Meet Your Maker: Stasis Preserves
Fresh City is committed to providing our members with the freshest and best local and organic food, year-round. But not all varieties of fruits and vegetables are available in Ontario during the colder winter months, and that's where the art of canning becomes so valuable! Enter Stasis Preserves - our partner in all things jammed, jellied and pickled. Situated in Roncesvalles, Stasis Preserves carries a variety of seasonally preserved goods, many of which you can add to your Fresh City bag. Like us, they see the current food system as unsustainable and hope to reconnect people to what real food is, and where it comes from. We spoke with owner Julian Katz about the world of preserves and and asked him to share some of his thoughts and experiences...
How did you fall into the world of preserving?
I found myself with lots of beautiful, fresh local produce at the height of summer and needed to preserve it, so I did! I thought about how we used to live - preserving produce in season to get us through the winter. Then I found myself with shelves of preserved local fruits and veggies and started giving them away as gifts. The response was so positive and a friend of mine suggested I sell them at a farmer's market. I had my first opportunity at the Brickworks' Halloween Market in 2010.
What has been your experience of the local food movement in Toronto?
It's of growing importance as consumers are more and more informed. This creates more accountability to producers and retailers, which is great. People recognize that local food tastes better and that there are serious flaws and issues in big industrial food processes. People in this city seem to appreciate the simplicity in quality, local, delicious foods with clean ingredients.
Describe your growth so far, and how you hope to grow down the road.
Stasis is over six years old, so we've gone from our first farmer's market to our own preserves line in 40 retailers across Ontario, and our own local food focused deli & grocer in Roncesvalles. A lot of change and growth, it's been great. Roncesvalles is an amazing neighbourhood and we have a lot of great regular customers. We are situated north of Howard Park, which is a quieter part of Roncesvalles, so people are always discovering us, or coming in for the first time! Part of your growth is determined by the market, but what we're focusing on is making local, healthy foods accessible. We'd like to continue to extend our retail presence to allow more people to choose local. We are looking into extending into more fresh sandwiches and fresh meats.
What is the #1 question your customers ask, and what is your response?
"Are your products organic?" This is always a question I like to answer so people have a better understanding of organic certification, but it is also impossible to convey on the label of each of our products. Oftentimes small farmers cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars on organic certification, it is very costly and takes a lot of time and paperwork. Often our produce is organically grown, but not certified, and this is the case for a lot of other small artisan producers' products we sell in the store. Our rhubarb grows on a farmer's property with no interference from anyone, but it isn't certified, so we can't say on the label that it's organic - it's a challenge to convey the politics of this discussion to a lot of consumers.
What are some of the benefits of eating preserves?
Many preserves have a lot of artificial ingredients or are mostly sugar. The benefits of eating Stasis Preserves is that they're healthy, have no preservatives, are low sugar, delicious and you can trust the sourcing of the produce. We also preserve them at their height of ripeness and give the produce a lot of care before preserving. Unlike some other local preserve lines, we use ONLY local produce and most of our spices and vinegars are local as well. We also use organic cane juice and not white, processed sugar. The value in eating preserves is that it enables you to get a lot of seasonal variety year-round without relying on foods flown in from across the globe.
From your perspective, what have been the benefits of partnering with Fresh City?
It's always great to collaborate with other local food producers. It brings more awareness and allows more people to access your product. We have been involved in some of Fresh City's events and been able to broaden our connections with the Toronto community.
Can you share your top tips for people interested in delving into the world of preserving?
Always buy fresh local fruits and vegetables in season. Don't be scared to experiment with flavours. Stick with CFIA preserving guidelines to ensure food safety. If it gets too hot or sticky for you, and you change your mind on making your own preserves - come visit us!