December 12, 2012

Natural Foodie: Eat local all winter? That's a big CAN DO

A Bangor woman is building her own preservation society, working with farmers to provide Maine-produced canned goods through the cold, dark months.

By Avery Yale Kamila akamila@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Cheryl Wixson works in the kitchen of her Bangor home to produce hand-crafted prepared foods, such as pasta sauce, applesauce, ketchup, relish, jam, etc., in small batches using all Maine ingredients.

Photo by Michael C. York

Laurel Wixson
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Cheryl Wixson’s daughter Laurel in what used to be the living room.

Michael C. York

Additional Photos Below

CHERYL WIXSON'S KITCHEN

WHAT: Offers a winter CSA of canned Maine-grown foods, including pasta sauces, condiments, pickles, jams and applesauces

COST: $300 six-month subscription; $250 five-month subscription in Portland; $325 mail-order subscription in Maine

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: Visit cherylwixsonskitchen.com and click on Where to Buy>Purchase a Share, or call 947-0892.

"Cheryl is focused on the tomato products and canned food," Hallweaver said. "Her cranberry ketchup is meaningfully unique. And it pairs very well with our potato wedges."

The cranberry ketchup contains cranberries in the place of tomatoes and offers a tangy alternative, but with a similar flavor profile, to traditional ketchup, which the company also offers.

 

FEEDING ALL THESE FAMILIES every month entails a lot of cooking and canning, which is all done by hand.

"We've tripled from 10,000 to 30,000 jars this year," Wixson said. "I'd like to triple again if we can get the farmers."

Right now the company works with more than 35 farmers and food producers, mostly in midcoast, Down East and northern Maine. Wixson hopes to increase that number next year.

Because all the produce the company buys is cooked, the fruits and vegetables do not need to be picture perfect. This can help farmers find a market for produce that wouldn't sell at farmers markets or farm stands. Still, Wixson said she's constantly searching for new farms to buy from.

"Our challenge is to get enough farmers to grow the food," Wixson said. "We can never have enough tomatoes, because that's a hard crop to grow in Maine."

Wixson said dedicated locavores should aim to have their diet made up of about 80 percent locally-produced food and 20 percent food from other parts of the country and world, such as citrus fruits and olive oil.

As a 10th-generation Mainer, Wixson's interest in eating locally stems from a lifetime spent around food and farms. She grew up on a dairy farm in Winslow and is a certified master composter.

Twenty years ago, she owned a Bangor restaurant called Cafe Nouveau that specialized in organic international cuisine. For years, she's taught cooking to school children.

More recently, she's worked as an organic marketing consultant for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, which is where she developed the Maine Local Twenty. This guide features 20 categories of food products that Maine has the capacity to produce in enough quantity to feed the state's residents year-round.

In addition to networking with farmers and food producers, Wixson said one of her favorite aspects of the job is developing new products. Right now, she's working on a butternut squash pasta sauce, a roasted onion jam and a hot pepper jelly.

"I'd spend all my time playing with food, if I could," Wixson said.

And customers such as Bixel hope she continues to churn out new products and help fill their pantries in winter.

"With a company and a product like this, it's sort of half about the food and half about the politics," Bixel said. "The food is sound, and I know I don't have to worry about BPA or additives or preservatives. I know it's helping support a Maine farm and likely a Maine organic farm. It's really appealing at both those levels."

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: akamila@pressherald.com

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

 

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Additional Photos

Damien Brooks
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Kitchen apprentice Damien Brooks processes applesauce at Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen.

Michael C. York

Phil McFarland
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Cheryl Wixson’s husband Phil labels jars of applesauce. Last year, he labeled 10,000 jars of Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen foods; this year, the output is 30,000 jars.

Michael C. York

applesauce
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Applesauce cools on a side-board in what was the pantry of the Wixson home.

Michael C.York

Cranberry Ketchup
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Cranberry ketchup is among the hand-crafted prepared foods Cheryl Wixson makes in her Bangor home.

Michael C. York

Cheryl Wixson
click image to enlarge

Cheryl Wixson in the kitchen of her Bangor home, which has been transformed into the headquarters of her company that produces hand-crafted prepared foods such as pasta sauce, applesauce, ketchup, relish and jams in small batches using all Maine ingredients.

Michael C. York

 


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