time to finish off and really reach a peak that if picked early for travel it could never achieve. We can only hope that in the end, this movement will create more demand for more local small-scale farmers and help them thrive.
EC: What does it mean to support the work of small-batch producers on a macro level (outside of just enjoying great food, of course)?
BRC: In the grand scheme of things we still have to mention the local economies. It helps whatever local area, in which the business serves, become more self sufficient in many ways. Beyond economics, for instance,
what if there was a disease that wiped out California’s or Florida’s strawberry crop? Well, local producers would be pivotal in filling that void.
EC: What has been your experience working with local farmers in Ohio?
BRC: Our experience has been nothing but positive. The farmers we have sourced from are a great group of dedicated people. And more and more we see they are hungry for knowledge on how to grow a great crop and improve what they grow by utilizing the best-known natural practices in the industry. Since we do not purchase our fruit based on the lowest price available we pay our farmers the price they deserve for growing food the right way. Our farmers get better pay for their crops, we get better quality produce, and in the end our customers get a product that has the best local flavors possible.
EC: What inspires your recipes?
BRC: Anything and everything. Random recipes from old books, cocktails, casual conversations, weekend trips; inspiration comes from everywhere. Oddly enough I (John) can very often taste in my mind. And as anything that may remotely have to do with food is presented to me in any form of stimulus I often go on a daydream of different flavor combinations. More often than not this is the start of something good and Anne is often relied on for taste testing new combinations.
Together we love throwing around ideas for new combinations and seeing where it goes.
EC: Your tagline is “Local Tastes Better,” how can you taste the difference in your products?
BRC: We have to say the effort that goes into growing the produce we choose, the point of ripeness at which they are picked, and treating all of the ingredients with respect in regards to proper cooking methods and techniques. We use only the best possible fruit we can find in Ohio. Getting our fruit while it is at its peak is a crucial aspect in achieving great flavor.
EC: Do you feel there is competition between small batch producers or is there a sense of camaraderie?
BRC: We would have to say a little bit of both. For instance, we have a great relationship with Ann’s Raspberry Farm. They make fantastic red raspberry products including jam. They have given us some great advice on different aspects of the business. As for the competition aspect, there are definitely some secrets being withheld closer than others, but we look at it as a good thing. It keeps us motivated to continue to improve our products and in return helps raise the bar on the quality and practices within the small batch industry.
As for the artisan cheese industry in Ohio, we are proud to be a part of such a wonderful group of people. Being members of the Ohio Cheese Guild has helped us become really involved with the upcoming cheese movement in Ohio and so far our experiences have been more than welcoming especially since we are about to get our creamery up and going.
EC: Just to confirm: “The cheese is coming,” right?!
BRC: Yes it is!* While we would love to go into detail on this, the truth is, getting the creamery facility up and running has been an arduous task with so many unexpected hoops. Long story short, we have been working a great deal with the local zoning board so we can legally operate our business within the township. Currently our creamery facility would not be approved under existing zoning regulations. But over the course of most of 2014 we have been working with the zoning commissions and trustees to create new language that specifically will foster “agriculturally based artisan companies.” Our fingers are crossed, but as of this moment (assuming no more surprise hoops pop up), the cheese should be here in 2015. We are more than ready to get rockin’ on the cheese. We are just waiting on the go ahead. They say great cheese comes to those who wait!*
Editor's Note: You should've seen all the exclamation marks before this paragraph was edited. These guys are pumped for the cheese, believe us.
EC: Congrats on your partnership with Food52! What inspired your apparel venture? What has it been like having your products featured on a national level?
BRC: Around our second year of farmers markets we felt the need to have so called “market attire” so customers would view us as a viable business instead of “two kids with a hobby” and as we got into it, we thought our apparel should be something we WANT to wear rather than HAVE to wear and after some serious research on American made apparel and some luck in finding a local printer, our BRC apparel was born. Much to our surprise, not long after our new “market attire” debuted, market goers began asking if we sold our shirts and, we began selling them here and there first to a few to our friends and loyal customers and since this past August when FOOD52 approached us about a partnership, we are now shipping them all around the country every week! So for being featured on a national level we are VERY excited about this serendipitous endeavor. We never would expect our “market attire” to go national before our cheese that is for certain! But that is just one of the great reason why we love what we do. Every day is literally a new adventure; you never know where some idea (or in this case need) will take you.
EC: What’s next for Black Radish Creamery?
BRC: CHEESE for sure!* Although we have lofty goals in our future, we are hesitant to express them to all until the time is right. We can say that we do plan to continue supporting our local food communities and hope that we can inspire others to do the same.
One thing is for sure, no matter what is next for BRC, it will taste good. So stay tuned.
*Editor's Note: Ditto about the cheese here as well. Their excitement is contagious!!!
Where to find Black Radish Creamery:
The Crest Tavern
The Bexley Natural Market
The Market in Italian Village
Both of The Hill’s Markets
The Global Gallery, Clintonville
The Going Green Store (Granville, Ohio)
The Cheese Shop at Westside Market (Cleveland, Ohio)
The Mustard Seed Market and Café (Akron/Solon, Ohio)
Ohio State of Mind (Roscoe Village, Coshocton, Ohio)
Worthington Winter Market
New Albany Farmers Markets
Granville Summer Markets
And online at www.blackradishcreamery.com.