For: Food Network Canada
Summer is coming to an end and so is easy access to fresh-picked local produce. But as the farmer’s markets close for the season some passionate Torontonians are preserving fresh market berries and fruits to enjoy in the cold winter months.
Just south of Dundas, in the west-end Toronto neighborhood of Roncesvalles, Julian Katz and his wife Emily Pennington have opened a gourmet food shop / production kitchen that focuses on artisanal goods, procured locally. Stasis means “held in time” Julian explains, “ these beautiful strawberries are at the height of their ripeness and nutrition and deliciousness” and by preserving you can experience the product at that peak, no matter what time of year. The focus here is on the wonderful made-in-house, Stasis-labelled fruit spreads, preserves and sauces. A small shop front boasts shelves of thoughtfully curated goods from local makers – many of whom Julian met while participating in the Toronto farmers market circuit.
Katz used to work in restaurants (his last job being at Chef Lynn Crawford’s Ruby Watchco) where he began to develop a real interest in “how we used to live, and eat.” Understanding when and how to use ingredients at their full potential is a delicate art form that has intrigued the young cook. Katz began to investigate “the old way of doing things, and preserving things,” leading to experiments with pickling and preserving during his time off, filling his small apartment with more preserves than he could give away. A friend convinced him to try selling his wares at the Brickworks farmer’s market. Soon Julian was peddling his preserves at six markets around the city. Still employed as a cook, the hours were gruelling. After a year or so spending shifts on the line followed by long drives to farms for produce, to Mississauga for supplies and finally to whatever kitchen he would rent or borrow, Katz decided it was time to look for a space to call his own.
Originally 476 Roncesvalles Ave was intended to function as a production kitchen, but over time the small retail space evolved into a shop front deli and pantry. “We had the space” Emily points out, “and we were finding these great products.” Besides market connections, the two sought out cheese makers and makers of homegrown food products – anyone who was producing “great things.” The retail grew very naturally from the house-made preserves, direct-trade goods are for sale as well as made-to-order sandwiches and fresh brewed coffee.
The Stasis-labelled preserves have taken off, now being sold across Ontario. All of the fruit and vegetables for production are bought fresh and direct from farms, and Katz’s spreads use half of the sugar of a conventional jam. The Stasis strawberry rhubarb jam for example, contains simply Ontario strawberries, rhubarb, cranberries, and organic raw evaporated cane juice. All of the fruit-based spreads are created with the intention to let the fruit shine.
Focusing on local comes with its shares of challenges. Summertime can be difficult, for example. Katz and his team source, purchase, and process most of their preserves in the summer months, so labour and inventory management can both become complicated. With a lot of of the fresh local fruit heading to the market, finding seconds and jam fruit can be difficult with not much available.
Fitting into Roncesvalles has been easy. A food and health conscious neighbourhood, Roncesvalles is full of young families and it has a great neighbourhood vibe. The street is lined with excellent restaurants, independent coffee shops, Polish food stores and bakeries. Emily explains, “People are understanding and appreciating what we are doing…The more time we spent in the hood, the more we realized how aligned it would be.” Fitting in with the community was part of what has led to their success, the other part would be catering to the needs of their customers. “We bring in things that people ask for,” says Julian. (There are) ”local artisans making exciting food – and we are giving the people of the neighborhood what they want to eat.”
476 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto
shop online stasispreserves.com