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July 24, 2008

Blue Chair Fruit Company: plastic-free at the farmer’s market

 

Our Temescal farmer’s market was beautiful this Sunday, all the colors and crowds alive with the joy of summer. So many fruits to sample and enjoy on the spot. And, sadly, still so much plastic in evidence… bags & containers. Last year I wrote about plastic at the farmer’s market and the effort to educate vendors and patrons about alternatives. This Sunday, one vendor left me pleasantly surprised.

Blue Chair Fruit Company produces extraordinary jams and preserves that are packaged in glass jars with metal lids. That’s fine enough. But what caused me to stop at their table were the tiny metal tasting spoons they were using to give samples. While other vendors of prepared foods (including the women hawking her pesto spreads in the next booth) used disposable plastic spoons or even (to a lesser degree) disposable compostable spoons, Blue Chair used durable spoons that would be washed and reused.

I chatted with Rachel Saunders, the jam-maker herself, about the choice to use metal spoons. Her response was something like, “Plastic spoons turn me off. I don’t want to taste anything on a plastic spoon. I don’t want it anywhere near my mouth.” (Since I didn’t take notes, those might not have been her exact words, but pretty close.) I found myself hoping the woman next to her was listening and would catch the hint!

So I bought a jar of the strawberry marsala jam with rosemary and enjoyed some with local Feel Good Bakery bread and Food Mill peanut butter at the conclusion of my vision fast. Wow. Delicious. But really, I think today I need to have some of that jam on plain bread without the peanuts to compete with. Yeah, I need to do that!

Read more about Blue Chair Fruit Company in the SF Chronicle, where you’ll also find several jam recipes, if you’re inclined to save the whopping $10/jar and make your own. Rachel’s got a jam cookbook coming out in 2010. Maybe by then I’ll be ready to test those waters myself.

This year, tomatoes. I’m thinking that perhaps they will be my first canning project. We go through soooooo much store-bought tomato/spaghetti sauce. Ideas? Can I do it without investing in a canner?



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19 comments
Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Hi Sarah. I encourage all my readers to write to manufacturers of any products that they personally use to ask them to use less plastic. Perhaps, if you leave this comment on the most recent post (rather than one that is several weeks old and that most people will probably not revisit) others who use Moom will see it and join you. I personally haven't heard of it, but then there is a whole world of things I personally have not tried!Also, an idea that comes to me is a Yahoo! or Google group devoted to writing letters to companies to urge them to lessen their plastic use. Would you have time to set up something like that? If so, I'd be happy to promote/support it!Email me directly if you are interested in that type of thing.Beth

S
S

I have been using a hair removal product made by Moom for many years. Those little buggers (the hairs, that is) on my legs can no longer stand the "heat" so to speak, and after 8 years, I hardly have hair on my legs at all...whoohoo! Moom is organic and chemical free; however, they use an unacceptable amount of plastic packaging, which I object to. I've just written them an email about it, encouraging them to find alternatives. I mentioned this Web site to them and also mentioned that I would try to encourage readers of your blog to write them as well. Is this okay? Are you or any of your readers familiar with Moom? They're pretty groovy, out of Canada, and I'm sure they'd be responsive. Do you think you could check it out and add them to your hit list of companies to encourage in reducing their plastic packaging?Sarah from Virginia

eco 'burban mom
eco 'burban mom

I use a super huge stock pot with lid as a waterbath canner. Though, you can only can whole or halved tomatoes in their juice or water in water bath canning. Any prepared sauces (with salt, garlic, herbs etc.) need to be done in a pressure canner. I am too cheap to buy a pressure canner so I am canning tomatoes this way and then will puree or chop them for sauce as needed.

Allie
Allie

I've been wondering about canning too. It makes me nervous, but it will be so useful if I can get the hang of it (especially since I'm expecting a ton and a half of tomatoes in a month or so . . . That jam looks amazing!

Tanya
Tanya

Hey Beth-OK, just did a google search and it says that oven-canning is not v. safe so maybe you shouldn't go that route... I definately don't want you to get sick! I remember canning as a kid and it's v. hot and a full day ordeal. I would take the advice of one of the other commenters and recruit an experienced friend to help.

Tanya
Tanya

Hi Beth-My step-mother is very big into canning and she said there is an alternative method where you can actually put the jars in the oven to seal them and that you don't need a canner at all... I'll have to ask her about it or do some research on the web...I'll let you know what I find out.

Rebecca
Rebecca

I just did tomato sauce this year for the first time as well. I agree with everyone that you can just use a big stock pot to process your sauce - I don't even put anything on the bottom and my jars have always been fine. But do make sure that you use a recent recipe because most tomatoes grown now don't have enough acid to be safe without a pressure cooker. The recipe I use has 1 cup of lemon juice and a bottle of red wine for every 25 lbs of tomotos - Google will come up with lots. Have fun!

Kate
Kate

Beth, Canning tomatoes is super easy. You can get a canning pot at a local hardware store (they come with the jar rack - should hold 7 quart size jars) - probably less than $20. Great investment. Let me know if you need instructions!

bianca in brooklyn
bianca in brooklyn

My mother cans tomatoes every year... tons of them. And it's so fantastic to be in the middle of winter, opening up a jar of those beautiful, red tomatoes and savoring the delightful taste of summer. Even when it's 20 below zero, with feet of snow on the ground (in Maine). She's never used a canner. She has a big stock pot that she uses. She does, however, have this metal thingy that she can set the jars in and it has a handle with which to lower the jars into the pot. The jars sit in it, they have their own space. This keeps them from moving around. You must be able to get one somewhere. Certainly, cheaper than buying a canner. And also, a small dishtowel at the bottom of a stockpot will keep jars from clanging at the bottom. Happy canning!

AnnMarie
AnnMarie

If you have freezer room, pasta sauce freezes quite well. I don't want to risk canning it (I only have a water one, not pressure) so I've just frozen it. But like others, I too have seen that water bath canners are okay for it. I've filled my freezer with fruit this year so I think I will have to try canning my sauce! On to my real advice: Have a friend to help out who knows what they are doing. I did it on my own the first time and was so overwhelmed and anxious. The second time, Mom helped me (she lives 700 miles away so not around much). I was way too anal about some stuff, and didn't understand how to coordinate it all on my stove and her advice (and the second pair of hands) was so great. I'm fearless now!

Robj98168
Robj98168

I went to trader joes today as I always do after the farmers market and was surprised- their sample table had no plastic cups or spoons- they were handing out samples on toothpicks! I made a comment to the demo diva- she said don't get used to it. Oh well!

jennconspiracy
jennconspiracy

you can borrow my canner to see how it goes... jars are pretty cheap at the 24-hour Long's.I've got all my wood cut for the solar dehydrator, so am going to start putting it together. Hope you can help me get my money's worth out of the materials (and labor) by dehydrating some stuff in it over here!

Veronique
Veronique

Every summer in the south of France we make jam with my aunt Agnes - hey I even made some with fruits I had picked up myself !The taste, for sure, has nothing to do with the jams you find in stores. We even invented original mix : try kiwi and mint yumm !I'll ask my aunt about canning tomatoes - I'm sure she'll have a good idea for you without having to buy anything.take care

Yael
Yael

Hi Beth!Id love to hear the responses on canning tomatoes without a canner as welland I dont think Ive ever commented here before but I really enjoy your blog posts--so thank you!

froghair
froghair

while you don't NEED a canner, I decided that it'd be worth it to buy one rather than risk breaking (and then replacing) the jars if they jostled too much in a regular stockpot. But first check out craigslist, etc, because this is one of those items where people buy it new, thinking they're going to use it forever, use it once or twice, and then it just takes up space in the garage. I saw one just the other day at a rummage sale. I too will be trying tomatoes for the first time this year -- I did peaches last year with great success!

lauren
lauren

I love that jam stand, and mostly because of the metal spoons, but it is pricey. I prefer the Temescal market over the "famous" Berkeley markets. The location and setup is a lot more appealing to me. I guess it's the trees and small creek. Have you been to the market on Grand near the Lake? I've been thinking of checking it out.Speaking of canning, I just invested in a water bath canning kit from Ball. I've heard that is is okay to water bath, not pressure, can acidic foods. I'm going to try it out this weekend,with pasta sauce and jam, and if it is a success, you could borrow the kit and test it yourself.

Jenni
Jenni

Beth, Great post. I would be more inclined to support a business that didn't use plastic spoons! Now, if I could only work on Trader Joe's and all of their wasteful samples using plastic cups/spoons!

Not up to my ears in credit card debt.
Not up to my ears in credit card debt.

Depending on how many jars you plan to can, I have used a big stock pot with canning lids on the bottom (so the jars aren't right on the bottom) and did 4 pints at a time. Otherwise, you could freeze it. As long as you make sure the acidity is high enough you wouldn't need a pressure canner.

The Green Routine
The Green Routine

I'm interested in canning tomatoes cheaply as well. I got 3 bushes growing out back, and I'm fixing to be overrun by tomatoes. I'm going to have to give most of them away if I don't learn how to preserve quickly :).

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