You could create whole meals, from appetizer to dessert, solely with locally produced food. We have household names such as Mid’s pasta sauces, Park Farms chicken, Nickles bread, Heggy’s candy and Shearer’s chips. We are blessed with several local dairies that produce top-notch milk, butter and cheese.
Not as well known, but equally edible, are products from myriad small local businesses — some that are just one-person operations. On these pages, we will introduce you to 10 of our favorite treats from lesser-known producers.
FROG JAM made by Troyer Cheese and Amish Wedding Foods
The name inspires many a double take.
“People see FROG and they say, what IS that? That’s a unique item for us,” said Chuck Boreman of Troyer Cheese and Amish Wedding Foods in Millersburg. “The F is for fig, the R is raspberry, the O is orange and the G is ginger. It’s one of the best sellers we have.”
And no wonder. This rosy-colored jam is like orange marmalade made stickier with figs and richer with hints of berry and spice.
“Our orange marmalade is also great, and we have a lemon marmalade. It’s awesome on chicken,” Boreman said. “People are using more and more of our jams for grilling.”
Amish Wedding jams, jellies and fruit butters are carried primarily at smaller stores, such as Beiler’s Penn Dutch Market in Lake Township, but the line also is at Fishers Foods.
For those who thought fruit butters were limited to apple and pumpkin, think again. Try Amish Wedding cherry butter, thick and creamy and studded with cherries.
CONFETTI PEPPERS made by Valita Ross
Valita Ross, aka the Pepper Queen, has made inroads into the highly competitive condiment field with her Confetti Peppers, a standout in both appearance and taste.
The yellow banana peppers and red bell peppers are finely shredded instead of chopped, and they are packed in oil, not vinegar.
Like many foodie entrepreneurs, her 2007 launch was the result of pushing from family and friends. She started at a few local markets and Fishers Foods, known for giving shelf space to local food producers, and recently got into several Whole Foods stores.
“The recession has had an impact, because mine is a higher-priced product,” Ross said. “My advice to someone thinking about going into this is be persistent, be patient. It takes a lot of hard work. The satisfaction is when I’m at demos, or somebody calls and says, ‘I love your product.’ ”
The peppers add pizazz to pizza, pasta and burgers. Her website, www.confettipeppers.com, includes several recipes, including this one:
2 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese
1 oz. pkg. dry ranch dressing mix
1⁄2 cup Confetti Peppers (any flavor)
1⁄2 cup diced green olives
1⁄2 cup finely diced pepperoni or hard salami (optional)
1 pkg. flour tortillas (burrito size)
Beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Add dry ranch mix. Mix well. Stir in peppers, olives and pepperoni. Spread a thin layer of mix on each tortilla. Roll up and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill. Slice into 1-inch pieces. Serve chilled.
CON QUESO DIP made by Smith’s Dairy
You might know it for its milk or ice cream. Or perhaps you’re a fan of its quirky pineapple cottage cheese. But now Smith’s Dairy, family-run since 1909, has gone a little spicy.
The newest entry in its product line, Con Queso Dip — a cool dip with a hot kick — is a winner.
“It was introduced in August,” said Penny Baker, marketing director for the Orrville company. “It’s great for tortilla chips or vegetables, but you can also use it in recipes.”
Baker shared a recipe for delicious corn chowder with a bonus — you make it in the slow cooker. Just dump in all the ingredients and walk away.
Smith’s is sold at Acme and many other area stores.
SMITH’S CHILI con queso chowder
2 uncooked, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
1⁄2 cup onion, chopped
1⁄2 cup red or green bell pepper, diced
12-to-14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
12-to-14 oz. can creamed corn
Two 12-to-14 oz. cans corn or 2 cups frozen corn
12-to-14 oz. can black beans, drained
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
1 container Smith’s Chili Con Queso Dip
Fresh cilantro to taste (optional)
Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and stir. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or until chicken is cooked through. Serve garnished with broken tortilla chips, black olives, shredded cheese or avocado, if desired.
GOLDEN ITALIAN DRESSING made by Hartville Kitchen
The Hartville Kitchen restaurant opened in 1966, and customers soon fell in love with the homemade salad dressings served there.
The restaurant later started bottling the dressings.
The best-seller by far is the Sweet and Sour, but there are 14 other dressings made at the plant behind the restaurant.
The Golden Italian dressing is less biting and a bit sweeter than traditional Italians.
It’s emulsified, so it does not separate into vinegar and oil layers; thus the flavors are evenly distributed on your salad.
Hartville salad and slaw dressings can be purchased at Hartville Kitchen, at 1015 Edison St. NW in Lake Township, at most area grocery stores, or online at www.hartvillekitchen.com/salad-dressings.
POTATO CHIPS made by Max’s Bagel Bakery and Soup Kitchen at Fishers Foods
If you are one of the many who poke around in a bag of chips looking for that odd one that got a little too brown, then head to Fishers Foods for a bag of freshly made potato chips.
So crisp, so salty, so brown that you might do a little jig of joy.
“It’s probably one of the best-kept secrets in town,” said Frank Ranalli, vice president of operations at Fishers. “We’ve been making them for about a year and a half.”
Ranalli said they noticed that customers buying paninis, sandwiches or soup were grabbing a bag of commercially made chips to go with it, so Fishers decided to make its own.
“Since we make them, even though they’re deep fried, we take all the fat and calories out,” he quipped, chuckling.
The extra browning is by design.
“They have to be made just perfectly,” he said. “We make them daily, every day, so they’ll be fresh.”
The chips are sold at Max’s Deli at the Fishers stores at 5215 Fulton Dr. NW in Jackson Township and 4403 Cleveland Ave. NW in Plain Township.
SPARKY AND SPIKE’S TANGY PEPPER RELISH made by Cliff “Spike” Shaffer, Scott “Sparky” Shaffer
Brothers Cliff “Spike” Shaffer and Scott “Sparky” Shaffer, both of Canton, are the culinary geniuses behind this zingy relish.
They started out picking pecks of peppers and making the relish for family and friends. After lots of prodding from enthusiastic fans, they began bottling in July 2005.
The relish now is sold in groceries all over the state, and is getting notice from chefs as well.
“Six months ago, I got a call from one of the head chefs at the commissary at Ohio State (University),” said Cliff. “He said, ‘Man, I love your stuff. I’ve created a sandwich for you.’ It’s a roast chicken sandwich on ciabatta with pepperjack cheese and a dollop of our relish.”
Cliff, a retired teacher, said the most effective marketing method is handing out samples at stores and food and garden shows.
“We’ve lived by the motto that we’ll demo till our legs fall off,” he said laughing.
The sample that draws the most raves is the appetizer meatballs, and they’ve shared the recipe with us.
NOW THAT’S A SPICY MEATBALL
Fill slow cooker 3⁄4 of the way full with meatballs
Add 2⁄3 jar of the “spicy” Sparky and Spike’s relish and 1⁄3 jar of their “hot and spicy” relish. Add 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce. (We use Sweet Baby Ray’s, because it’s good and cheap.) Cook on low, occasionally giving it a gentle stir.
DARK CHOCOLATE PRETZELS made by Anastasiades Exclusive Chocolates
Following in the footsteps of their father, brothers Larry and Sam Anastas sell gourmet chocolates at a shop at 6656 Wise Ave. NW in Plain Township and other local markets.
They also are the hosts of an annual event that to chocoholics seems almost too good to be true — the all-you-can-eat chocolate party and show. They use the event to introduce new products and to hook customers on their top-quality wares.
Their best-sellers are the old-fashioned turtles and chocolate-covered strawberries, but don’t miss the dark-chocolate-covered pretzels.
“We still do all those by hand with a dipping fork,” Sam said. “They’re always fresh because we make them as we need them.”
Sam has noticed an increased interest in dark chocolate over milk chocolate.
“We keep expanding our line of dark chocolates,” he said. “The demand started increasing about five years ago.”
The next all-you-can-eat show will be in September. For information, visit www.anastasiadeschocolates.com.
MARINARA SAUCE AND ITALIAN SAUSAGE made by Dioguardi’s Italian Foods
You won’t find the marinara with the canned goods at DioGuardi’s Italian Foods. Head to the refrigerator case. Minimal processing of the store’s homemade sauce equals fresh tomato taste with a makes-you-sit-up-and-notice punch of garlic.
“No additives or preservatives, all naturally made. That’s why we keep them refrigerated,” said Gary Malloy, who purchased the store a year ago. “This store has been in Canton for 102 consecutive years, and at the present location for 65 years. It amazes me that some people still don’t know we’re here.”
If you haven’t been to the shop on Market Avenue N in Plain Township, it’s your loss. The marinara, made fresh daily, is rivaled only by the hand-stuffed links of lean, fennel-scented sausage.
When he bought the store, he bought the 100-year-old recipes as well. While holding to tradition, he also has made changes.
“We’ve brought in a lot more products, added lunchmeats, beautiful salamis, cheeses, gelatos,” Malloy said. “We’re working to become a nice, cost-effective specialty store.
“People think we’re more expensive, but it’s just the opposite. We have minimal overhead.”
3116 Market Ave. N, Plain Township, (330) 492-3777.
PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE made by the Fudge Lady
The Fudge Lady, a popular booth at the Hartville MarketPlace, sells 24 flavors of fudge and 50 other types of chocolate candy. Our favorite is also a top seller.
“No question, the most popular is the peanut butter and the peanut butter swirl,” said Nancy Niarchos, owner of the 7-year-old business. “We also sell a lot of chocolate walnut, and the vanilla caramel pecan.”
Nancy’s first sales were at craft shows, which is where she picked up her moniker.
“I didn’t have a name or anything, I was just selling, but people would recognize me from one craft show to the next and say, ‘Oh, there’s the fudge lady,’ so that’s what I became,” she said.
Nancy and husband George have sold fudge in a kiosk at the Westfield Belden Village mall for the days preceding holidays. She said the mall employees and customers have been so supportive that the couple decided to open a shop in the food court, hopefully later this month.
“At the mall, we’ll have hot chocolate and cold chocolate drinks,” she said. “I’ve been through 100 recipes so far, testing them.”
The Fudge Lady will continue to sell at the flea market.
“We love it here in Hartville,” Nancy said. “Our clientele is a lot of elderly folks and bargain shoppers, so this will be our outlet store, and Belden will be our main store.”
Hartville MarketPlace, 1289 Edison St. NW, Lake Township. (330) 877-3190.
HORSERADISH MUSTARD made by Leo A. Dick & Son
Most area shoppers easily recognize the glass jar of Leo A. Dick & Sons horseradish in the refrigerator case at local grocery stores. After all, it’s been around since the 1920s. But have you tasted the horseradish mustard? My, oh my. The blend of mustard, vinegar and horseradish adds zing to brats and dogs, zip to egg salad and zap to sauces.
“It’s our newest product,” said Leo Dick, grandson of the founder of the company. “I think it’s a good balance. I don’t think it’s too hot — has a little bit of sweetness to it.”
But the mustard has not supplanted Dick’s favorite product in the horseradish line.
“Our cocktail sauce is the best on the market anywhere,” he said proudly.
The cocktail sauce, called Seafood Sauce, is all natural and preservative-free.
“It has anchovies in it and tamarind. I needed the tamarind to get a little sweetness in it.”
“I get more fan mail on that than any other product in the whole line,” Dick said.
SHRIMP WITH DICK’S HORSERADISH MUSTARD
1⁄2 pound raw, peeled shrimp, thawed in cold, salted water
1 teaspoon Dick’s Horseradish
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄4 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons Dick’s Horseradish Mustard
Drain shrimp. In same bowl, toss shrimp with horseradish, garlic powder and cumin to coat. In saucepan, heat about 1 tablespoon oil. Add shrimp and saute, turning once, until pink. Just before serving, add horseradish mustard to pan and toss shrimp to coat. Serve immediately.