The “cottage-food” business: An alternative to chain groceries

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The “cottage-food” business: An alternative to chain groceries

The wood-fired oven Bruce Alton uses for his Long Beach home business, Casa La Dera.

The wood-fired oven Bruce Alton uses for his Long Beach home business, Casa La Dera.

Courtesy Bruce Alton

The wood-fired oven Bruce Alton uses for his Long Beach home business, Casa La Dera.

Courtesy Bruce Alton

Courtesy Bruce Alton

The wood-fired oven Bruce Alton uses for his Long Beach home business, Casa La Dera.

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Since January 2013, after the 2012 passing of the Cottage Food Bill, Long Beach has permitted the sale of food items deemed “low-risk” to be sold out of home kitchens. Below is a list of cottage food businesses have become fixtures of the Long Beach food scene, providing an alternative to processed-food brands and chain stores.

S & P Honey

Scott & Penrose Honey (S & P) was founded by, and named after, Long Beach couple Dave Scott and Padraig Penrose. S & P Honey provides honey, and at times honeycombs and creamed honey, provided by its tiniest employees, the bees in their backyard.

While Penrose helps with extracting, bottling and delivering S & P Honey’s products, it’s Scott who keeps constant watch over the colonies of bees, protecting them from mites, disease and colony collapse.

In return, the bees produce the pure, organic honey that S & P Honey sells, ranging from 12-ounce to 1-gallon containers.

“Harvesting honey involves removing the boxes from the bees by using a repellant that drives the bees out of the boxes. If harvesting regular honey, the process requires extracting the honey from the comb. A heated knife is used to cut the capping layer off the comb, exposing the honey inside. The frame of comb is put inside what’s called an extractor, where centrifugal force throws the honey out of the cell. It’s then drained from the extractor and strained through a stainless steel screen to remove wax, bee parts etc. And that’s it-– now ready to bottle.”

For limited times throughout the year, Scott also sells honeycomb by itself or suspended in glass jars of honey.

S & P’s creamed honey is made by controlling the sugar crystallization of unprocessed honey, the result is a smooth, creamy product that Scott recommends spreading on english muffins, toast, and his personal favorite, peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

Besides being an experienced auto mechanic, Scott also has decades of experience in beekeeping.

“I started beekeeping when I was about 13-14 years old,” Scott told the Signal Tribune. “A swarm of bees landed in a neighbor’s bush and I was totally fascinated by them. My father was a carpenter, so he took me to the local library where we took out a book on beekeeping and he built me my first hive. After moving to California, I resumed beekeeping in 2013.”

Visit S & P on their official Instagram, @s_p_honey

Casa La Dera

Locals can join Bruce Alton’s email list for the opportunity to try a different artisanal loaf of bread each week. Every week on Tuesday, the local home baker sends an email to his customers to announce what type of bread he’ll be making this week. They can then reply back with their orders, to be picked up at Alton’s house on Friday after 2pm.

This Friday, locals will start arriving at Alton’s home in anticipation of the dark mountain rye bread he announced he’d be making for his customer’s this week. This hearty bread weighs two pounds per loaf, at only $7 each.

“This bread is made of 100% course ground rye flour,” Alton said of this week’s bread in his email, “with sunflower, flax, and sesame seeds. This hearty loaf needs to rest at least one day before slicing and it is said to last weeks in your pantry.”

Ever since he first experienced German, Italian, and French breads when travelling through Europe in the 70s, Alton has been inspired to study artisanal- and old-world-style bread making.

“This experience sparked my appreciation of old-style or artisanal bread making. These bold flavors, open crumb, and crispy crust resulted in a lifelong mission to bake in the artisanal style,” Alton said. “For the next 30 years, I was a home baker, just baking enough for the family and friends, but after retirement from IBM, I decided one of my goals would be to become a neighborhood baker. Primarily of artisanal bread, but also fruit tarts, jams, and honey from our home hives. In California, with the creation of the Cottage Food Operator law in 2013, I became licensed to make and sell bakery items to the public.”

Alton buys bulk amounts of organic grain from the company Central Milling in Utah, which he then mills into flour before mixing into dough and baking.

“Continuing with the old world theme I built a wood-fired oven for baking 15 loaves at one time,” Alton told the Signal Tribune. “Recently I purchased a deck oven that has the benefit of greater control of the temperature and leads to more uniform results when baking 3-4 dozen loaves of bread. Depending on the bread I’m baking, I will use floured wicker baskets–– boule or battard–– or bread pans for the final rise.”

Those who wish to join Alton’s email list may message [email protected]

Spice Club

Spice Club mails a professionally blended mix of spices from the home kitchen of Long Beach chef Aliye Aydin to customers each month.

Aydin has been a fixture of Long Beach food culture for years, but her journey as a chef began as a 15 year old, shortly after being diagnosed with kidney disease.

After her diagnosis, her doctor told her she needed to reduce her sodium intake and she began reading the labels on packaged foods.

When she realized that many of the processed foods she was eating, such as canned soup and boxes of macaroni and cheese, were putting her over her daily sodium allotment, she began making the same meals from scratch and found she enjoyed it.

She quickly began taking food seriously, and a year after her diagnosis when she was 16, she started an internship at a hotel to prepare herself for employment in professional kitchens, and spent the next several years working in restaurants before attending culinary school in her late 20s.

Spice Club isn’t Aydin’s first Long Beach based food business, in her 30s, she started the produce-delivery service Beachgreens and still teaches a variety of cooking classes.

It was during one of her local cooking classes that she began to have the idea for Spice Club.

“When I started cooking myself, I was drawn to the use of spices in cooking,” Aydin told the Signal Tribune. “Honestly, I haven’t thought too deeply about any of this until about a year ago when I started Spice Club. In my cooking classes, I started to realize that people were attracted to how I tossed in spices here and there–– I thought ‘everyone’ knew how to do this–– so then I started offering blends, and it was popular.”

Aydin takes inspiration from her Turkish heritage, recipes she ate as a child and places she’s traveled when mixing seasoning blends for Spice Club subscribers.

Subscriptions are available in three, six and twelve month packages, with recipes for each spice blend included in each package.

In the past, seasoning blends mailed out have included garam masala, a complex mix of aromatic spices from India, and Aydin’s Morrocan Magic which includes cardamom, turmeric and all spice.

Visit Aydin’s official Instagram, @agoodcarrot

Gusto Bread

via @gustobread Instagram
Arturo Enciso

The last home food business on this list may not be one for much longer, as self-taught baker Arturo Enciso has received an outpouring of community support for his goal of creating a storefront bakery.

Gusto Bread has crowd funded about half of its money for a new bakery from the community through it’s website, and just this past week Chef Melissa Ortiz collaborated with Gusto Bread to host a fundraising dinner for a commercial space.

But for now, Enciso still creates a variety of organic baked goods every Sunday morning in his home kitchen before his customers start arriving. Patrons can pre-order their breads and pastries beforehand, or choose to arrive at Enciso’s home Sunday at 10am and be surprised.

Gusto Bread’s Sunday bakes can include galette pastries with multi-colored fruit centers, cookies, baguettes, flatbread, corn bread and loaves of bread with stenciled designs on top, among many others.

While Enciso is one of Long Beach’s most ambitious bakers, he had no interest in baking until he moved into a back house in downtown Long Beach in 2013, where he had access to the homeowner’s pizza oven. After baking his first loaves in the backyard oven, Enciso found he loved the process of baking.

“That’s what led me to start baking,” Enciso told the Signal Tribune, “just being curious about an oven, and I found that I really enjoyed it.”

Enciso makes a point of buying organic ingredients for Gusto Bread’s products.

“It’s always organic, I think that’s very important, especially when you hear about trends that have happened for bread–– like people thinking bread is bad for them, or gluten,” he said. “[For] me, it comes down to the quality of the grain, or the wheat, in the bread that you’re eating. Organic is huge. I think more people should really pay attention to that, and try to support it, because there’s all these pesticides that are used for wheat and corn. If you can support organic agriculture, I think that’s huge and will end up being better.”

For whole wheat and whole grain, Gusto Bread also prefers to buy from local millers in Pasadena, rather than buying anything shipped from faraway.

“We’re trying not to get super processed things because we want to make things wholesome and just real,” Enciso said, “like they were 100 years ago.”

Visit Gusto Bread on their official Instagram @gustobread

For those interested in starting their own cottage food business, visit the City of Long Beach’s website to learn about the requirements.