October 14, 2013 -
In our work with the Countryside Conservancy, we came across this 2010 Apple Manifesto compiled by the Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance. The organization claims that our nation’s great “apple culture” is in big, big trouble thanks, in part, to the mind-boggling loss of apple diversity in the last century.
Before we continue with the stunning facts associated with this issue, consider the beauty and tradition of this heartfelt fruit. A quick on-the-go snack, an easy side dish for the kids, a pie-filler, a cider maker, a sauce. Apples are an active and affordable part of our lifestyle and our traditions, even in the off season.
Now, consider this:*
1. Of some 15,000 to 16,000 apple varieties that have been named, grown and eaten on the North American continent, only about 3,000 remain accessible to American orchard keepers, gardeners, chefs and home cooks.
2. Not even one-forth of the 20 million apple trees grown in the U.S. one hundred years ago remain in commercial or home orchards and gardens. Home apple production in the U.S. peaked between World War I and World War II, and now much of the apple juice, puree, and sauce consumed in the United States is produced in other countries.
3. One apple variety, the Red Delicious, comprises 41% of the entire American apple crop, and eleven varieties (of 3,000!!) produce 90 percent of all apples sold in chain grocery stores.
4. One driver of this decline in available apple diversity has been the demise of independently owned nurseries, which have had their business usurped by the garden-and-lawn departments of big-box stores. In a survey of ninety-six commercial nurseries that carried heirloom apples in 1988, 45% of them had gone out of business by 2009.
Granted, if you put these issues in context with other world problems (poverty, crime, war, etc.) apple diversity probably doesn’t rate very high on the problem priority list. Still, it’d be a damn shame to see our country’s crunchy apple crop monopolized for profit. Wouldn’t it?
That said, here are some easy ways you can reinvigorate apple culture in your neck of the orchard:
1. Get to know a new variety. How many can you name? Make a point to sink your teeth into a new one every year. Maybe you can find an aptly titled….Yellow Transparent, Granite Beauty, Duchess of Oldenburg, Winter Banana, Wine Sap, Nodhead, Peck’s Pleasant, Grimes Golden, Green Newtown Pippin, or Christmas apple.
2. Experiment with different varieties for different purposes. Check out this awesome local apple guide on Cleveland.com > Our guide to Northeast Ohio Apples: 12 varieties, where to pick them and how to best use them.
3. Plant an apple tree! Right now is a great time. Buy it at your local independent nursery. Prune it well and enjoy the fruit of your labor.
5. Enjoy your apple in a whole new way. Here’s a great little cocktail recipe from our Bar Man, Dave Hridel.
Add brandy, cider, maple syrup, apples and cinnamon stick to a 16 oz. mason jar and top with hot/boiling water.
*Editor’s note: All apple facts lifted from “Forgotten Fruits Manual & Manifesto: Apples,” by Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance. The full report is available here. It’s a great read if you have the time!
Posted in: Spice Acres, Spice Kitchen+Bar, Spice of Life Catering Co.
Tags: Local Food News, specialty cocktails, Spice recipes
September 17, 2013 -
In celebration of Chef Ben Bebenroth‘s birthday last week, we talked to the lady that raised him to be the chef he is today…and helped him find footing (and funding) in the restaurant business. Linda Bebenroth, Ben’s mom and a Spice investor, has tolerated years of very questionable behavior with the goal of someday seeing her son succeed.
Q: What would you say were some of the most important values that you tried to instill in Ben?
A: Well, just a sense of family most importantly. When I was home with the kids when they were babies, I made all their baby food from scratch. This was 30 some years ago, before it was the thing to do. We drove to Amish country to buy all our flour and spices. So, for Dave [Ben's dad] and I, it’s very rewarding to see Ben cooking healthy, wholesome foods. He’s raising his children like he was raised. There’s no greater compliment to a parent to see that happen.
Q: What made you want to invest in Spice? What was it about Spice that told you it was going to be a successful venture?
A: When you have a child, no matter what they want to pursue, you want them to be successful. So it wasn’t a tough decision. It was a tremendous opportunity to see a business built from the ground up. It was simply, “Let’s do this.”
Q: Does Ben still come to you for advice?
A: His board of directors gives him great guidance, but he often asks for our advice and he listens. He also talks to his other investors all the time. He asks for opinions from his team at staff meetings…he’s always looking for improvements, even when things may seem perfect.
Q: Who was the cook in the family before Ben? He had to get it from somewhere, right?
A: Everybody. Certainly me. From beyond my generation – Dave’s mom and my mom were amazing cooks. Everything was always made from scratch.
You know the story about the garlic right? Dave’s dad would grow this amazing garlic every year. So after he passed, Ben took some of the garlic and now he grows it every year in his front yard. It’s the next generation that’s perpetuated all these years.
Q: How else does your family contribute to the family business?
A: Well, my mom made all the aprons with fabric we bought in Amish country. Dave and I painted for three months inside the restaurant before it opened, Dave’s brother is an electrician, my brother is a plumber…they’ve all volunteered so much time to fixing things, and they’re still on call. I can’t stress it enough that the restaurant truly is a family effort.
Beyond the benefits to his own family, Ben has always believed in the potential of the neighborhood – a community broader than himself. All the businesses support each other and that’s a really exciting thing for us. We’re so glad that we’re there. It’s another layer of family.
Editor’s note: Watch Ben make his family’s legendary pop-over-pancake recipe on WKYC’s Live on Lakeside.
Special thanks to Nancy Patton Bishop for conducting and transcribing this interview.
Posted in: Spice Acres, Spice Kitchen+Bar, Spice of Life Catering Co.
Tags: Chef Ben Bebenroth
August 20, 2013 -
“OHIO’S CHEESE INDUSTRY IS VERY EXCITING RIGHT NOW!” shouts Jean Mackenzie over the hum of a bus carting 25 people down I-71 in route to three Ohio creameries. Edible Cleveland‘s first food tour is designed to shine the light on exactly what makes Ohio cheese so enticing, such as…
- Nationally ranked, award-winning artisan cheese makers.
- Consumer demand** opening new doors for cheese makers in local grocers, shops and restaurants.
- New organizations, like the Ohio Cheese Guild, that strengthen the cheese making community through support, education, and promotion.
Our journey started at Yellow House Cheese, the 4-acre farmstead creamery of a young family, who live in a…
Forty sheep are milked twice every day to produce rich varieties of blue cheese. Did you know that it takes about two minutes to milk a sheep, one for each teat? Each sheep yields about a quart of milk a day, and it takes about 4 gallons of milk to make a wheel of cheese. Also, sheep teats don’t take holiday so, if you’re a sheep farmer, you can’t either.
Next stop? Kokoborrego!
Isn’t that a cool name? Say it out loud and it rolls right off your tongue. And if you think that’s fun, wait until you try their product. It makes your mouth sing. Three staple cheeses: Owl Creek Tomme (a 2012 ACS award winner), Headwaters Tomme, and Moraine all make the rounds on the Spice cheese plate.
It’s particularly awesome that Lisa & Ben Sippel, along with cheese maker Ben Baldwin, have been in the cheese business for less than three years and they’re already winning national awards. Other fun facts about Kokoborrego:
- It’s Ohio’s first licensed sheep milk dairy.
- The name is derived from a stream that flows through the property (Koko) and the Spanish word for sheep.
- The creamery sits on 77 acres, where produce is grown and sold through CSA’s at the Columbus markets.
- They started crafting cheese three years ago as a way to smooth production and cash flow over the course of the year.
Because they’re located toward the mid-ish section of the state, Kokoborrego mostly sells at the Columbus markets. But you can find them at various restaurants and shops around Cleveland, including Earthfare.
Following our lovely lunch, we headed over to Osage Lane Creamery, in Pataskala, Ohio, about 20 miles from Columbus. Here we met Emma Stout and her husband, who share their 2-acres of land with 90 goats that produce enough milk for two primary lines of cheese: Feta and Danish Hanson.
The Stouts spoke with great pride about evolving their business over the years to accommodate economic shifts. They sold milk to other creameries for quite some time, and when their largest customer fell through, they turned to cheese making themselves, building their facility from scratch. Here are a few interesting points of note:
- There is a strict separation between milking goats and making cheese; these two jobs are never swapped in the same day to avoid contamination in the facility.
- One of the greatest business expenses is ongoing testing to assure regulators that the cheese is safe at various stages of its 60-day aging period.
- Most folks enjoy savory flavors of feta, but it can also be enjoyed sweet when infused with fruits and citrus.
- Smoked Hanson is delicious.
As our group scanned the fields for the goats, Emma clarified that they were divas, preferring to stay inside after a rain.
Unfortunately, we don’t have easy access to Osage cheeses as they only sell within a three county region surrounding their farm. This may change in the future as word spreads about their products.
Stay in touch with our cheese community! Join the Ohio Cheese Guild Facebook page for updates on these creameries and others in our great state.
**And, be sure to ask your favorite stores and chefs for more Ohio cheese options – we should all have ample access to the best our local artisans have to offer.
Editor’s note: We’d like to extend a special thanks to Noelle Celeste and Jon Benedict of Edible Cleveland for planning this event, and tour guide Jean Mackenzie of Mackenzie Creamery for entertaining and enlightening us along the way.
Edible Cleveland has more food tours in the works! Where would you like to go? Post your ideas here or on their Facebook page.