Sharing A Grandmother's Recipe With Ruth's Mustard
CHARLESTOWN, NEW HAMPSHIRE - Over the holidays and during a traditional, family “Yankee swap” exchange, I received a delicious present. Packaged in a cute and handy wooden box, was a three jar gift-pack of Ruth's Mustard. I had never seen Ruth's before, and was pleasantly surprised to hear from my brother that the gourmet mustard was local and in fact, produced by a company right down the road. "Score!" I thought... not only can I devour this delicious gift, (of course, I didn't swap it for another) but I can also write about Ruth's for my food column... so, here we are!
Article by Joe Milliken * Photos courtesy of Ruth's Mustard
Laurel Smith, along with her husband, Ed, and two sons, started creating gourmet mustard, inspired by her Grandmother's recipe that had been passed down through generations. “I grew up eating my Grandmother's wonderful mustard recipe, and just thought everyone did. She was always warm and welcoming, and she loved to feed others,” Laurel said in a recent interview.
“I realized that the mustard made wonderful gifts to our family and friends, and in time, people wanted it more than just at Christmas or as a gift. Then, one Easter, I took orders at work, just for the cost of product and jars. They ordered 61 jars and it took us a week, cooking every night after work, to fill the orders.”
While researching this little new-found venture, Laurel learned about a commercial kitchen that was based in Keene, New Hampshire, and she set up a time to make a full run of mustard. They made 250 jars that day, and within two months, they sold every jar. Once Ruth's Mustard was officially launched, it would become a family endeavor. “Yes, we have our family involved; our younger son promotes sales around the state and deliveries during his travels, and our older son up-cycles gift set crates, created from the pallets that our products arrive on.
“We originally planned to just have one flavor, an original hot and sweet mustard, until it was suggested to us that only one flavor of Ruth’s Mustard looks pretty lonely on a shelf, and that we might want to develop a couple more.
“We soon developed our 'Cranberry, Sweet Grillin’ Glaze' and 'Jalapeno Mustards' by making stove-top batches at home, loosely based on the original recipe, until we got a flavor and consistency we liked. We now offer nine flavors, including a seasonal 'Maple Mustard Marinade,' in which we use maple syrup from The 3 Generation Sugarhouse, owned by Mike Beam in Walpole, New Hampshire. Mike’s been a family friend for many years and we’re proud to use his product in our mustard.”
Laurel also says they owe a good deal of their growth and success to Matt DeGrosky and Charlie (Charcoal Charlie) Pini, who were running The Neighbormade Kitchen in Keene, by walking them through all the licensing requirements and showing the Smiths how to get their products lab tested and approved. “They taught us how to use the equipment and gave us very valuable suggestions along the way, such as adding more products to the brand,” Laurel said. “Without the two of them, we would have never come as far, and as fast, as we have.”
Unfortunately, The Neighbormade Kitchen stopped production in 2015, after having gone under new ownership, however, the equipment needed for production was purchased by another local company. “Gavin and Mary MacDonald were also making products out of Neighbormade, their Swinehearts Signature Sauces and Our Local Table relishes and spreads. The MacDonald's leased a building in Meredith, New Hampshire and turned it into a licensed, shared-use commercial kitchen, and we followed right along. "(During the transition) We actually only had a few-month period of 'down time' in production.”
Ruth's Mustard currently offers nine flavorful varieties created in small batches, using simple ingredients and no preservatives. All of Ruth's products are gluten-free, there is a "taste for every palate'" and they can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. “They’re much more than just a sandwich spread,” Laurel added. “Just mix equal parts of our Original Hot & Sweet or the Raspberry flavor with olive oil, and it makes a delicious salad dressing.
“We add any of our mustards to potato, egg, or macaroni salads, to add some different, unique flavor. We also mix the more savory ones, (Jalapeno, Cranberry, Horseradish, Garlic, Cracked Black Pepper) with soft cream cheese for a vegetable dip or cracker spread. We’ve used them as marinades or finishing sauces on all varieties of meats and fishes, and we often get messages from folks letting us know what they’ve used it on and how great it tasted.”
As Ruth's Mustard continues to grow and become available in more stores throughout New Hampshire and beyond, these delicious gourmet mustards are of course, always available through their website. So, we asked, what might be "in store" for Ruth's, moving forward?
“Our motto is 'More Stores, Less Shows,' though we’ll still be doing a few (shows) throughout the year. Last year, we did sixteen shows, which took us all over. It is fun, rewarding, and we always meet great people, whether it be individual customers or vendors.
“When the cold and dreary days of February and March start to take a toll on our spirits, we’ll probably work on developing our tenth flavor – a Dijon-style Ruth’s Mustard. And really, also please think of all the poor tomatoes that have lost their life to be ketchup. We think the plight should not go unnoticed, so... “Save a Tomato – Eat More Mustard!”
All fun aside, Laurel also stressed the important fact that anyone can become an independent producer, and that its' not as difficult an endeavor as one might think. “Everyone has a family recipe that’s probably been passed down for the generations. Maybe it is great-grandma’s marinara sauce - and everyone who tries it says it’s wonderful and wants a jar for themselves. They’d even be willing to pay for it!
“Whether it be getting a recipe onto the open market, or even just making a year’s supply in just one afternoon; a facility like the one we use, The Genuine Local commercial kitchen in Meredith, will cater to your needs and get you set up to do what you only dreamed was possible. Why spend hours making a couple-dozen jars of your favorite recipe, when you can make a couple hundred!
“Genuine Local can do nutrition information and make your own custom labels, right on site, order the packaging you will need, and you can pre-order ingredients through them and get the benefit of bulk ordering. Your cost is small and your profit is huge! I wish everyone would take advantage of it.”
Certainly good advice for those who love to work in the kitchen. We'd like to thank Laurel for sharing this great information about Ruth's and Genuine Local with us... and it sure looks like we have found the subject for our next SRO food column! To learn more about Ruth's Mustard and order their specialty food products, please visit http://ruthsmustard.com. You can also learn more about Genuine Local at www.genuinelocal.org. Editor's Note: We're hoping to talk with Genuine Local soon, so please stay tuned.