Artisan Spotlight - CdA Canning Company
I ’ve always been fascinated by the art of canning, as it has such strong roots in our nation as a way for families to safely and deliciously preserve the best of the harvest to eat and enjoy all year long. That art is being lost, however, as families look more to modern conveniences than labor-intensive, small-yield processes to get what they need every month of the year.
That’s where local business owner Randy Ellwood comes in. His business, the Coeur d’ Alene Canning Company is not only preserving old traditions, but experimenting with new flavors and creating quite the loyal following. Particularly, his pepper butter, which sells out quickly every time he cooks up a batch. When I asked him about his favorite product, he said, “ That’s like asking which is your favorite child. I think my favorite product is the one I made last. Or perhaps it’s the next one that I have yet to create. But seriously, the best thing i’ve ever created is my Pepper Butter. It’s somewhere between a smooth salsa and a dipping sauce with just the right sweet/hot combination. It is addictive.”
He began learning this vital skill at home, like so many others. “As long as I have been grown and out of the house I have canned. I started with just simple freezer jams because the “jams” in the store just didn’t taste right. I grew up in north Idaho on my grandpa’s small farm. He always grew a large garden and canned what could be canned. Some of my fondest memories are going up the Bunco Road huckleberry picking and coming home to can fresh huckleberry jam. To this day there is NO better jam I have tasted than homemade huckleberry jam. For sure my grandpa was my greatest inspiration. I think of him often as I am canning.” He also has a giving heart, and this is where his passion for food and community truly shines.
“I have always enjoyed cooking and sharing my creations. Canning was always for personal use and the occasional gift. In my last neighborhood we had a very close-knit “family” of neighbors and frequently had get togethers. I would grab a jar of something I had canned to take and share. Everyone started encouraging me to start selling my goods.”
In a world where modern conveniences are king, these homespun businesses are making a significant change in how people buy and enjoy their food. Seeking unique flavors and personal connection with people who make the items in their pantry, customers reach out online and pick a spot to meet to snag these beautifully crafted jams, jellies, chutneys, salsas and butters.
One of the best things, though, about the Coeur d’ Alene food community, and groups like Spokane Foodies and North Idaho Life Foodies on Facebook or the Spokane Culinary Arts Guild on social media, is the sense of camaraderie around the unique quality of products and restaurants in our local area. Randy agrees. “I think the food community is strong in Spokane/CDA. I see a trend of people become more aware of whether or not their food is sourced locally or not. Local sourced food is becoming much more desirable. I hope the trend continues and more local farms get involved in the local food industry.”
While it’s known for the labor intensive process it takes to create, the products made by this small company are actually a labor of love for the owner. He says, “Believe it or not, I do find cooking and canning relaxing. Often you will find me in the kitchen canning until midnight. If not, a good artisan beer and classical music work wonders.“
Talking about the future of his business, Randy is full of passion and excitement for what this company could become. “I started Coeur d’Alene Canning Company 2 years ago. My short term goal is to purchase a mobile commercial kitchen, a concession trailer designed for canning. Once I have a commercial kitchen I will be able to market my product to a much larger market. I have already been approached by a local restaurant to supply my jams to them. With the mobile kitchen I would also like to take my products out to other areas in the Pacific Northwest . I could also make the kitchen available to other entrepreneurs who need a commercial kitchen to create their products to sell. My long term goal is to open a storefront shop with a canning kitchen in the back to manufacture Coeur d’Alene Canning Company jams, salsas, and condiments that will be sold in local shops, grocery stores, and restaurants. My dream is to build a strong family business that could be passed down to my children.”
The Spokane Culinary Arts Guild works to establish an integrated social and professional network across Washington and Idaho where local food enthusiasts, chefs, farms and restaurant professionals can connect, collaborate and find the resources they need to thrive within local food webs that stimulate stronger local economies, encourage social equity and sustain our natural resources. It is our mission to recognize exceptional restaurants and industry partners in our region, and acknowledge superior business practices, concepts and achievements in our local community.