Meet the Maker: Jam Session

This segment's Meet the Maker was written by our very own Keagan Perlette. You can find Keagan working the coffee bar at the cafe a few days a week, but outside of the cafe, she is a creative writing student and English Literature major at the University of British Columbia. Here, she lends her writing talents to this blog, and interviews Natalie Ferrari-Morton, the incredible maker behind East Van Jams. Her jams have been steadily gaining cult status amongst die-hard food-lovers here in Vancouver, and it is clear why. Read on to find out more about Natalie's story.

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On one of the last beautiful mornings of the summer, we trek out to the suburban family home of Natalie Ferrari-Morton, the big boss behind preserve producer East Van Jam. Natalie comes out from behind the house towing a dolly that’s almost as tall as she is and, upon seeing us out on her front stoop, hurries us through the front door. Natalie brings us into her warm sun-drenched kitchen - featuring some quirky, olive-green, geometric 70's tile flooring - to bake us some biscuits while we talk entrepreneurship, motherhood, and the crafting of jam.

“I think, in a lot of ways, I feel like I’m not worthy if I’m not really busy,” she says, elbow deep in batter. And busy she is: Natalie is the sole employee of her booming jam business. It was a feeling of not being busy enough that was the catalyst for the inception of the company. After her second son was born, Natalie left a lucrative and stable career in the corporate signage industry and became a stay at home mom. “What really shocked me about becoming a mother was that there’s this listlessness that comes with it, for me,” she recalls. “[Motherhood is] rewarding and fulfilling but it doesn’t fully fulfill me. I needed way more stimulus.”

The story goes like this: “The actual jam product came into play [when] I befriended the woman who owned [the wool store] Baaad Anna’s on Hastings,” Natalie says. “I was struggling to figure out what the hell I was going to do next with my life, and she was like ‘Well, what do you want?!’ and I was like, ‘I think we should teach people how to can.’ We felt like there was a gap; we didn’t feel like it was really out there as a course option, and it was also the right kind of thing that we could do outside of our mom life where we could offer it in the evenings and our husbands would be home with the kids.” It was through teaching workshops that Natalie realized there was also a gap in the jam market that she could fill: everyone seemed to be interested in making delicious jams that had less sugar.

Natalie’s mandate, More Love, Less Sugar, comes straight from her desire to care for herself and her family while still enjoying the fruits of her canning labors. Natalie was already making jam for her family, but the overwhelming yield from the two plum trees in her backyard pushed her over the edge and into entrepreneurship. She had the materials, so now she needed to build a brand. That’s where the illustration talent of longtime friend Scott Bilstad came into the picture. “Part of the charm and the fun of it for me was coming up with the labels,” she says. “What [Scott] would do is he’d come to our house and he’d draw these little characters and we wouldn’t find them until two weeks later, he’d hide them around the house! And [then we thought], let’s make them into people who can somehow represent these flavours.”

The creation of each jam is an immersive creative process that seems to me more literary than culinary. “For every new character [there’s a new flavour],” says Natalie. “Some of my recipes came before the names, but others happened because of the character that developed; like... Hopricot was ‘Ok we have hops let’s use them somehow.’ So then it was just the word-mash rather than specifically wanting to go with apricots. The drawing, the name, everything, was done before I’d even tried the recipe! With Serene Nectarine, once I came up with the name Serene; she became loosely based on my old work mate from my old job who was always very much a mother figure to me, so I thought ‘What is serene, what’s calming?’ and so that’s how sage and lavender came in.”

"Some of my recipes came before the names, but others happened because of the character that developed; like... Hopricot was ‘Ok we have hops - let’s use them somehow.’ So then it was just the word-mash rather than specifically wanting to go with apricots. The drawing, the name, everything, was done before I’d even tried the recipe!"

- Natalie Ferrari - Morton

Natalie’s son is due back to the house after only an hour of school this morning. Natalie seems grateful for the break. I ask her what it’s like to run her own fast-growing business while raising two fast-growing kids: “It’s challenging on a regular basis,” she says, “I’m a bit torn because sometimes there are times when I think ‘When my kids look back at these years in their lives, are they gonna just remember momma always working? Or are they gonna have some [sense] of value around the fact that I was building something, and is that going to translate into them knowing what hard work looks like? It’s not magic all the time, but I hope it kind of gives them a sense of reality, that it’s not all about summer camp and ice cream stores.” 

We've retreated to the backyard that grows so many of Natalie's ingredients (she gets the rest, of course, from local farmers). I feel very taken-care-of by Natalie; she is a woman who has her shit together (whether she would admit to it or not), bravely balancing motherhood with her personal identity and the goals that are close to her heart. As we slather her jams onto her fresh-from-the-oven biscuits, it is clear that she puts the same care and passion into each and every one of her delicious, homemade products.

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You can find a variety of East Van Jams flavours currently stocked on our shelves.

Story: Keagan Perlette
Photographs: Issha Marie

Meet the Maker: Dickie's Ginger

The realization behind Dickie's Ginger beer did not start out like most small businesses; rather, it came from a strong desire from Stephen Tufts, the tour-de-force behind Dickie's Ginger, to create something - "a thing that people liked".

Stephen' unique sense of place stems from his various travels and his experiences with living in different cities across the world. "You start to think about why you like a place so much, and for me, it was always because of a small business or a little bar. You know that they are just busting their ass, working so hard to create this environment - this thing - that they love, and their success comes from almost everyone who lives in that particular city appreciating it. You add all of that up and that makes up a place. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be one of those guys."

This drive to be a part of a close-knit community became that much more necessary during his software days. "I wanted something tangible. In the software business, everything just existed in my head. I wanted a real thing. I wanted to make a product."

Stephen admits that when he first moved to Vancouver, he was partially driven by his side passion - Urban Development - a topic that he's always been interested in. He was actively looking for Masters programs in Urban Development around Vancouver, that it became equally likely that he would have ended up in that realm instead of the ginger beer business. Still, thoughts of "How do I become that guy?" and "How can I contribute to a community" kept persisting until one trip to Seattle changed the course of his planning and decision-making. "I was obsessed with this one business in Seattle," Stephen says. "I loved their ginger beer and I started to wonder why Vancouver did not have such a thing."

This was two summers ago. It took Stephen four months of experimentation before he was happy with the final result. "Suddenly it got scary - a little too real - because I had been telling myself all that time that if I ever came up with something, then I have to jump in and just do it." 

And thus, Dickie's Ginger was born, and Stephen has successfully created "a thing that people like and love, and is associated with Vancouver." He looks up at the cafe, and adds, "It's kind of like this place, you know? When people visit Vancouver, they may hear of Le Marché St. George, and will make it a point to visit this space... I mean, how cool is that? To create a business like this so beloved by the community that out-of-towners who get word of it will visit?"

Stephen looks at Georgia, whom he says is the unsung hero of Dickie's Ginger. Georgia works tirelessly behind-the-scenes, making sure production is on point and on time. "It started last summer; Stephen and I were hardly able to see each other because he was working so hard... and so I would help out in the kitchen from time time... until Stephen was ready to have me on board more than just the odd day here and there." Georgia looks at a smiling Stephen, and adds, "We already work so well together, so getting fully on board felt really natural."

You can find Dickie's Ginger in our cafe, and in select bars, cafes, and farmers' markets across the city, including the beautiful Boulevard Oyster Bar downtown - one of Stephen's latest wholesale clients - where they serve Moscow Mules on tap with his ginger beer.

Moscow Mules on tap - now there's something everyone needs at home.

 Stephen and his girlfriend, Georgia, sporting bottles of Dickie's Ginger Beer.

Stephen and his girlfriend, Georgia, sporting bottles of Dickie's Ginger Beer.

 Ginger, lemons, and cane sugar = Dickie's Ginger.

Ginger, lemons, and cane sugar = Dickie's Ginger.

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Fruity Ginger Beer: a non-recipe
(serves 1)

Looking to amp up your glass of Dickie's Ginger beer but don't have any rum or vodka on hand? Macerate some fruit - fresh or frozen - with a bit of sugar and top off with Dickie's Ginger. Dickie's Ginger is not too sweet, and the airy balance of the lemon and the ginger will complement whatever fruit you choose.

  Dickie's Ginger  with macerated Rainier cherries. Photo courtesy of Issha Marie &    Bread and Butter Magazine   .

Dickie's Ginger with macerated Rainier cherries. Photo courtesy of Issha Marie & Bread and Butter Magazine.

Story and Photographs: Issha Marie

Meet The Maker: Easy, Tiger!

This is the first of a new series of blog posts where we will feature the makers behind some of the products we carry in our shop. We are focusing on one of our own for our very first Meet the Maker series - Taylor Jakubke. You can find Taylor behind our coffee bar a couple of days a week making your coffee-based drinks.

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Taylor Jakubke is a Certified Massage Practitioner and the creator of Easy Tiger bath salts. She often suggests 30-minute baths to her clients. Stress, she says, is held in the connective tissue. A bath with pure salts and essential oils induces relaxation and can help reset one's physiology. She started making custom blends for herself before she decided to make small batches of it to market to the masses. "If I ever owned a spa, these would be the salts I put in my clients' baths," Taylor remarks.

The name Easy Tiger comes from the popular colloquialiasm, "Easy, Tiger!" - a phrase one might say to someone who is on the verge of exploding from anger or stress.

Currently, the shop carries Easy Tiger Bath Salts in Skinny Dip - an energizing, citrus blend with grapefruit and lime - and Salty Bro - a rejuvenating epsom salt blend of eucalyptus and lavender.

Styled and photographed by Issha MarieCeramics by Janaki Larsen.