STYLE

More artisanal goods created at home by those with passion for quality, flavour

08/15/2013 10:00 EDT | Updated 10/15/2013 05:12 EDT
VICTORIA - When foodie and cocktail enthusiast Janice Mansfield began exploring the world of pre-Prohibition cocktails she couldn't find the perfect ingredients on grocery store shelves. So instead of sourcing them from other producers she decided to make them herself.

"I started to get into cocktails about five or six years ago because I was getting tired of drinking slushy sweet cocktails, and that's how I got started on the bitters front," said Mansfield.

"There wasn't anything available here at the time except for Angostura Bitters and I was participating in online cocktail hacking sites," where enthusiasts dissect and analyse classic cocktails.

Since leaving her job in government four years ago, the Victoria-based Mansfield has turned her passion for making artisan products at home into a full-time job, selling her products and tailoring items to the requests of various bars and restaurants. In addition to making custom bitters, she makes cocktail syrups and does gluten-free baking.

"Along the way we've always cooked and prepared our own food which was why cooking was an interest for me," she said. "I always found it a bit perplexing to be working with people who were dumping money into a kitchen they were never going to cook in."

Mansfield, who has long incorporated homemade products into her personal life and career, which has included working in catering and as a personal chef, believes there are three groups of people who pursue making artisan food and drinks at home.

According to Mansfield one group includes those who makes them just to say they can but in the long term will likely source a product with a quality they enjoy.

"The other group is doing it out of cost," she said. "Most of these artisanal products like bread and jam are cost effective to make, but still I run across a lot of people who say they don't have time to bake."

Mansfield herself is part of the final group, which she calls food and cocktail geeks.

"The fact that people do it at home has a positive effect on the marketplace because it helps educate people's palates and helps bring an awareness of that level of quality," she said.

Cory Pelan, chef and owner of Victoria's The Whole Beast, began making preserved, cured and fermented meats such as sausages and prosciutto because the quality of the products he was seeing at the grocer didn't meet his standards.

Pelan said the do-it-yourself movement that has arisen around food is because of a demand for healthy, good, clean and fair products.

"Grocery stores are selling manufactured, highly processed meats, and it's really hard to find stuff and it's hard to find people who know what they are selling you as well," he said. "People are forced to do it themselves and end up finding it really enjoyable."

As people become more interested in making a quality product at home, Pelan has had more people come into The Whole Beast asking for tips and advice on how to preserve, cure and ferment their own meats at home.

In addition to suggesting books Pelan found helpful when he began making his products, he is also happy to give as much of his own time as he can.

"I love talking about it and I will go on for hours if I have time," he said.

"If someone expresses interest it is exciting for me because I love talking about it so I can geek out on meat preservation as long as I have a few minutes."

MORE:cpStyle