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Ottawa business making "weird and different" preserves with local fruits and veggies

Midweek Mugging: Jargon Preserves Co-founder Blake Williams said the business is a creative outlet for him and he hopes people use their preserves to make something even tastier.
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Jargon Preserves has moved into a new incubator kitchen on Gladstone Avenue, after spending the last three years pickling and preserving local fruits and vegetables out of restaurant and home kitchens.

The business was started by co-founders Blake Williams and Mathieu Calder to take a “weird and different” approach to classic preserves, Williams said. The move into the incubator lets them work in a fully equipped space without committing to the full cost of it.

“It’s hard for people to get this, but we’re trying to make things for you to go home and make things with,” Williams said.  

He said services like Uber Eats and takeout have made it so easy to get good food that some people don’t know how to cook for themselves, but that is something he wants to try to change with Jargon Preserves. Cooking takes a lot of work, he said, but it's worth the effort in the end.

"You can take any jar that we sell, take it home, open it up, it’s good to go. You can eat it just the way it is, but it would be more fun if you took it and manipulated it and made it into something else.”

The preserves Williams and Calder make range from garlic scapes, to hot sauce beans and candied apricots. He said the products they make are about keeping the original flavour of the food when it was picked fresh, but also elevating it. He said it saves money and tastes better to pick and preserve local vegetables when they are fresh than to buy them after being shipped in from somewhere else. Asparagus, for example.

“The asparagus we got from the local farmers this year was so sweet and so delicious and incredible,” he said. “Then I’m going to have something from somewhere else and be like ‘that sucks,’ so if I want to hold onto that I have to preserve it.

Williams said the business is a creative outlet for him and allows him to experiment with different flavours and cooking techniques. He said some of his favourite preserves come from making mistakes and accidents that turn into something else entirely. For example, he tried making apricot mostarda, a sweet and spicy candied apricot preserve, but the key ingredient, mustard oil, is illegal in Canada. After experimenting with other spices, he took all the leftover bits of fruit, pits and skins and made an apricot jam out of them.

“We’re always trying to grow and evolve and do something new,” he said. “We managed to save all the parts of it that didn’t work, totally unexpected and turned it into something else.”

The flavours of a specific fruit or vegetable can change dramatically depending on the preserving technique. Depending on if something is preserved with sugar, salt, vinegar or dehydrating, the taste coming out of the jar will vary.

Williams said the eventual goal is to expand and open a fine-foods store similar to La Bottega Nicastro.

“I would love to sell pasta, do charcuteries, have the ability to make and cook whatever I want whenever I want. The dream of creative freedom for an owner."

For now, the preserves are available at the Westboro and Lansdowne farmers’ markets or at a take-out window at 571 Gladstone Ave.

“When I’m at markets and see people try stuff and they’re like ‘wow that’s really good,’ that’s what I’m doing this for. For you to get that enjoyment out of it.”

 




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