Apart from being the go-to site for procuring whimsical, beautiful, handmade items for the home or garden, a significant number of Etsy sellers offer food items too. From locally-foraged jams and marmalades to hand-harvested salt blends, we spoke to a couple of our favorite sellers about their stories and creative suggestions for using their products.
Who: Laura Lee, Laura Lee’s Larder.
What: Jams, preserves and jellies using ingredients foraged from her neighborhood.
Where: Cheltenham, England
Years in business: One year
My first ever preserve was apple and sage jelly, made with stolen apples and fresh sage from the garden. I left some for all my neighbors on their doorstep on Christmas Eve and was delighted to hear about all the different ways they were using it – most popularly in a sausage roll!
What inspires you:
I like to use foraged hedgerow fruits and make old-fashioned traditional preserves that you just can’t buy any more, like elderberry jelly, or new and modern preserves that aren’t available in shops, like mojito marmalade. I also make flavors like strawberry jam and seville marmalade but because I make the jam right after I’ve picked strawberries from a local farm, it has the most wonderful taste.
I have two: rhubarb and ginger jam, which made porridge exciting again, and tomato and lavender jam, which was an experiment. It turned out lovely, sweet and beautifully scented.
Jam is much more versatile than people think. Use it on porridge, layer your favorite flavor between layers of Victorian sponge cake, bake muffins with a jam center, put a blob on some ice cream, or stir some into your yogurt. I’ve even had customers use marmalade on fish.
Who: Nancy Yoder, Saltlandia.
What: Tie-dyer by trade who also makes infused salts and sugars.
Where: Portland, Oregon
Years in business: One year.
I always have a slow period in the winter where tie dye doesn’t sell, and I needed something to keep me busy. I began making the salt infusions after a naturopath introduced me to the health benefits of Celtic Grey Sea Salt in 1999. Once I got the salt, I started adding things, like rosemary and sage from my backyard (I have grown my own herbs for the last 20 years). We collect the seawater at a beautiful beach just down from our house and use a commercial kitchen in Newport, OR, to filter, boil and collect the salt flakes.
The sage and the rosemary. They can be used individually or together and give things such a wonderful zip. I am a vegetarian, and the little extra kick from the spices bring the flavors to a whole new level. I use the rosemary salt on my eggs, and for biscuits and gravy, I make a portobello cream gravy with the sage and a touch of cajun seasoning.
I love using fleur de sel on caramel and ice cream. Some of my friends have also used it on caramel-topped brownies. I’m currently working on a chili salt, which is great on hot cocoa.
Who: Rikki Jamalia, Blue Houses.
What: T-shirt/apron designer and purveyor of hot sauces under the brand “Sadistic Mistress.”
Where: Lexington, Kentucky
Years in business: Three
I started Sadistic Sauces while I was managing a Cajun restaurant. Our customers were constantly complaining that we didn’t have any hot hot sauces or that there weren’t enough flavors, so I started making some from scratch to have a higher heat rating and complex flavors. The restaurant closed down a few months later, but the owners encouraged me and gave me the entire pepper stock as severance.
Hot sauce inspiration:
My initial inspiration was to make customers sweat. People complain less when their mouth is on fire. Now, I work closely with a local farm that produces the best peppers for me, growing new varieties each season. For instance, the Trinidad Scorpion Pepper was named hottest pepper in the world last summer. My farmer cultivated several of this variety and I featured it in a sauce called Painslut.
East African Rift is my signature sauce, made from a Berbere spice blend and cayenne peppers. It’s a good anytime sauce for all palates and it outsells my other sauces 3:1. I am also fond of my classic cayenne sauce, The Safe Word Is, because it has a wonderfully fresh, rich flavor without straying too far away from that beloved “red flavor” with which everyone is so familiar.
People have pigeon-holed hot sauce as being something you add just for heat, but I encourage my customers to think of my hot sauces as more of a condiment to inspire creative uses for their everyday meals. Sweet Daddy, for instance, is a citrus blend habanero sauce that works well as a marinade for seafood. I make an applesauce with bite called Garden Of Good And Evil that I use when roasting pork tenderloin, while a customer used it to make a spicy syrup for her pancakes. Sauces that have a strong vinegar base can be used just like vinegar. One gentleman told me he used Psalms 22:1 (one of my hottest sauces) on collard greens, while his wife used it to baste the Thanksgiving turkey.
About the author: Danielle Tsi grew up in Singapore, a tiny, food-obsessed island on the tip of the Malaysian Peninsula, where every waking minute was spent thinking about what her next meal was going to be. Landing in the United States with her well-traveled Nikon, she turned her lifelong love affair with food into images and words on her blog, Beyond the Plate. When not behind the lens or at the stove, Danielle can be found on her yoga mat perfecting the headstand.