Tag Archives: Riverview Country Market

J.J. Stewart Foods and Soda Company – Fine Island Flavors

 

I am always thrilled when I discover products made on PEI.  I recently paid a visit to the small commercial kitchen of J.J. Stewart Foods and Soda Company in Stratford, PEI, where I met with owners and sole employees of the company, Heather and Thom MacMillan.

Under the brand label of J.J. Stewart, the MacMillans are producers and purveyors of a number of fine food products that includes preserves, flavoured mustards, sauces, pickles, salsa, lemonade, sodas and, of course, their signature artisan root beer.

While I was anxious to find out more about the products they make, I was first curious to learn about J.J. Stewart and his connection to the company.

The MacMillans tell me that the J.J. Stewart branding came about because of the root beer they were making.  They have been producing their artisan root beer since 2009.  When they were searching for a brand name for it, they discovered that Heather’s grandfather, John James Stewart, made and sold root beer in the early 1900s in his general store in Wood Islands, PEI. So, with the lineage and history, it seemed only fitting that their root beer should bear his name.

So, that explains the root beer but what prompted the production of the sauces, preserves, maple mustards, and pickles?  The MacMillans have been in the tourism business for many years.  They decided it was time to downsize and slow down so they sold their hotel business in Wood Islands and moved to Charlottetown.  However, their retirement was short-lived as their lifelong entrepreneurial spirit was still prompting them to do something else.  Both like to cook and when the Embers Company in Kinkora, PEI, became available for sale about three years ago, they bought it along with rights to the recipes for specialty food condiments that were already well-known and received on the market.  They have continued to produce those items as well as develop, test, and market new items, like Peanut Butter and Cranberry Champagne Jam with Ginger, under the J.J. Stewart label.

The dividing line between mass-produced mustards, preserves, and sauces and those produced by the MacMillans lies in the care and attention to detail that can only come with hand-producing small batch quantities, using high quality ingredients, and adhering to a strict individual quality control process.

Large Cooking Pot inside the JJ Stewart Kitchen
Large Cooking Pot inside the J.J. Stewart Kitchen

The difference can also be discerned in the taste and flavour when pure ingredients are used.  Wherever possible, the MacMillans use regionally-produced products.  Thom says he can actually pinpoint the berry field at Penny’s Farms in Belfast, PEI, where the strawberries are picked for the J.J. Stewart Strawberry Preserves!  The berries for their blueberry products come from Wyman’s near Morell and the cranberries and raspberries are locally sourced as well.  Cucumbers for their mustard pickles come from local roadside farm stands which offer the freshest of garden vegetables.  The maple syrup comes from Acadian Maple Products in nearby Nova Scotia.  J.J. Stewart products have become synonymous with quality so much so that the MacMillans tell me that people buy their preserves by the case in the summer and their freshly-made mustard pickles are a fall favourite which customers also buy by the case to have as their winter supply.

Like any food product produced and marketed for sale on PEI, the MacMillans are subject to food regulation and provincial inspection processes to ensure their products are safe for the market.

Bottles of Dill and Chardonnay Maple Mustard
Bottles of Dill and Chardonnay Maple Mustard Waiting to be Labeled

The artisan foods produced by the MacMillans are a perfect blend of modern and traditional fare.  Under the J.J. Stewart label that bears his picture, look for modern products like blueberry salsa and blueberry barbeque sauce and a number of flavoured mustards along with old favorites like mustard pickles and raspberry and strawberry preserves.

With distinctive flavour pairings like Dill and Chardonnay Maple Mustard and Wild Blueberry Sauce with Grand Marnier, for example, the J.J. Stewart line of products brings together the best flavour combinations.  J.J. Stewart products are both delicious and very versatile.  Whether used independently on their own as they are or incorporated as an ingredient into a recipe, these quality products are palette pleasers.

Over the next while, follow my blog postings as I use a number of their products in different recipes.

I am sure J.J. Stewart would have been happy to sell these products in his general store and he would, no doubt, be both thrilled and proud to know that his descendents are carrying on the tradition of producing artisanal root beer and other tasty products.  The J.J. Stewart speciality item products are available in select locations in the Maritimes.  For example, they can be purchased at the PEI Co. Store in Charlottetown’s Confederation Court Mall, at Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown, and at several other locations across the Island as well as at Sugar Moon Farms in Truro, Nova Scotia.

Thom MacMillan at the J.J. Stewart booth at the Charlottetown Farmers Market
Thom MacMillan at the J.J. Stewart booth at the Charlottetown Farmers Market

Each Saturday morning, you can also find Thom at his booth at the Charlottetown Farmers Market where sales are brisk and you’ll find regular customers returning week after week to pick up their favorite J.J. Stewart products.  Farmers markets are great venues for customers and producers to meet and interact.  In fact, Thom says he gets the greatest feedback and new product ideas from his regular Saturday morning customers.  Be sure to drop by the Farmers Market and taste the J.J. Stewart products at the tasting bar set up in their booth.

Tasting Bar at the JJ Stewart booth at the Charlottetown Farmers Market
Tasting Bar at the J.J. Stewart booth at the Charlottetown Farmers Market

In the summer months, their products are also sold in their own J.J. Stewart Mercantile Store in Cavendish, PEI.  Additionally, products are also available online at www.jjstewartfoods.com and they ship across North America.

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Old-fashioned Jam Squares
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Old-fashioned Jam Squares

For my feature recipe today using a J.J. Stewart product, I have chosen to use their Raspberry Preserves in old-fashioned vintage jam squares.  For this recipe, you need to use a superior quality jam or preserves because that is what gives the square its flavour.  Red jams or preserves work best because, for plate presentation purposes, they are the most showy.  I found the J.J. Stewart Raspberry Preserves to be a nice, thick consistency which is necessary in order for it to stick to the dough and not be runny when the squares are cut.

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Old-fashioned Jam Squares
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Old-fashioned Jam Squares made with J.J. Stewart’s Raspberry Preserves

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s

Old-fashioned Jam Squares

These are an old-fashioned favourite that I grew up with.  They are easy to make and take common ingredients.  While any kind of jam may be used, they are most showy when red jam (preserves) is chosen.

Ingredients:

⅓ cup butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp almond flavoring

½ cup white sugar

1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

⅛ tsp cardamom

Finely grated rind of 1 lemon

½ cup J.J. Stewart Raspberry Preserves

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Assemble ingredients.

Ingredients for Jam Squares
Ingredients for Jam Squares

Prepare 8”x8” pan by lining with parchment paper.

With electric mixer, beat butter well.  Beat in egg, vanilla, and almond flavouring.  Mixture will appear lumpy.

Sift and mix together sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Grate the rind of one lemon.  Stir in grated lemon rind.

Add dry ingredients to butter-egg mixture and blend thoroughly.

Gather up dough and shape dough into a small oblong shape.

Cut off about ⅓ of the dough and place in freezer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, press remaining ⅔ dough into prepared pan.  Place pan in freezer.

When the reserved dough has been in the freezer for 15 minutes remove both reserved dough and the pan from the freezer.  Evenly spread the ½ cup raspberry preserves over dough in pan.

Using a grater, grate the chilled and reserved 1/3 dough evenly over the jam.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until topping on square is lightly golden in color.

Let square cool completely in pan before removing and cutting into 16 squares.

Jam Squares
Jam Squares

 

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

Be sure to visit my Facebook page at My Island Bistro KitchenYou may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro, on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”, and on Instagram at “PEIBistro”.

Chili After the Sleigh Ride

Sleight Ride at Potts Farm, Bonshaw, PEI
Sleigh Ride at Potts Farm, Bonshaw, PEI

Yes, it can be chilly after a sleigh ride and there is nothing better to warm up with than a bowl of hot, homemade Chili Con Carne afterward!  Nothing stirs up a great appetite better than lots of fresh country air!

Homemade Chili
Homemade Chili

PEI has seen its fair share (well, some might say, more than our fair share) of snow this winter.  While, for some of us, the snow means work shoveling and challenges getting around and planning for events, for others it means business.

Waiting Patiently for Passengers to Load the Sleigh

There are a number of farms on the Island that offer sleigh rides throughout the winter months.  Thanks to Mother Nature sending lots of snow to the Island, this year has been exceptionally good for the sleigh ride business.

The photos of the sleigh ride that appear in this posting were all taken at Potts Farm in Bonshaw, on the South side of PEI. Their sleigh rides take you through fabulous trails of the woodlands of their farm.

Before we headed out to Potts Farm, I made this big pot of my favorite chili to have ready when we got home.

Chili
Chili

A chili con carne meal is very easy to prepare because it, essentially, is a meal in one pot.  One of the things I like about chili is that it can be adapted according to ones likes and tastes.  For example, if you don’t like green pepper, simply leave it out.  To achieve a mild or spicy chili according to your taste preference, adjust the amount of chili powder and garlic added.  I like my chili mild-flavored and full-bodied (as opposed to “runny”), meaning I like to add lots of ingredients like onions, celery, green pepper, fresh mushrooms, canned tomatoes, and kidney beans so that it is a nice, thick, chili but still has some juice to it.  I also like lots of tomato flavor so, in addition to the canned tomatoes, I add both a can of tomato soup and one of tomato paste.  Once all the chopping of veggies is done and the cans opened, it’s pretty much just a matter of combining them all in a soup pot and letting them simmer for a good hour or more to allow the flavors to mix and mingle.

Chili freezes well and I freeze it in individual, portion-sized containers to have ready for quick packing of the lunch bag on those weekday mornings when time is always at a premium.  Add a crusty roll, bread, or biscuits, and it makes a substantial tasty and filling lunch.

My recipe for chili follows.  My featured Island product in this recipe is the ground beef which I purchased at KJL Select Meats butcher shop that is co-located with Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown, PEI.  If you are on PEI and have not yet had a chance to visit this butcher shop, I would encourage you to do so.  They have great Island meat available.

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Chili Con Carne

2 tbsp oil

1 cup onion, chopped

½ cup green pepper, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1½ lb lean or extra-lean ground beef

1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice

2 – 14 oz. cans kidney beans, undrained

1 – 10 oz. can tomato soup

1 – 5½ oz. can tomato paste

Pinch cloves

Pinch pepper

1 – 2 tsp chili powder, to taste

3 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I use oregano flavoured from our local Liquid Gold store)

1 tsp liquid beef bouillon

1 bayleaf

4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Ingredients for Chili
Ingredients for Chili

In large pot, heat oil.  Add onion, green pepper, celery, and minced garlic clove.

Quickly sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add ground beef and cook until browned.

Add remaining ingredients (including the canned tomatoes, kidney beans, tomato soup, and tomato paste and seasonings) except the mushrooms which will be added later.

Adding the Seasonings

Bring ingredients just to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and slowly cook the chili for about 30 minutes, then add and stir in the sliced mushrooms.

Adding Mushrooms
Adding Mushrooms

Cover and simmer for another 30-40 minutes.  Serve hot with French bread, crusty rolls, or homemade biscuits.  If desired, garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and/or sliced green onions.

Yield:  8-10 servings

 

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

Be sure to visit my Facebook page at My Island Bistro KitchenYou may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro, on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”, and on Instagram at “PEIBistro”.

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Chili
Chili

 

Chili
Chili Con Carne

Meatloaf Monday!

Still continuing on with my “comfort food” theme in January, today’s dinner consists of old-fashioned meatloaf with fluffy riced potatoes and veggies.  Meatloaf is a great way to extend ground meat and also to give it a boost of flavour.

Meatloaf with Riced Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables
Meatloaf with Riced Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables

Meatloaf is usually made with ground beef although other ground meats, such as poultry, pork, or lamb, may also be used.  What gives it its name is obvious – it is meat that is shaped into a loaf pan.  The loaf shape makes it easy to get really nice, neat slices of the loaf for plating.  While meatloaf is generally baked in the regular oven, there are recipes for meatloaf prepared in slow cookers.

The ingredients in meatloaf can be very basic and simple or they can be relatively sophisticated.  My recipe is somewhere in between.  In addition to the meat, meatloaf will have one or more binding agents such as eggs, breadcrumbs, rolled oats, and/or graham wafer crumbs.  The trick to making a meatloaf really tasty is to add some good seasonings and a tasty sauce on top.

Traditionally, meatloaf is served with mashed potatoes and a favorite vegetable or two.  I find various ways of presenting potatoes work well with meatloaf — baked potatoes or scalloped potatoes, for example.  In the photos in this posting you will see that I used riced potatoes.  Are you familiar with a potato ricer?  It looks like this:

Potato Ricer
Potato Ricer

Seriously, this makes the fluffiest potatoes.  The potato ricer operates on the same premise as a garlic press.  Simply place hot cooked potatoes into the perforated basket of the ricer.  The top handle of the ricer is fitted with a flat metal plate.  Pressing the two handles of the ricer together forces the flat metal plate to put pressure on the potatoes, forcing the potatoes through the tiny holes in the ricer.  When the potatoes are pressed through a potato ricer, this is what they look like:

Oh, and of course, we can’t leave out the mustard pickles!  The sharpness of the pickle flavour compliments meatloaf particularly well.

Here is the recipe for my meatloaf.  My featured Island product in today’s recipe is Island beef from KJL Select Meats butcher shop co-located with Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown, PEI.

 

Meatloaf

 1½ lb lean or extra-lean ground beef

2-3 tbsp grated onion

2 tsp prepared mustard

½ can tomato soup

⅓ cup milk

2 eggs

2 tbsp dry onion soup mix

½ cup graham wafer crumbs

½ cup fine bread crumbs

¼ tsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Sauce:

½ can tomato soup

1½ tbsp prepared mustard

1½ tbsp brown sugar

½ tbsp molasses

1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

 

Assemble ingredients.

Meatloaf Ingredients
Meatloaf Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350º.

Line 9”x5” loaf pan with tin foil.  Grease or spray with cooking oil.  Lining the pan with foil makes it easier to remove the meatloaf and slice it.  It also makes clean up a breeze.

In large bowl, combine the first 12 ingredients and mix well.

Mixing ground beef, grated onion, mustard, and tomato soup
Mixing ground beef, grated onion, mustard, and tomato soup
Adding milk, eggs, dry onion soup mix, and graham cracker crumbs
Adding milk, eggs, dry onion soup mix, and graham cracker crumbs
Adding bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper
Adding bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper

Mix thoroughly.

Mixing Meatloaf Ingredients
Mixing Meatloaf Ingredients

Press meat mixture into prepared loaf pan.

Shaping the Meatloaf
Shaping the Meatloaf

Bake for one-half hour before adding sauce to top of meatloaf.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by mixing all 5 ingredients together.  Stir until well-combined.

Sauce for Meatloaf
Sauce for Meatloaf

After one-half hour, remove meatloaf from oven and spread sauce over meatloaf.  (I am not sure why the sauce differs in color in each of the photographs below but the color of it spread over the entire loaf in the bottom right-hand photo is the true color.)

Spreading Sauce on Meatloaf
Spreading Sauce on Meatloaf

Return loaf to oven and bake for 1 additional hour.

Baked Meatloaf
Baked Meatloaf

Let meatloaf rest in pan on cooling rack for at least 15-20 minutes or more before removing and slicing.  If you slice it when it is too hot, the slices tend to break apart.

Serve warm with your favorite potatoes and side vegetable(s).

This meatloaf freezes very well and is a staple in my freezer.  To reheat, remove meatloaf slices from freezer and allow to thaw.  Re-heat in covered casserole in microwave for a few seconds per slice.

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

Be sure to visit my Facebook page at My Island Bistro KitchenYou may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro, on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”, and on Instagram at “PEIBistro”.

Roasted Marinara Sauce on Halloween Pasta

Roasted Marinara Sauce with Sun-dried Tomato Pork Sausage on Halloween Pasta

I was looking for a meal to serve that would have a Halloween theme when I came across these wonderful orange and black Italian-made farfalle pasta.  I bought them not knowing how I would prepare and serve them.  They just looked so fun and season-appropriate that I couldn’t pass them by!  Served with locally-made sun-dried tomato and pork sausage tossed in a rich and flavourful homemade marinara sauce, and topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, this pasta dish was a real hit.  Add a freshly toasted garlic and cheese roll and a glass of red wine, and this meal is easily dressed up.

Italian-made Durum Wheat Semolina Farfalle Pasta

I am very lucky as we have a great little meat shop in Charlottetown, located at the Riverview Country Market on Riverside Drive.  Using locally-produced pork from Home Town Pork in Morell, PEI, they make several varieties of wonderful sausages onsite.  The variety I chose for this dish was sun-dried tomato and I was not disappointed – it was really good!  They tell me their sausages are all natural with no additives or preservatives.  I also dropped by our local “Liquid Gold” store and picked up two new products (will soon need extra cupboards to store all these oils and balsamic vinegars in!) — a bottle of oregano white balsamic vinegar and one of organic Tuscan herb infused olive oil were added to my growing collection!  Both were used in the marinara sauce and I also cooked the sausage in a small amount of the Tuscan olive oil.  Freshness matters and I find their products are super-fresh.

My recipe for the marinara sauce is my own creation.  Don’t be put off by the number of ingredients — it takes them all to make the flavour.  I like to roast the vegetables for the sauce because it gives them a distinct and rich flavour that I would classify as “full-bodied” in any dish.  After they are roasted, I break them up loosely with a potato masher.  There is no need to worry about getting them crushed completely at this point since that will occur later during the purée stage.  All that needs to happen at this point is that they are crushed enough to allow their juices and flavours to permeate the sauce while it cooks.  I like to use the immersion blender to purée the sauce in the stock pot.  I tend to like the sauce a bit on the chunky side so I don’t purée it completely smooth but that is a matter of personal taste.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, a food processor can, of course, be used – just make sure you let the mixture cool before placing it in the processor.  The sauce takes a bit of time to make but it is good (and the house smells divine in the process!).  This recipe makes about 3 1/2 cups but it is easily doubled.  The sauce also freezes really well which makes meal preparation quick and easy on a busy evening.  I cooked the sun-dried tomato pork sausage, then sliced it into thin slices (about 1/8th inch thick) before tossing it in the sauce and serving it over the pasta.

This was a fun dish to create and even more fun to eat, particularly with the orange and black Halloween pasta!

Halloween Pasta Served with Roasted Marinara Sauce

 

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Roasted Marinara Sauce

By Barbara99 Published: October 30, 2012

  • Yield: 3 1/2 cups

A rich, thick, flavourful tomato sauce that is a great accompaniment to pasta or pizza

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut vegetables into 1/2" - 1" pieces. Slice the parsnip slightly thinner. Place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat vegetables. Place on tin foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes until vegetables are slightly fork tender and edges of vegetables start to char slightly. Peel garlic. Transfer vegetables and garlic to stock pot and, with a potato masher, loosely break up the vegetable chunks.
  2. Add remainder of ingredients. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, purée sauce to desired consistency. (Alternatively, let mixture cool and transfer to food processor to purée.)
  4. Toss with pasta (and meat, if using) or use as pizza sauce. Freezes well.

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