Monday, November 28 2022 11:13

Brandywine Table: Spread the Joy

Written by Alyssa Thayer

Locally sourced and crafted preserves make this year's holidays extra delicious

Holidays are the perfect combination of novel and known. We delight in the familiarity of the classics while coveting the chance to break out something a little extra.

Sheila at her first market in 2014

For Sheila Rhodes, owner of Small Batch Kitchen in Lansdale, the family favorite was always a good ol’ block of cream cheese with spicy pepper jelly spooned overtop. So, when she started her business in 2014, she knew a pepper spread had to be one of her products.

The Small Batch Kitchen story started the way many famers market food businesses start — as a passion project. Sheila and her husband moved to a one-acre plot in Harleysville with a mission of growing on the land. As their yields grew, Sheila began to experiment with different methods of preservation.

She used recipes to guide her through each process, but when it came time for fruit preserves, she found them lacking. “The first batch I made was so sugary-sweet that I couldn’t even taste the fruit,” she remembers. Realizing most recipes were this way, she took matters into her own hands by teaching herself the science and safety of food preservation and inventing new vibrant recipes.

Small Batch Kitchen creates a full line of bold and fruit-forward flavors

It wasn’t long before she had developed a full line of products, all of which she was making by hand and giving out to friends and family. After tasting these creations, everyone encouraged her to take the next step and sell her goods at the local farmers market. And so it began.

By the end of that first year, she’d cultivated quite a following and landed multiple wholesale accounts. Then she began to think about the business differently. “It happened much faster than I expected, but because our products are lower in sugar and taste like fruit, it was something that people really gravitate towards.”

In 2017 she left her corporate job to focus exclusively on Small Batch Kitchen, and in 2019 she moved to a storefront in Lansdale with a larger processing facility and café.

This goat cheese and hot pepper spread on a cracker is a jazzed-up version of the cream cheese and pepper jelly Sheila’s family enjoyed

Even now, with products in 200 stores nationwide, they remain true to their “Small Batch” name and locally-minded mission. “We source all our produce from local farms and orchards,” she says, adding, “Summers are very busy. We still do everything ourselves and by hand.”

Small Batch Kitchen’s line of 25 unique, delectable products ranges from low-sugar fruit spreads to savory condiments. When asked how they come up with all the flavors, Sheila says enthusiastically, “That is the fun part.” She and her production manager, Rochelle, cook, experiment and draw inspiration from the local bounty.

Sheila notes the products are perfectly suited for holiday enjoyment and gifts. “We have a lot of diabetic customers, which can be very difficult during the holidays,” she says. Their Cranberry Cabernet is their most popular item around this time and is delicious on cheese plates, in a leftover turkey sandwich or inside a baked brie.

You can find their products online, at their Lansdale location or at local retailers such as Kimberton Whole Foods and Longwood Gardens. Now, let’s get cooking!

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