Archive for October, 2010

29 October 2010 by megan@spoon

Wild Elderberries

There’s something a little bit magical about elderberries.  They’ve been regarded as a sacred healing plant since ancient times and were once thought to both ward off evil and protect witches.  Perhaps their habitat contributes to this mystique.  They seem to flourish where humans seldom tread, in lowland swamps and river bottoms, where their rich purple berries are known only to animals as wild as themselves.

And yet the elusive nature of the elderberry bush makes it a favorite of veteran local foragers, who spend much of August scouring the sunny wetlands that border our many streams and rivers to pluck heavy clusters of the BB-sized fruit from drooping elder branches.  They deliver their painstakingly gathered umbels to our kitchen each afternoon by the bucketful, and we begin the work of transforming the tiny berries into a rich, dark jelly.

Making jelly is a pressing task.  Unlike jams or preserves, which are made from crushed or whole fruits, jelly begins with fruit juice.  In the early days of American Spoon, Justin used to load a year’s supply of fresh elderberries into the back of his station wagon and drive them to John Zimmerle’s Wolverine camp, where he helped John run the berries through his mechanized cider mill in exchange for a small share of the resulting jelly.  These days, we make the juice by hand in our own kitchen, pressing small batches of elderberries in an antique press once used for cider but now stained elderberry-purple.

The pressing itself it physically demanding, but the real work lies in separating each tiny berry from its equally diminutive stem.  It takes over sixty pounds of elderberries to produce the 24 pounds of juice in every kettle of Wild Elderberry Jelly, and the de-stemming process consumes entire days.  The juice, once pressed, is cooked down and concentrated to create a deep, dark, richly complex jelly with hints of anise and grape and the secret wild places where elderberries grow.

Our Wild Elderberry Jelly has such a loyal following that it sells out every year.  Try it on the ultimate PB&J, in our delicious Elderberry & Lemon Tart or in an earthy Autumn game sauce, but by all means try it before it’s gone.

27 October 2010 by megan@spoon

Wordless Wednesday: Fresh Bosc Pears in the R&D Kitchen

20 October 2010 by megan@spoon

Wordless Wednesday: Elderberry & Lemon Tart, Anyone?

get the recipe →

13 October 2010 by megan@spoon

Wordless Wednesday: What We Did This Summer

Here’s what we didn’t do this summer:  post much to our blog.  Our office staff was so busy with the web project that we neglected to share news from the farms and the kitchen, where summer fruit was plentiful and carefully tended to.  We did manage to capture much of the work of summer in photos, so we thought we’d use this as an opportunity to introduce a new SpoonBlog feature:  Wordless Wednesday, a weekly image-based post.  This week, Wordless Wednesday takes the form of a photographic retrospective (also, it clearly involves words), but look for new truly Wordless Wednesday posts every week in addition to our regular posting.

4 October 2010 by megan@spoon

Evolution of a Website

In 1996, three years before the dot com boom officially began, American Spoon launched spoon.com.  It looked like this:

Bare bones and basic, which was pretty typical of websites at the time.  It remained that way, with a few minor tweaks here and there, for the next nine years until 2005 brought a major makeover.

An improvement, to be sure, with a bit of added functionality.  But still, it wasn’t quite right.  For some time now we’ve talked about creating a website that more closely mirrors the experience customers have when visiting one of our stores, a website that’s more than just a place to buy stuff, a website that connects our far-flung fans to this special place and the work we do here.

Yesterday, our website looked like this:

Today, after months and months of hard work, we launched the new spoon.com.

We’re pretty excited about it, and we hope you’ll love the new site as much as we do.  It’s filled with the same kinds of beautiful images you find in our catalog and on our blog, and we’ve streamlined navigation and improved functionality throughout the site.  You’ll find new features, like the ability to comment on recipes, and handy links that will allow you to interact with us through our blog and Facebook.  And, since we think of this new site as a dynamic space on the web, look for frequent updates and additions as the seasons change or as we release new products or discover new information we want to share with you.

Of course, with implementation of any new system, there are bound to be a few hiccups.  We welcome your feedback and we hope you’ll let us know if you run into any of those hiccups, either by leaving a comment here, sending us an email at info@spoon.com or calling us at 888-735-6700.

Change is good.  Happy browsing!