When her husband was diagnosed with Agent Orange, Kathie Beck began “canning everything.”
She didn’t want John, a former Marine Corps. sergeant who served in Vietnam, to eat any food made with chemicals or preservatives. In the process, she began making all her own jellies, jams and other fruit spreads.
Beck began giving these goodies as gifts, and they were an instant hit. “My friends and family said ‘You need to be selling this stuff.’ “
So last month, Beck began selling dozens of jars of her own jellies, jams, preserves, conserves, marmalades, honey and pickles in the covered mall pavilion at the new Brickyard Farmers Market at the Centre of Tallahassee.
She also bakes her own orange, lemon and plain pound cakes as part of her Kat’s Korner repertoire.
We swooned over Beck’s pound cakes — simply delicious. She bakes orange, lemon and plain pound cake and they’re all wonderfully light and fruity. At home, we top slices with either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and fresh fruit. We wanted all three types so we froze some of the slices.
Under the huge spinning fans in the pavilion and accompanied by her husband, Beck is happy to chat about all the homemade treats on the table. Talking to artisans and growers is one of the joys of shopping at a farmers market.
“A lot of young people, aged 19 to 24, are coming in and buying,” Beck said. “Kids are in tune with food — they want to know what they’re eating.”
A graduate of Florida State University “who never left,” Beck has another career as the president of her own Tallahassee transportation consulting group. But spending her free time in the kitchen is a labor of love.
“I’ve been cooking since I was seven years old,” she said.
She later taught herself to make all her canned and jarred specialties.
We especially love Beck’s orange marmalade, which we bought on one visit. It was sensational. She uses whole oranges or lemons, seeds removed, in her batches of marmalade and you can taste the difference. The fruit spread has the sweet-tart flavor of real citrus and a lovely texture.
If you don’t know your marmalade from a conserve, here are some tips:
Conserves: They’re a lot like jam but they blend fruits and usually add nuts for a thick and chunky texture. Spread conserves on toast or use them to complement meats and cheeses.
Jelly: Jellies are made with fruit juice, are clear like a jewel and hold their shape. You shouldn’t find any pieces of fruit in jellies.
Marmalades: The spread includes some type of citrus and is made with the peel and pulp of the fruit, though Beck mashes in the whole fruit sans seeds.
Preserves: They have small pieces of fruit if small, like cranberries or diced bigger fruit, like peaches.
Beck’s lineup includes peach and pear preserves; cherry champagne, spiced apple and grape jellies; strawberry, blueberry and peach jams; and strawberry-lemon marmalade. Flavors can change depending on the season,
She makes a lot of pickles — kosher dills, zesty dills, bread-and-butter pickles, kicky bread and butter pickles boosted with some red pepper flakes and recently, “an old-school recipe” for brined pickles.
A member of the Apalachee Beekeepers Association, Beck also makes her own honey. “I raise a lot of passion flowers for the bees and I think this leads to the darker and richer honey,” she said.
In all her ventures, Beck likes to explore different flavor combinations. A few of her new items include garlic jelly, which is great with meats, and ambrosia conserves made with pineapple, apricot, coconut and almonds.
When a customer wanted a sample of the ambrosia at the farmers market, he took one bite and said, “Oh, my God, I’ve never tasted anything like that.” He bought a jar and we bet he’ll be back.
So will we.
Costs: Fruit spreads cost $3 for a four-ounce jar; $5 for an eight-ounce jar. Pickles cost $3 for an eight-ounce jar; $5 for a 16-ounce jar. Pound cakes are $5 for a one-pound loaf and $10 for a full, two-pound loaf. Honey costs $5 for eight ounces; $10 for 16 ounces.
If you go …
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays
Where: Brickyard Farmers Market, Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe Street