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Food Artisans: SchoolHouse Kitchen

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[Photograph: Stephanie Klose]

"The fruit drives and the herb rides shotgun!" reads a little bubble on the side of each jar of SchoolHouse Kitchen's Anytime Spreadable Fruit. Significantly lower in sugar than traditional jam (30-35%, rather than 50-60%) as well as a little looser in texture, each of the flavors is a perfectly balanced blend of juicy fruit flavors and sharper herbal notes.

While they're all delicious on toast or with a cheese plate, the spreadable fruits also work well in marinades or salad dressings, on sandwiches, or drizzled over pound cake. They suggest that customers try Rhubarb Raspberry Thyme with lamb chops or ice cream, Peach Rosemary with roast pork or yogurt, Strawberry Black Peppercorn with cheese or steak, and Cherry Blackberry Sage & Clove with roast goose or popovers.

"There's an adventurousness about them," says the company's president, Wendy Smith. "They're versatile."

Wendy's mother, Patsy Smith, launched the company in 2005 with a single product, SweetSmoothHot Mustard. As the company grew and offerings expanded to include salad dressings, chutneys and the fruit and herb spreads, she hired her daughter as president and her son, Christopher Smith, as design director.

SchoolHouse Kitchen combines "my mother's two passions: food and education," Wendy explains. After Patsy started the company, "she thought she'd sell to Paul Newman and be able to decide which charity would get the money. It's cute, really," Wendy says, "but that's not how it went." Still feeling strongly about wanting to use her business to support charities that were meaningful to her, Patsy partnered with organizations like City Harvest and Homeless Solutions to give financial and in-kind donations directly.

The company's current philanthropic partner, the Farm-Based Education Association, is what Wendy describes as "an umbrella organization" bringing together groups like The FARM Institute and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture for outreach and programs that educate children and adults about food systems and eating properly. SchoolHouse Kitchen chose the organization because they "help teach life skills" and support "rural, urban, and suburban" farm ventures.

"Like any smaller company, we look forward to being able to do more as we grow," Wendy adds.

To that end, they will be introducing two new salad dressings this year, Poppy Seed, which Wendy says bears a strong resemblance to the one she remembers Patsy making when she was growing up, and Citrus and Coconut, which includes both coconut milk and pulp. In addition, they're working on four new spreadable fruit combinations, these without herbs.

SchoolHouse Kitchen will be at the New Amsterdam Market every other week this summer. For other vendors, recipes or to read more about the company's charity work, visit SchoolHouseKitchen.com.

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