April 27, 2021

Talking About Vinegar and Miso with Sarah and Isaiah of Keepwell Vinegar and White Rose Miso

Talking About Vinegar and Miso with Sarah and Isaiah of Keepwell Vinegar and White Rose Miso

Sarah Conezio & Isaiah Billington are the founders of Keepwell Vinegar & White Rose Miso. Their companies use fermentation to support the entire picture of local agriculture: fruits, vegetables, grains, seasonal summer gluts and lean winter storage crops. Because they're former pastry chefs, they wanted pantry items that were as local and sustainable as the fresh ingredients they work with every day. Today, Keepwell Vinegar and White Rose Miso produce dozens of acid and koji-driven fermentations for chefs & bartenders alike. So, if you'd like to learn more about vinegar and miso, I think you'll love this podcast episode. 

We talk about their culinary background, which includes working at Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen, and how they started making vinegar and fermented products. We discuss some innovative ways to use their items, and how to best store them. So, can miso expire? We discuss that. They also share who some chefs using their products are, and we get into the true cost of food. You’ll also learn about vinegar pie and sorghum molasses. 


Keepwell Vinegar & White Rose Miso


Keepwell Vinegar Instagram

White Rose Miso Instagram

The Keepwell Vinegar Website

Keepwell Vinegar Facebook Page

Buy the book Acid Trip

Chefs and restaurants mentioned in this episode: Cadence Restaurant, Ari Miller, Johnny SperoWoodberry Kitchen, Randy Rucker, River Twice Restaurant, Ardent Restaurant, Ariel Welch, and Michael Harlan Turkell




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Founder Chris Spear’s personal chef business Perfect Little Bites https://perfectlittlebites.com/


Chris Spear:

Welcome to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. I'm your host Chris Spear. On the show. I have conversations with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry who took a different route. Their caterers, research chefs personal chefs cookbook authors, food truckers, farmers, cottage bakers and all sorts of culinary renegades. I myself fall into the personal chef category as I started my own personal chef business perfect little bites 10 years ago. And while I started working in kitchens in the early 90s, I've literally never worked in a restaurant. On this week's episode, we have Sarah and Isaiah who are the founders of keep well vinegar and white rose me so companies that use fermentation to support the entire picture of local agriculture, fruits, vegetables, grains, seasonal summer gluts and lean winter storage crops. Former pastry chefs they wanted pantry items that were as local and sustainable as the fresh ingredients they worked with every day. Today Keepo vinegar and white rose me so produced dozens of acid and Koji driven fermentations for chefs and bartenders alike, with or without restaurants. We talked about their culinary background, which includes working at Baltimore's woodberry kitchen, and how they started making vinegar and fermented products. We discussed some innovative ways to use their items and how to best store them can be so expire. We discussed that. They also share who some chefs using their products are and we get into the true cost of food. You also learn about vinegar pie, and sorghum molasses. I hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you want to see all the products that Sarah and Isaiah have for sale, check out their website, www.keepwellvinegar.com. And if you'd like to support our show financially, you can go to patreon.com/ChefsWithoutRestaur nts. The link is in the show not s. And now, time for the show. T anks so much for listening, and ave a great week. Hey, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on.

Keepwell Vinegar:

Thanks for having us. Thank you.

Chris Spear:

How's it going today?

Keepwell Vinegar:

So good.

Chris Spear:

So I love your products. I wanted to have you on the show for a while and talk about them. I'm really excited. As a chef, I think you make some awesome stuff that, you know, makes my life a little easier.

Keepwell Vinegar:

Well, thanks, we we also admire the food that you're putting out too.

Chris Spear:

Thank you. I like to keep it interesting. And using vinegar and miso in my products as much as I can. So I usually start the show by kind of going into your backstory a little bit about you. Are you people who've been in food forever? Did you grow up cooking? And how did that kind of bring you to where you are today?

Keepwell Vinegar:

Well, so we spent a long time working for chefs, restaurants, and pretty much ever since we've known each other about 10 years now. We've been really into working with organizations that are pretty hard, committed to local agriculture.And you know, you'll know as well as I do that, that often means that you're pulling a lot of your processes in house because you know, you want to use fresh tomatoes and August beautiful organic Ireland's but you also got to master making jam and canning food and pickling things if you want to use all that stuff in January, or if you want to have you know, if you want to serve pasta, and you've got a local flour grain guide, you're just making it yourself. So we've really spent a long time sort of pulling a lot of those processes in house for different restaurants and different chefs and one thing that it just never really made sense to do in a restaurant space basically just for the math of how much money, you have to yield per square foot of space, you know, with high rents are long term aged ferments. And so we felt at some point that there was an opportunity there for us to take up a lot of space somewhere that doesn't need a ton of foot traffic, it really close to the farms that we work with a lot of the firms that we've spent time with and build relationships with over the last decade, and identify some of those processes that restaurants want. But just It doesn't make sense to do in the building. I think also, you know, both of us came from a pastry background. And you know, something about pastry that's a little different than more savory cooking is that the precision and kind of adherence to the chemistry of cooking, and not that savory doesn't, but, you know, it's crucial to pastry that you understand, you know, what your leaveners doing and how bread works. And so I think that we kind of have always loved the experiment of food, and how does this ingredient actually work? And I think that the ingredients that we make now are kind of these things that you might not think about very much like, I don't know how much time people spend thinking about vinegar and and what it is, but it was something that really fascinated us and knowing how that vinegar works, you know, kind of translated into an actual business, being able to spend that time concentrating on that that experiment. Where did you learn how to do this? Like, how did you start making vinegar? And Misa? were you doing that in restaurants that you were at? Was it a side project? Yeah, I think with a kitchen in Baltimore, which, you know, has the wonderful advantage of being in this giant, old industrial Republic, repurpose complex. And so there's just there's this space to work with, and incredible support for projects like that anything that can pull anything that can diversify the support for good growers. And


we're also right down the street from union craft brewing, which is incredible beer, of course, what's really good beer. And I think our first experiment with vinegar itself was just, I think we just had some kegs of beer from them. We couldn't use for some reason, or they couldn't use and it was just like a natural stepping stone. It started out a lot a lot about utilization. I think we definitely got that from Woodbury. You know, really making sure that there's very little food waste, that, you know, if you have leftover Apple peels after making apple pie, can we figure out how to make pectin, you know, all sorts of really crazy, really inspiring kind of idea brewing. And we had a lot of a lot of failures there. with vinegar, um, you know, one of the coolest things is spike, head of Frings acid, Tater, which she kind of rigged. And that's like a pretty interesting piece of equipment for vinegar making, which we did not understand it all 10 years ago, and I had no idea what this guy was doing. But there's, you know, wood tips and everything. But now I look at that. And it's like, oh, it's that, you know, we definitely failed. But it's one of my very favorite places. We're kind of sad. My wife's birthday is Valentine's Day. And every year, we usually go there around Valentine's Day and this year with, you know, things we didn't get to go. So I'm hoping to get back there soon. They're still doing great food. I'll tell you that. So with the vinegars Where did you start? Do you remember your first batch that you made? Yeah, um, you know, we actually were working for a while and we we kept having someone bring us pineapple scraps from another place. And, and we just said, what are we going to do with these pineapple scraps? So we started making to pod J. And that's kind of a fermented pineapple. Kind of like a pineapple beer. It's like a really low alcohol drink kind of like kombu gel a little bit. Because pineapple has this type of bacteria on the outside of its skin that that ferments really easily and you know, one batch went too far. And I ended up with a vinegar mother and had no idea what you know how that happened. So I started reading about that. And you know, I think we just kind of it was delicious. And we tried to replicate it and you know, then I think we went to beets. beets. Yeah, I mean, we were really who we were buying a lot from five seats farm back then and one straw farm and we were just working with a lot of vegetables. Yeah, we are doing more lactic ferments. So we are making a lot of fermented vegetables. But yeah, so that that I have a picture of it. And that first vinegar mother was you You know, something about it's really, you know, makes you feel really proud when you see that biofilm growing and you're just like, wow, this is what is happening here. And must be, you can tell when it's successful, um, and that just by taste, but visually and yeah, it was just really exciting. And so we just kind of dove in and that immediately I think we went straight to grain vinegars. How can we use grains to make vinegar? So we we did some rice and barley, that type of thing. Do you exclusively do Carolina gold rice for your rice vinegar? Um, for the rice vinegar currently? Yes, we are. We are using just Carolina gold rice, we use koshihikari from next step produce for a lot of our mizo and long sticky rice. Yeah, Mung sticky rice, some of those. But yeah, the Carolina gold race has a really, you know, delicious flavor really buttery. And it just makes great sockeye and then great vinegar. So when did you start your business like strikeout on your own, I want to say the very end of 2015. And I'll qualify that by saying that we started, I mean, starting our business in this case, means that we had a bunch of insane, you know, dis, we'll call it discovery. But what that means is a bunch of halfway thought out experiments in the basement of my buddy's restaurant in DC, and we sort of took that as far as we could. And we, I mean, even then, we were selling to some restaurants in DC, Baltimore, and, and doing, you know, our first steps that, you know, trying to help farmers markets and things like that. And pretty quickly, you know, that's, that's when it became clear to us that space was always going to be a limiting factor. And we started to cast our eyes out towards more rural areas. And we were having a just a really chance meeting, we had sat down to talk about using the margins of the harvest, with benwick from three springs fruit farm, who remains our overwhelmingly predominant cider and Apple supplier today. And we just sort of finished talking, I finished up talking with him and ran into the owner of the farm where our business is currently located, who is Drew Peters from Sunnyside farm. And we were just sort of chatting about the direction we were going and she said, hey, I've got this building that I don't use on my phone. That wasn't in perfect condition. But, you know, it just took us about a year of, you know, taking our little days off and running up there and hanging a little bit of drywall and, you know, trying to resurface some tile, you know, just a lot of little dumb improvement stuff to get it up to code. Before we started operating out of there. When did you start getting into other things? How long was it just vinegar? And then when did you kind of hit the transition into doing musos. And then, you know, other interesting stuff like Worcester shear, um, you know, we were always doing those things all along the way. But that's kind of the funny part of the business is that it's kind of grown, as we've had success with the batches. So, you know, it's not really easy to turn one gallon of apple cider vinegar into 1000 gallons, but over, you know, several years, that kind of can grow on its own. And then I think we're sure Gosh, I don't remember when we started making more shirt, but that was really, that is like one of the things I'm always most excited about because of just how many I mean, we started making we're sure Woodbury but there's there's so many ingredients in that that are that are sourced from so many cool places. And it just has like you know, it has soy sauce in it. It has fermented oysters and it has citrus coming from New Jersey. It has spicebush berries that we for it ourselves. It has persimmons, American persimmons that we forage, you know, just all these really cool ingredients that comes together and it's we never set out to be a vinegar company. What we did was we identified the fact that we wanted to support the entire landscape of local agriculture so we wanted we knew that we were going to be doing fermented foods because you know base you know if we want to eat it, if it's something that a farmer grows because we want to eat you know, bacteria out there that want to eat it as well. I mean, there's you know, we're all competing for calories. Yeah. So you know, if we said to ourselves, you know, we want to buy grains, we want to buy fruits, vegetables, roots, we want to buy we want to support good AP Aires and buy honey. We want to support. Gosh, we'd love to see more people growing sorghum and using sorghum molasses, we just basically started looking for all the sugar in the entire world. Well, just our world, our world, I guess. And, and, and fermentation was the way to do was the way to buy all of it, I think Yeah, and especially for two people, you know, just the two of us, we can produce quite a bit, um, vegetable fermentation is, is delicious and tempting. And there's some companies that are doing some amazing things. But the two of us, you know, when we started trying to make even, you know, kimchi times 100 pounds, that's a lot of, I guess, work, I'll call it, but like that, that type of vegetable processing is quite a lot. And that time that the kimchi is good as a shorter time period, so you kind of have to make so much in a short period of time to get it out. And for vinegar, you know, it's never gonna go bad. Yeah, we just we had Rachel from sweet farm crowd on the podcast this summer, you know, and they stopped doing it. And that was part of our conversation was just the labor going into it, they were making, you know, eight kinds of fermented things. And, and now there's so much availability of craft ferments in the grocery store, like when they started doing it, they weren't that common, but now you go to Wegmans. And there's like eight companies that have them in there. And, you know, to be competitive in the market, it just didn't seem to be making sense for them. I think that the, you know, the couple of people that are really successful are number one sons in DC and excrements, in Baltimore. And I think that they've really got a lot of the key fundamentals of positioning their business correctly. I mean, they're situated right there, where they work there, they have access to really good farmers markets. And retail outlets, and, and they're just like, it's, even though it's a fermented food, that's a little bit more of a fresh product, you know, there's refrigeration, after it's made to keep it, you know, not to keep it from going bad, but just to keep it in a stable spot, you know, once you've got it from where you want to, whereas we don't have a refrigerator, at all, in our entire facility. Anything that you know, anything we buy, that's like a fresh product, like we might get, you know, 1000 pounds of grapes, or some apples or percent, you know, fruit. We just get it and have to plan to process it right away. And then it's, you know, it's into the tank for sort of fermentation. It's, it's slowly out of the tank into the tub for a seedless fermentation. And then it's stored and, you know, in an oak barrel until somebody buys it, is it literally just the two of you? Yeah. Wow. Yeah, but yeah, that was by design. You know, that was why. So when Isaiah said, we didn't really choose to do vinegar fermentation, necessarily. We did, we chose to do fermentation, we chose to bring all of the, the as many and as much as we can get it in the door. That's what we're going to turn into something. I don't want this to sound like a political statement, because it's very personal. But it just seems harder and harder to employ people these days. You know, there's a lot of conversation about, you know, what's the right minimum wage? What are the right workers. And as much as I don't really ever want to be anybody's employee, again, I really would have to feel very secure and what we do and how we're able to treat people and how we're able to support people, before we have employees ourselves. Yeah, definitely. I mean, I am someone who came most recently from contract food. And I had seven bosses, and 125 employees, and I was stuck in the middle. And it was no good on either end, and I just didn't love it. And now, with the personal chef business, I have none of that. And people say, well, but you got to grow, and you got to scale. It's like, I'm making enough money to support my family with the help of my wife and like, I enjoy it. I hated having employees, I hated having a million bosses, I didn't enjoy any of it. And now it's like, I just get up and cook what I want to cook, you know, within reason I have customers but on my own terms, and if I want to take Valentine's day off, because it's my wife's birthday, I do. And if someone seems like they're not going to be a great customer, I don't have to cook for them. You know, I love that growing and scaling as business principles of their own are really tough for us. Because, you know, a lot of what we do is based on working really closely with the sources that we have. And, you know, this is a certain point where you've got to stop tailoring your process and your business to what's out there. And, and what the you know what the greatest crop is and what tastes the best, and you have to start, you know, meeting contracted needs or you have to pack things in a pallet a certain way or you have to make things For the system, and you have to go back and start talking to your growers and asking them to change what they do to fit your model. And that, you know, when we feel like we need to do that, that's the point where we decide that the business is as big as it's ever going to be. So how much of creating new products is it? You have an idea versus you find a product? Like, do you sit and think, Oh, I want to make an orange vinegar? Or is it like, I have a guy who's, I mean, it's not local, but like growing oranges, and I want to use them, like what's dictating your new items, I liken it very much to having a good recipe. For a cake, you have a great cake recipe, and you use it all the time. And today, you know, and I think this is something that we started kind of doing at woodberry, where you there's like a bass cake, and today I'm going to put figs in it tomorrow, I'm going to put, you know, whatever else walks in the door, the back door of the kitchen. And that's what that's what the desert is. And so especially with the me so it's more that we have kind of standards, and we know how this works. And this recipe and this works in this recipe. And so if right now we have someone approached us about using chestnuts and someday hopefully American chestnuts if they ever come back but so he he brought us some chestnuts and we're considering if we can source more chestnuts next year that I actually have found a couple of farms in Pennsylvania that that do have chestnuts available. And so does it work? Then we kind of plug it into the recipe that we know is how we make that type of knee so and then can we source more of it. So it's kind of like it sometimes, which which came first the chicken or the egg. It's mostly ingredient driven, all of a sudden, there's going to be something in front of you that's an excess or, you know, kind of untapped. And so we're going to try to make sure that we use it. Does that mean some of this stuff is limited run like you've done a batch and then we might not see it again. So don't fall in love with something because that might be the only time we're trying we try really hard not to do that too often. But yeah, there's there have been a few things like that. We did a wineberry vinegar because we ended up with this like bounty of wine berries, it was a good vinegar, um, it we're probably not going to do it again, unless somebody walks in with, you know, 200 pounds of wine berries that they have in their fridge that are not being sold, you know, like, that sort of thing occasionally. Yeah. Limited. One thing that's also a product we made just because the stars aligned is our bitter limit her recipe. Yeah. Which is pretty left field for us. We don't do a lot of spicy stuff we've never really been into we've never really been eager to get into hot sauce making. There's so much good hot sauce out there. But, you know, there's this really interesting little fruit we call the bitter lemon. And it has a million names some people call the Flying Dragon lemon, I've heard it called The Hardy orange trifoliate. Orange is the is the real name, no one can really agree with what to call it. And they grow really, really well around here. And there's a good reason that you don't see them in the grocery store just as lemons for people that have you ever had them before. I've never had them I have your bitter lemon vinegar, right on the lemons themselves are are not good. They're very just really just, you know, mechanically, there are a lot of pith a lot of seeds, not a ton of juicy fruit. They're kind of small and hard. oily. The outside has, to me this really kind of yeasty funny like almost hate to say this but kind of a PVC aroma. And the inside can be a little Piney and green and verdant. Just, you know, just whatever your imagination of a lemon before it was sort of refined and bred to be a cultivator for actual agricultural production. Like that's probably you're probably pretty close to what this is. And we just had a lucky accident early on fermenting a bunch of those with a bunch of raw apple cider. And realizing that the long fermentation really allowed some of those more offensive flavors to really just float away like actually dissipate maybe with the carbon dioxide production or something who knows. And and so we we've been making the bitter lemon vinegar forever. And, you know, we just had all of this fruit that we pressed back out of the vinegar still had a lot of beautiful I would say like the oily flavors that remain in the fruit and the skin itself. And we said well, we better make preserved lemons out of this. Just to see what happens and great. They're super delicious, although still a very strong flavor. And I think at some point we just picked up a jar of somebodies preserved lemon harissa. Never having really We wrapped our heads previously around the fact that herba like pesto or like marondera, or any sauce that's found kind of across spread out across the region has a lot of little individual variants based on what town it comes from, or what local tradition, it's, it's founded in. And it's like, man, we've got to do, like we've got beautiful peppers around us. We've got an incredible oil grown by Susquehanna Mills, or I say, pressed by Susquehanna Mills from their sunflowers, they grow, that's organic. It's right here in Pennsylvania, we can ferment a bunch of peppers, we can put it all together, you know, the little bit of seasoning a little garlic, a little salt, and make this incredible flavor. And it's been a huge hit. And we never would have made it if all of those things had, you know, if all of those little stars had aligned, but that's an another batch that's kind of limited because it's sort of however many lemons we get that year is how much bitter lemon vinegar we make. Then we take those lemons out, and you only have so much and so that's kind of determined. I mean, we can't look at more at all. Absolutely. Say the lemons are not fit to make an A preserved lemons until they've gone through that. And so fermentation. Great. Interesting. Yeah, that it sounds delicious. I remember seeing when you had posted something about what kind of peppers Do you use in the Horace Mann we work with. We've worked with green meadow farm, and up here, close to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for some of our peppers. But I think the most most recent batch that we've done was we work with Casey and Stacy who ran environments at Sunnyside, which is an incredible place down in Virginia for a long time they've just left there to start their own farm. And particularly Casey the has a passion for growing peppers. So I think most I think last year we had him grow jalapenos until they were red, some Fresno peppers, a good amount of sweet peppers like we use some common Toros I think even some red bells. Because you want to you I mean, you need to moderate the amount of heat. It can't be just pure blazing peppers. And and a few more in the mix. Oh, yeah, we definitely had some, some, he will say is in there for that floral flavor. Yeah. And maybe a handful of habaneros. I think we're in there as well. Wow. So talk to me about using meat. So I think most of our listeners probably have a good idea about using vinegar. And I do want to talk about that a little bit. But I think Misa is one of those things that people maybe aren't used to using, you know, up until a handful years ago, you can't even really get it in a regular grocery store. And now maybe I can get like a white and a red and my local Wegmans. But what are some of your tips for using it. Um, I would say you know, the easiest thing to start using me so and just start getting a feel for what it what it is capable of, is to replace any time where you would use salt. But also, like a vegetable stock or a beef stock or an any recipe, like anytime, anytime you're making our broth or something like that, start getting me so into it. And then with baking, I definitely would say in just any recipe that you're doing takeout, you know, a couple tablespoons of butter and substitute in a couple of tablespoons of me. So an army so is not so salty, that your salt is really going to be affected that much, you can still add the salt as well. It's just going to create kind of a depth to whatever you're doing. So banana bread, cookies, cakes, I mean, I try to share as many recipes as possible with our Instagram followers, just to kind of give examples of just how prevalent mizo can be in your cooking. There isn't anything, it's not going to take over whatever it is necessarily until you hit like a high point of petition, but it will just add this step that you aren't really able to place always but it's, you know, it's there. I think broth is I just want to expand on that because perhaps the first thing you think of when you think about that is like oh, I made one day make some chicken noodle soup or I might make you know some kind of beef stew. But it's cool to think about the fact that that the primary association that people most people have with me so as miso soup meets a broth, whether the broth is for just a bowl of me so super and ramen, but we could take a you know, we can apply the concept of broth to a million dishes, because everything needs a little bit of water. Yeah, right. If for example, I mean we could take a picture Out of the Iranian playbook and start with a single really flavorful stock, and then turn around and make double soup out of it. So you could take a chicken stock, and then you can make an amissah chicken stock. Or you could take anything that any recipe that requires you to open up, you know, a box of, you know, low sodium vegetable broth or something from the grocery store and make your own miso soup from that instead. If you're making a risotto, or if you're making a relative of Rosetta with any other grains like a ferodo I use it in grits. So like if I'm doing shrimp and grits, I'll put a little in my stock and mix it in and then you know, see what the flavor is there. And then I'll adjust the seasonings on the shrimp and every other component to kind of complement that. Yes, exactly. Or, I mean, you're stuffing for your turkey if you're going to pour broth over the bread to kind of bring it together. You know, stir some me so into that and you're going to end up with a lot more. Right any recipe that drinks water. Really Yeah, I really liked your Sea Island red pea me so and I use that in a lot of cool things. I actually did a buttercream with that. I think it was inspired by Erik Bruner Yang recipe. So I made a banana bread and then did use that Misa when the buttercream and it went so amazingly well with the banana bread. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I tend more toward the sweet end of the cooking spectrum. So me so caramelizes really nicely when you're baking in the oven. So again, like I made a muddy buddy chex mix, which had peanut butter me so stirred into the melted chocolate, and that worked really well. And then the salty Chex Mix also had me so stirred into the butter that melted. And that kind of ended up caramelizing even more in the oven. So just, you know, it just kind of there isn't anything that I wouldn't, I would say that me so isn't appropriate to add it. I do a carmelize miso butter where you put it dry in a pan and get it to where it's like smoking and then just throw in some rice wine vinegar and some mirant D glaze that out. And once it's smooth, just start throwing in a couple knobs of cold butter. And it's really nice to just toss vegetables in. Yeah, sure. It sounds really nice. Oh has you know, it does have a little bit of emulsifying power left? Yeah, from the grain that is made with? How long are these things? Good? Is there any perishability issues like once you buy a me so when you open up a jar and stick it in the fridge? Are there any ways to keep it good longer? Or is that not even an issue? does it turn or go bad or become Unsafe at any point? unsafe never is I suppose it's possible with enough fluctuations in temperature especially as the as you use up more and more the jar and there's just more air and space left in there. I suppose it is possible for any me. So that hasn't been pasteurized or treated with that ethyl alcohol to stop further fermentation, you know, things that we don't do, can take on a little bit more acidity as it ages. There are there certainly are some bacteria again, super safe, same same type of bacteria that are in your kimchi, your your kombucha that can absolutely tolerate high level salt. But I don't I mean, we I definitely have some containers of missiles that we first made that are still in the fridge as we speak. The reality is like if you can't use a jar of mizo in that amount of time, I mean, none of them are really that big to begin with. So I guess just encourage everyone to use me so as much as they can. I'm clearly biased. But I think that it's like once you start using mizo it's almost like when you don't have it in something you sort of miss it. It's sort of it's sort of bland. What about vinegar storage? Is that an issue? Should it be stored in the fridge? Once it's open? Does does the vinegar continue to turn or change or anything? And does that have shelf life? Well, I'll tell you, again, just before we talk about the safety or the expiration of the vinegar, you know, our buddy, Michael heartland Terkel, who wrote a book, acid trip, all about vinegar, some recipes, some traditions, some a little bit of sort of how it's made in areas all over the world from, you know, Central Europe to Japan to you know, a bunch of places in the states just says keep all your vinegar in the fridge, because if it's if it's something that's really good, you know, then it's something that that was put in the bottle at exactly the right time. And it was put in the bottle in the state that it was supposed to be consumed in and it will absolutely turn you know we we think there are really cool vinegars that we make. Just as a curiosity, a lot of a lot of ingredients that are really red, purple beets, aronia berries, After a few years in a bottle and on a shelf, they just lose their color a little bit, they lose their flavor a little bit. They, they're just not as sharp and vivid as they were. So yeah, we're all about refrigerating your vinegar, especially once it's opened. And of course, it can, you know, possibly continue to ferment and form new mothers, well formed a new biofilm where the surface of the vinegar where it meets to air, that is the sign of a healthy living vinegar. But sometimes it's kind of you just don't want to deal with that. You know what I mean? Yeah, I mean, say safety isn't ever an issue with vinegar, it's more, it's more of a quality, you know, then there's other times where we'll doesn't vinegar age for a really long time. And you know, our vinegar does spend quite a bit of time in barrels, most of them about a year. However, that barrel is kind of a specific environment, that we've kind of take care of it in that environment. And so once we put it in a bottle, yeah, you could put that in your cupboard and keep it for a year for sure. And it would be absolutely fine. But it's not quite the same as aging in a barrel. You know, when it's in a barrel, that barrel has kind of some permeability. So it's, it's continuing to sort of breathe. And so I mean, it's a selective environment, basically, is a lot of what you're dealing with with fermentation. Is it fine? Yeah. Is it going to be as good? Maybe? Well, I think people get really weirded out by like expiration dates, and how old things are like people. And I know for me personally, like, I'll go on a buying spree, like, I'll go in a shop and see your stuff and buy like eight bottles of vinegar. And then, you know, it's like, three years later, and you're like, wow, I still have some of that, you know, whatever, celery vinegar in my pantry, or fridge or something. I don't worry about that. But people are always I think, so scared about, you know, because we put expiration dates on everything, and you look at it's like, I don't know, does me so bad. You know, I'll never get tired of, you know, getting up on my soapbox has expiration dates, you know, expiration date on a label is much less of an FDA compliance, or required item. And it's much more about protecting the company that makes the food basically by saying, you know, if you if we put our expiration date on this, we're guaranteeing sometimes that it's going to be safe up to this date, usually safe much later than that date. But they're also saying, We don't want you to open this five years from now. And it's broken down into this credit. And you think that that's the kind of food that we make, it's frequently a lot more about protecting the perceived image of quality of the food than it is to safety. I read an article in lucky peach magazine, it's probably been close to 10 years ago, and Harold McGee wrote it. And he had talked about that any deviation in flavor, or quality, positive or negative means that it's past the expert. Like, if he was talking about aging, food and cans, I think it was their apocalypse issue. And basically, the idea is like, you can have this stuff and I can add some things taste better than when they went into the can due to aging. But if it changes even for the positive, like whatever the date is where that product would change. That's technically what most companies set is the expiration date. And they tried doing things like putting them in slow cookers or rice cookers to kind of approximate like, okay, now we've taken spam, and we've aged it the equivalent of 10 years. Let's see how it tastes. And it was just really interesting. It's I mean, yeah, I mean, from from a world that we share, you know, the restaurant industry, it's like, you don't want to put out you know, if you've got a knockout 100 of your garden salads, or your steak entree or whatever that night, like, you don't want one of them to be extra fantastic relative to the other. Somebody gets it and they come back the next day and they get an it's different, like you're creating the wrong idea, right? You don't you what you're really looking for is consistency. Before we started rolling here, we you briefly mentioned vinegar pie. I'd love to talk about vinegar pie for a minute, because that's something that is delicious, but you don't see it all that often. nobody's really making it and I think everyone should try making it. What do you have like a favorite vinegar that you would use in that and tell us a little bit about what vinegar pie is. And so vinegar pie is basically a pie that has a custard or a pudding that's made similar to occurred. And there's a couple of different ways that you can do it. You can cook the inside filling and then pour it in the crust and let it set. You can make the filling and then pour it in the crust and bacon in the oven. The crust can be you know your regular pie crust, you could do pressed gram crust, that sort of thing. That's the basic idea and it was Isaiah I forget what you always call it. I like to call it sort of a pie from the desperation pantry. There's a whole family of pies like buttermilk pie chess pie, just fine. Yes, Shoo fly, I think would be Yeah, one of our personal favorites and vinegar pie. And they all I just found a new recipe called like a funny pie, Pennsylvania funny pie, which I was really interested in trying, that's another one. And they use a combination of dry goods, pantry goods, things that stay, you know, good in your, you know, in your storage for a long time, as well as maybe some fresh ingredients that you might have immediate local access to, like, they usually they all have eggs in them. I really like that stuff. They're interesting. We made a grape nut pie a couple years ago, which is really interesting. And it's essentially a pecan pie. But take out the really expensive pecans and put like the world's cheapest cereal in there. And it was really good. That's like a like the old pies are this similar thing to where you're just kind of subbing out, no one has pecans, you know if you're even now. And I'll be honest, you know, we're we definitely I would say our palates are really geared to look for citrus, and other familiar flavors and pies like that. And I think the first time you ever take a bite of a vinegar pie, you might have to recalibrate, but it doesn't take you know, you take a bite or two and you sort of, you know, okay, I get this, you know, my brains reset my expectations. One of my favorite things in the Noma fermentation book is not actually a recipe or a technique, but just their insistence that you taste as much with this organ as this one. Sorry, your brain as your tongue. And once basically, once you get over that hump, it's super delicious. I think my personal favorite men are going to do it with is probably the sort of molasses Yeah, I would say sorghum molasses to actually something sounds good. kind of gives a caramelly flavor that works really well. We've done it with a bitter lemon and with the ginger the ginger is really good, too bright acidic, tends toward more citrusy, but the sorghum, something about caramel and butter and sour works really well. Just a super quick intro to what sort of molasses is maybe that explains why it has that caramel flavor. sorghum grows in it's a super tall cane, it's really you know, it looks a lot like sugar cane, you know, from a distance. And the cane itself, you press, you've run it through a press and juice comes out. And the juice is already you know, usually about 20% sugar. Really, again, very similar to sugar cane. It's a bright green, it's got this kind of awesome grassy flavor. But for some reason that is outside the depth of my knowledge, it doesn't crystallize when reduced in the same way that sugarcane does. So the method of taking that fresh product and preserving it is the same thing as that you would do actually with like maple sap. Oh, that's interesting. I didn't know anything about that. I mean, I've had sorghum molasses before which you know, I just thought it was very similar to like regular molasses, but hearing that it comes out as like green and kind of Piney like I wouldn't see that at all. Right. And so you've got to cook it down until I think I think probably a good standard would be about at it till it's about 85% sugar. And so you're cooking and cooking and cooking and and reducing it. And you know, the closer you get to the end of that, the higher your temperatures are and the more you're turning that beautiful green grassy flavor into a really complicated, lightly, smoky, lightly savory. Hear him out. And there's just no way to I mean, this is a natural flavor development from how you're preserving this fresh product. So you make your own sorghum, molasses. You know, we definitely don't in Virginia that sorghum from and we've actually we have done some vinegar with fresh green sorghum juice. Yeah. But it's, it's the flavor, the flavor for better where's the green sorghum vinegar is really was very delicious. But a little bit of a hard sell because it's just so unique that you really don't know what you're getting into. And frankly, if you've ever taste tasted maple, SAP juice water, they sell it now I believe it doesn't have it's like the essence of maple syrup. But like, now it's a little more subtle. Yeah, it's just not quite there. So the green sorghum juice is kind of the same thing. It's, it's this really interesting flavor and it's really good but it doesn't quite. It's also that it's really difficult to try to find a supplier of that fresh juice just because they've got to grow it. They've got to process it or they've got to Get an enormous truck to deliver you a bunch of sort of stocks, which you know, then you have to process. And in order to do that kind of processing on farm, you're getting into like juice hasip plans and all other sorts of weird regulation that farmers are just not, you know, at the scale of farm that we like to deal with best, they're just not equipped to really take that on for a single sort of product that doesn't, you know, hold biodiversity. So what are some of your goals for this year? Well, I think I've probably pounded it out several times that what we really need is square footage. And right now, we are just bursting at the seams in our current facility. And we are just trying to line up all the factors to sort of stay out here in Central Pennsylvania, we love to be connected to the, the farmers that we're working with, we love to be close to them, we love to keep working out sort of the natural rhythms of when we you know, they're delivering to these, you know, going from Adams County to Philadelphia, and we're on the way and we work it out, just all sorts of efficiencies. And we live in Harrisburg, and we think it's one of the coolest cities on the planet. We live about a block from the Susquehanna River, which is gorgeous, it's always different. It's unbelievably beautiful. And, you know, just like, you know, you might have said about Pittsburgh, 20 years ago, there's just a ton of prime beautiful industrial space. And we'd love to get into some of that question is just sort of finding the right space, you know, doesn't have its best dose or, you know, doesn't doesn't need $2 million, with the rehab Otherwise, there are literally buildings, I mean, caved in forests growing inside of them, you know, a mile or two from here. So we're just looking for exactly the right one. And that's going to be huge for us, I think that we'd like to sort of keep the breadth of offerings that we have, growing as slowly as possible. It's a terrible business plan to make 40 different kinds of vinegar and a dozen different kinds of miso and, and soy sauce, and white soy sauce and her face. And other condiments and you say and in vinegar and miso. But you know, hopefully be able to expand access to those offerings, just by getting them out, you know, if we, you know, the more the more efficient we can get, the more we can figure out how to make this the this product work and turn it into something that people use on an everyday way rather than just as a sort of a specialty item. Who are some of your favorite people in your field? So like, Who's some awesome people doing stuff with fermentation vinegars? misos, do you have people you're big fans of I would say for people that are using our stuff really creatively or using fermented foods really creatively. I think that cadence in Philadelphia is doing a fantastic job. They go through a lot of our product and and often have to deal with us saying oh, we're sort of out of this viani a white wine vinegar, but we're moving into this petite men saying white vinegar. And I, I think that they do a really good job sort of adjusting what they do. They've got a brilliant Menu set up for it kind of like a four course setup, and, you know, a few options in each course. And, and so they're really able to keep a lot of flexibility in what they do. I would say a lot of the restaurants that we work with that are doing what we do really well have a menu that's set up like that to do it really well. I was really impressed. I'm very, very river twice. And Philadelphia is amazing. He's just doing I mean, he's doing a ton of his own fermentation as well. There's quite a few in Philadelphia that are really inspiring. Archie Miller, you know, he's doing hummus and cheese steaks and just kind of this, you know, quick delivery type of food is a lot of restaurants are doing right now. But it's just, it's just beautiful looking and like really hearty and his He always talks about like relationship cuisine where he's really working so hard to create relationships with every ingredient that he makes, or uses. Which obviously speaks to us. I think Johnny Spiro in DC he's always one that I appreciate him so much for his flexibility. He he'll place an order and I'll be like, Well, you know, I have a couple quarts of this strange walnut oil that comes off the black wall that means so do you want to try it and he'll try it and use it and I I always think that that's really interesting. inspirational. How he how he uses the ingredients. That's probably my favorite restaurant in DC. I'd love what he's doing. We connected with telep goat in DC. Yeah. They're, you know, I think that they're really committed to to finding the things that they like and then and then going wholeheartedly ended that. And after we have worked together for a little bit, they use us as their vinegar exclusively. And I and we've eaten a few times their sense and I think that it really drives a little bit how they think about their flavor not you know, any one particular dish or, or there's no like, vinegar. What is what it's Charlie Trotter used to like study of vinegar flavors, study of foods. But you know, there's, you know, there might be a little bit of preserved like slightly dried tomatoes that they've got holding on for the summer that they rehydrate and a little bit of vinegar, and they just really incorporated it as a staple sort of tool or ingredient in their arsenal. And I think it it really, their food is obviously super good. And I think it's affected a lot by that. This makes me miss going out to eat at restaurants. That's like hard to answer this question because it's it there's just so anytime I see a dish where I recognize one of our ingredients in it, it's it's always different. Everyone has their own take on how they're doing it. It's never it's it's just always such a thrill to see it on a plate and see how someone used it. Ariel Welch's the pastry chef for ardent Justin Carlisle. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. His pastry chef Ariel wealth is uses the mizo and many of her desserts that she's doing they did a stroopwafel they did this cake this far. Oh, me. So cake with parsnips, which I am not a fan of parsnips at all. And I immediately want to eat this cake. Like just really? Like, beautiful. That's somewhere I want to go. I've never been to Milwaukee before. So it's definitely on my list of places. Yeah. What do you have anything else you want to talk about? I think this has been a great conversation. What did we not go over anything? I mean, I'm sure we could talk about ferments for hours. But anything else you want to talk about? Just to answer your last question a little bit more. If we're talking about other people who are creating fermented foods that were really inspired by, there are certainly a lot of people doing what we're doing. And I think we always feel like we were, you know, really early on. But I but I think that that probably has to do with the fact that we were early on and very small. And 2015, you know, after working on on sort of unwrapping the mystery of some of these ferments for a few years before that. And we're sort of slowly growing. And I think maybe a lot of people that were just coming into contact with now or just who are intruding on our awareness now maybe have been on the same trajectory and have been interested in this stuff for a long time. And I guess what we see that's really heartening is that there are a lot of small little vinegar producers, you can probably, you know, with a little bit of research, find one and most major cities in the United States. And as long as they're really farm driven, I think that's really big for us. Like I said, we certainly don't want to be the specialty vinegar, that can be all things to all people. And one of those things that we don't want to do is be, you know, the vinegar that you've just got to have if you're in you know, even if you're in England, or, you know, South Africa or California, even, I don't want to say no to anybody that wants to buy any vinegar from us. But I just think that there's really good fermentable sugar all over the world. And, and I'd love to see it, use if anything, you know, we don't want to displace those other creators. We'd like to continue to displace times. The big companies, we'd like to displace, you know, vinegar that's created as an industrial bribe byproduct of cellulose fermentation, sawdust. We'd like to replace vinegar that's just like thickened in with sweetened with extra sugar for no reason. And with some sort of like flavor sprayed into it. There's a there the companies that are coming up doing fermentation, I hope are being finding these slots in the in this kind of agricultural cycle that there's waste. So is it a company that's sitting right next to a brewery and the breweries throwing away a ton of their beer, and they're kind of taking up that beer and turning it into a malt vinegar. That's great. I would be even better if that beer company is using local greens to make their beer ideally, but there are more there are more of these companies. And that's what we like that's the inspiration is that this ingredient comes from something that may be overlooked. Yeah, kind of closing the circle there with with production. Yes, exactly. And I think as chefs are more interested in themselves, not only you using local products and you know, responsible sourcing, they're also really interested in finding ways to not waste products. So it's kind of come full circle. It's not just in the kitchen side, but also the production side, which I think is really cool. I remember when we first started the business, I was pulling a lot of shifts at the Dabney and DC, just sort of helping them out with their am crew, a few days a week, and people coming in and just being shocked, like, at the cost of some of the ingredients that would come into that restaurant. And they were like, Oh, my God, you guys are spending as much as your vegetables, you know, per pound, or per serving or whatever, as as many restaurants are spending on the center of the plate, the meat are what it is, and and there's this, the, when you're supporting the right growers in the right farms, there's just there's a lack of industrialization, that's going to make things a little more costly. And frankly, to be a little bit of a downer, there's a lack of sort of labor exploitation, that's also going to keep prices high. And, and you've just got to build your cuisine around that. And a lot of that does include using, you know, the leaves and the roots and the different parts of it and getting flavor out of all the pieces of the crop. One cost is always a conversation. I mean, your your vinegar is obviously more expensive than a very commercial vinegar on the shelves, I think people are starting to get used to paying more for quality products, I hope and seeing a more diverse selection out in the market in general, but it is whether it's buying heritage breed animals or vegetables from a small farmer. I think that's been one of the big barriers forever is people just are so used to buying a 99 cent hamburger and McDonald's and buying, you know, a two pound bag of carrots for $1. And yeah, we have some work to do to get people used to paying for better products. and wanting to Yeah, and, and supporting local communities and small producers, and on the restaurant end to walking in and seeing the price of something and saying, That's right. The price of food from a consumer standpoint is just such a tough conversation for me, because I think we're so used to looking at, you know, if you want to go out and you need, you want to buy a new car and you're looking for a very, you know, common new car would be like you want kind of a midsize crossover, you can look at a Subaru for forester and a Toyota rav4 and the offering from the all the different manufacturers and you can do some price comparisons. And there's some levels of standardization about, you know, units of how it performs this way or that way or the other. And so we take this mindset and we say, Well, I'm going to shop at a local supermarket x instead of y because there this is 30 cents cheaper a pound or, you know, when I go through the checkout aisle, I'm always a little more shocked at the price when I go to this place. And we just so removed from what could possibly be causing those disparities and pricing that are sort of natural shopping instinct, it's just not just that suited to the task for figuring out what things really should cost. And the effort to actually do some some background or to to stay fully educated on, you know, all of the packaging options, and what does organic mean and free range and all the verbiage that can be used. It's just more than then I think you can reasonably expect most people to care enough about. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. I really appreciated having you and I look forward to continuing to use your products and new and interesting ways. I'm super excited. I think that once this is all over, we're going to get together and use them together. And I hope we will do some cooking. Yeah, I'd love that you for having us. We really appreciate it. We've been following you for a while too, and nice to talk. Well, I want to bring producers into the mix too. You know, it's Chefs Without Restaurants. I just love the idea of people doing their own thing in the food world that just isn't related to being like a line cook or an executive chef somewhere. So, you know, I think that we all you know, a lot of us, well, maybe people my age and maybe a little younger, have grown up in this sort of unprecedented era in modern times of the glorification of what it means to be a chef and there's of course a million TV shows that weren't there a long time ago. And as much as I loved it through all throughout my 20s you know, going to work from 8am to midnight and going back to work from 8am to midnight The next day, you know working double down brunch weekend. You know what I mean? Doing all that it's really it's a great lifestyle for a while. But there are so many ways to make restaurants better that don't necessarily involve being in a restaurant. And I think it's a really awesome path for people, especially after they've sort of so to speak, made their bones or built up a lot of skill and a lot of familiarity to go out and bolster with these, you know, what can make people's dining experiences better. What can make restaurants a stronger part of a healthy food system, by being in the industry is peripheral peripheral to them. And I love restaurants, like I'm not anti rush, I just don't like working in restaurants. Like I love restaurants, I don't want restaurants to die. I just like, I've never worked in a restaurant. Like I say this all the time. I've started in a kitchen in 1992 when I was a teenager, but it wasn't a restaurant, I've exclusively done catering and contract food. And I worked for IKEA, and I've been a catering manager at a hospital. Like I just didn't like that working till two in the morning and the restaurant grind and necessarily working align, like I just wasn't driven to that. And I've started to find a lot of people had similar stories, or they started doing it and weren't really interested in continuing it. And yeah, I thought like, let's build like a community and share the stories of like minded individuals. Yeah, and if we're being like, super honest about that, you know, we started to get a little older and, you know, you take a look at your life and, and your habits and your health and everything. And we decided that maybe we wanted to amplify people's ability to create flavor than and really good flavor experiences. without necessarily having to pick up salt, fat, sugar, all the things that we know how to do in the restaurant industry that you know that to make the food so rich and so good at something that people can't, or wouldn't necessarily cook at home. And I thought, you know, I really would want to be the kind of chef who's feeding people like fermented foods and, and really healthy stuff, but it's still really has this incredible flavor pattern. And really, like, it's not good enough. You know what I mean? There are some people that are just natural born chefs and unbelievable with flavor and, and cooking, and especially line cooking and all that. And I think that I just one day realize that like, I'm really, you know, I feel a lot more confident working out a system, a factory of food manufacturing system, if you will, to give these people the tools to do it. Yeah, not everyone's meant to be a line cook or an executive chef. I mean, we need good food producers who are making awesome quality products. So thank you. Yeah, awesome. Thank you. Thank you for having us. Yeah, if there's anything I can ever do, let me know. And I'll be posting all your info in the show notes. So people will know where to find you and pick up some products to stock their own pantries. Well, thanks again for coming on the show. I really enjoyed having you. And to all of our listeners. This has been Chris with the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. As always, you can find us at ChefsWithoutr staurants.com. and org, and on all social media. Thanks so m ch, and have a great day.