We met up with Eira Ellis-Evans at the Made in Spring Fiesta on April 1st, and we know her jams, pickles and chutneys are extremely popular. We thought you’d like to read a bit more about her local business, using local produce, so here is a guest post from her. Thanks Eira!
I have always enjoyed making preserves, and when friends and family had suggested often enough that I should start selling them, I thought, “why not?”. At a party during spring 2010, the name InnerCityPickle was born and I looked into the idea more seriously.
I worked for many years in the catering trade and once the youngest of my three children had reached high school age I had some time to concentrate on the kitchen again. I set to work. I was determined that my ingredients would be locally sourced and seasonal wherever possible. Thanks to friends, family and contacts made via twitter, I started to gather baskets, bags or buckets full of fresh fruit and vegetables, all grown within a few miles of my home. You can’t get more local than that.
I have lived in the Roath area (well, Adamsdown strictly speaking, but I can see Roath from my window) for over 20 years, and have found it to be a vibrant and eclectic community, full of colourful characters. It is a wonderful place to bring up my children.
With produce from local gardens and hedgerows and the occasional bargain finds at the market, the first InnerCityPickle jars were filled. After having my home kitchen inspected and approved by the relevant authorities I was able to start trading.
I make everything myself at home, in small batches using whatever is good and available at any given time. Many things are produced on a one-off basis, and once they are gone, they are gone until next season.
Some favourite recipes are made regularly due to sheer demand. For these I use the best quality ingredients that I can find locally, but I always try to concentrate on the seasonal produce primarily. For example I took advantage of the Seville orange season in January and February to make some wonderful marmalades and jellies. I am on the lookout for good rhubarb at the moment, having tasted some a few weeks ago (you must try my ‘Strwbarb’ jam – you can probably guess the combination).
I try to use recycled jars wherever possible, collecting them from the local area (and often receiving bags of them saved for me by customers when they come back for more jams and preserves). The jars are washed and sorted, and stored until needed, then washed and sterilised before being filled with the latest batch.
Again, because of demand (or a sudden glut of produce) I have occasionally needed to purchase new jars. I must admit that this does make things so much easier! I also buy in new jars to supply The
Caesars Arms Farm Shop in Creigiau, and will do so for anyone who prefers their jars brand spanking new.
I am not a driver so I rely on my ‘wally-trolley’ both to collect my raw ingredients and to deliver to customers in the local area (central Cardiff and immediate surrounding area being about as far as my sore feet will allow).
I am horrified at the amount of good produce that goes to waste in and about the city. My mother taught me that the worst they can say is ‘no’, so I do knock on doors sometimes if I can see a good looking crop that might otherwise be wasted. I have received some beautiful fruit and vegetables from some lovely people and have been able to convert these into the best tasting jams, chutneys and pickles that you will ever taste (in my humble opinion – and I have plenty of customers and neighbours who will agree).
My slogan – ‘Home-made goodness from and for the Cardiff area’ – sums up what I am about. I keep it local and I have no ambitions to extend outside of Cardiff, but would love to see other people doing the same thing to reduce food miles and to minimise wastage, whilst at the same time offering a fantastic product.
The response to the business has been amazing. I attended the ‘Castle Quarter Farmers Market‘ trial last summer in the city centre and met lots of people who loved what I was doing; kept coming back for more; and who brought donations of their surplus produce, and jars for recycling. I was often able to offer them something nice in return the following week. Give me your apples and I will give you apple chutney!
Apart from cooking, my other love is talking, and I found the market experience an ideal situation to satisfy both of these joys. There is nothing I like more than being able to describe how lovely the starting ingredients were, and how I made the products on my stall. I always offer a selection of tasters (usually on my own home-made bread) that allow for the more unusual combinations to be tried beforehand, and I usually find that once something has been tasted, it can’t be resisted!
I have recently been given the opportunity to have a regular stall at Roath Farmers’ Market which is held on Saturdays at the Mackintosh Sports Club, Keppoch Street, and I will be there fortnightly from this month onward – my next appearance will this Saturday 7th April. Come along and see me!
If you have a glut of produce and would like to see it turned into something wonderful please get in touch.
Image: Paula Bailey