Farm to Fork: Table Extras
Traditionally, southern tables were laden with platters, plates and bowls filled to overflowing with home grown, home cooked food, overwhelming in quantity and quality. In between all the platters, plates and bowls were little dishes and jars of extras, the sweet and spicy accoutrements that absolutely gild the lily.
Judy Lovett has introduced many in this area to the sweet and spicy aspect, with offerings from Aunt Euna’s Table. Her line of jams, jellies, relishes and preserves bring back fond memories to transplanted southerners and opens the eyes of many folks to what a few “extras” on the table can add to a meal.
Judy is in her third year with Aunt Euna’s Table at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market, but she’s been a fixture at this market for decades. She and her husband, Buck, moved here from Nevada City, California 25 years ago and were instrumental in starting the original Douglas County Farmers Market.
The land they were farming in California literally had no soil, only gravel, so they manufactured soil. Talk about determination.
Moving to a small farm site near Dillard, they were overwhelmed with what they had to work with.
Deep , rich, fertile soil! Irrigation! More benevolent growing conditions! But no farmers market.
Led by Judy and Buck and a small handful of equally enthusiastic locals, the Douglas County Farmers Market was born. Today, this organization has become known as Umpqua Valley Farmers Market, and Judy is a board member.
For many years, Judy was employed outside the home, in kitchen stores and at the Seven Feathers Casino. When retirement time rolled around, Judy was ready to step out of the traditional workforce, but she wanted to feel productive in her retirement years and supplement her social security. She pondered.
She is passionate about farmers markets, she enjoys interacting with people, she loves to cook and preserve, growing things was satisfying to her, so Aunt Euna’s Table was born. Euna was Judy’s aunt, and a staunch believer in feeding people and feeding them well. She wouldn’t think of setting a table with less than a half dozen “extras” ranging from piccalillis and pickled beets to jams and jellies. Judy fondly remembers the richness and feeling of awe that these spreads inspired, and set out to serve up her own versions of the “extras.”
Her display at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market includes, depending on availability, Apricot Pepper, with jalapeno and sweet bell peppers, Strawberry Margarita, which has no hot peppers, Kentucky Bar Fight, with black and blue berries, jalapeno and Kentucky whiskey, Habanero Gold, with an apricot base, Savory Black Merlot which makes an excellent finishing glaze for beef or lamb, and Fireball Peach, made with Fireball Whiskey and no peppers. This one makes a very fine drizzle for ice cream. More flavors are available seasonally.
The first step in this process, of course, is procuring the fruit and peppers. Judy grows peppers in a big way! Her jalapeno patch is currently bent to the ground with red, golden and green jalapenos, ready to be picked and frozen for later. Judy’s husband Buck is her “sous chef and prep cook,” so he processes the peppers minimally before putting them in zip top bags and stowing them in the freezer.
Peaches are frozen whole, nine to a bag, and stacked in the freezer, along with blackberries, blueberries and rhubarb.
Then, when things slow down substantially for the winter, Judy starts pulling out fruit and creating yumminess. She buys pint and half pint jars by the pallet. Pectin comes in one pound bags instead of the cute little boxes the rest of us are used to.
Judy finds it easier to deal with 25 pound bags of sugar than the 50 pounders, so she has a mountain of sugar in her garage.
Her kitchen is carefully arranged to make the most of the limited counter space and she uses an electric water bath canner so she can process 11 jars at a time. Her storage area is an overwhelming array of jams ready to sell, all carefully labeled.
Her customers aredevoted to her and her product. They line up at her sample bar, trying the new flavors and asking about favorites. Judy provides samples and crackers so her customers can try before they buy, making sure that the heat level suits their palate. Watching first time customers sample the goods is very entertaining, with the first taste being the fruit and the flavor of the pepper, then the slow heat buildup on the back of the tongue and the eyes pop open and the usual statement “Oh, wow!”
Judy and Buck focus on farmers markets, both in Roseburg and Canyonville, during the spring and summer, then in the fall and winter, they do several big craft and holiday markets. Buck is an accomplished silversmith so they usually have side-by-side booths at these events.
Winter usually finds them relaxing in Quartzite, Arizona, where Buck gets a lot of material for his business, Rainbow Hollow Designs. Judy gets her ideas and recipes from canning and preserving sites on the internet, adding the hot and spicy part while keeping the ratios correct for safety.
She sells half pints of all varieties and pints of a few. She also puts together gift baskets in the fall for people who are looking for a great local gift, representative of this area.
What To Do With All This Goodness?
Put a brick of cream cheese on a pretty plate and pour the contents of a jar of ”somethin’ sweet and spicy” over it, and you will have an appetizer that will draw a crowd.Add a little of the Jalapeno relish to potato salad or cole slaw.Jalapeno relish adds zip to tuna salad.Deviled eggs take on a whole new meaning with a little jalapeno relish stirred in.Toast with a schmear of cream cheese benefits greatly with a topper of any of the jams or jellies.Heat the jellies and use as a finishing sauce for meat, poultry or fish.Mix half and half with your favorite barbecue sauceDrizzle this stuff over ice cream!
Feel free to top by and partake of her samples.
If you can’t make it to the farmers market, you can reach her at 541-671-6012.