Made in the South Awards
2010 Food Category
From modern rocking chairs to strawberry jam, the winners of our first contest for craftsmen exemplify the South’s entrepreneurial spirit and a tradition of goods made right
Photo: Brian Woodcock
Food Category Winner
Rooibee Red Tea
Product Organic bottled tea
Made in Louisville, KY
Jeff Stum had worked in the Louisville spirits industry for six years when he changed direction. “I’d decided I wanted to make my own brand,” the former Brown-Forman executive says. And he wanted that brand to be a variety of teas spiked with alcohol.
That was in 2006, and after a year of experimentation, Stum felt he’d hit a wall. Ironically, he discovered that if he left the alcohol out of the tea, the stuff tasted great. “So I decided to create a brand around bottled organic teas,” he says, “and I got right down to work.”
The first bottles of Rooibee Red Tea rolled out in November 2009, after Stum partnered with a packager in his own backyard who could be cleared for stringent organic bottling certifications. Seven flavors and multiple Southeastern distributors later, the stuff is developing a devoted fan base.
“But it’s not like we’re completely out of the woods yet,” says Heather Howell, Stum’s newly appointed CEO. “Every weekend, we visit farmers’ markets with our product, to let people try it out.” That grassroots campaign only adds to the homegrown charm in every bottle.
$18 for a twelve-pack rooibeeredtea.com
Product old-fashioned pies
Made in Decatur, GA
Every pie baked by Mims Bledsoe at the Pie Shop arrives in a peach-colored box tied with a white bow and calls to mind old-fashioned diner offerings, right down to the hand-decorated crusts. “I opened the Pie Shop because I wanted to work with my hands; I wanted to do something basic and craft-based,” Bledsoe says. “I most enjoy making things that seem new or novel but are really old recipes that have been forgotten.” That includes reviving nostalgic Southern pies such as Appalachian chestnut, butterscotch, sweet potato, and white Christmas. Bledsoe assembles the hearty confections from fresh, seasonal ingredients, which keep the made-from-scratch flavor authentic. We’d gladly eat any of her pies—but when summer comes back around, try the blackberry.
Product herbal Jam
Made in Cameron, SC
Trust us, when you open a jar of Sallie Dent Porth’s fresh-from-a-South-Carolina-field Strawberry Basil Jam, you’ll want to slather it all over everything from Camembert and crackers to hot biscuits at breakfast. Porth grew up in one of the South’s oldest farming communities and returned to her roots a few years ago after a fast-track corporate career. “My mother-in-law taught me how to can, and I got addicted to it,” she says. “And when you live in the country, you can’t just run to a gourmet grocery for herbs, so I planted an herb garden and started experimenting with flavors.” So far, every single jam she’s come up with is just as delicious as the one that started it all. We especially like Porth’s latest concoction: Fig, Sweet Onion, and Rosemary.
$6 – $11 salliesgreatest.com
Product organic spirits
Made in Purcellville, VA
After years of plotting his escape from life as a software engineer, Scott Harris finally made his dream of distilling handmade spirits in the country happen. Almost two years later, business is booming at he and his wife Becky’s distillery in the Blue Ridge Mountains, now producing organic gin, rye, and a white whiskey called Mosby’s Spirit (named for rogue Confederate colonel John S. Mosby). The distillery sits on the north fork of Catoctin Creek, the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since Prohibition. Try the gin with tonic and cucumber, the rye neat, and Mosby’s Spirit with sweet tea.
$35 – $42 catoctincreekdistilling.com