I should be doing a million other things right now (seriously, if you saw the list, your head would spin), but right now I'm thinking about the biggest sleeper hit jelly in our line: Creole Tomato Basil Jelly. We're selling out of jars like it's the last jelly on earth.
I'm thinking about this jelly, but not because we're selling so much of it. I'm thinking about it because this seasonal jelly really embodies the Locally Preserved mission and how we do business. It also demonstrates our off-the-wall, not-necessarily-systematic approach to developing a new flavor. Which goes something like this:
Step 1: What's in season? What do my farmers have tons of, and what do they need to sell a.s.a.p.?
Answer: "Well, Emily, it's Creole tomato season. I've got beaucoup tomatoes," says Greg Sanamo of Tomott's Cajun Farm. (I'm paraphrasing, but you get the picture.)
Step 2: Okay, we have tomatoes out the wazoo all summer. It's always bothered me that we have this abundance of tomatoes and I don't use enough of them. But that's what we do at Locally Preserved – we figure out how to use them. We sort've reverse engineer a flavor based on what my farmers want me to buy. So, now I think, 'What flavors (herbs, spices, other seasonal fruits/veggies) go with tomatoes? I need to make something different – something you don't see everywhere.'
Answer: Ooooh, I love a good caprese salad – tomato basil is a perfect combo. And our growers have basil by the bushel. Tomato and basil are savory ingredients, but as a chef, I know this combination will work as a sweet jelly. Tomato and basil both have flavor affinities for sweet ingredients (strawberries with basil, tomatoes with sweet, sharp balsamic vinegar).
Step 3: Make the jelly. Taste the jelly. Do a happy jelly dance. Jar the jelly.
Step 4: Watch people pick up the jar at my table at the farmer's market and give me the doubtful, "Really?" face. "Yep. Here, taste it," I say. Enjoy the look of confusion and delightful surprise on their face. Laugh when they scoop up the last three jars and ask if there are more. Make a mental note to send a jar to Greg at Tomott's.