Matriark Foods – Anna Hammond Interview

2020-10-01 Anna photographed by Kay Hickman

Matriark Foods: Woman Owned, Upcycled, Vegetable Broth Company

About four months ago I was involved in a case study about Matriark Foods with Drexel University and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. It was there that I met Anna Hammond via Zoom and learned about her business, Matriark Foods.  They have been working towards scaling access to healthy food for the benefit of people and the environment for almost three years. Their primary product is an upcycled vegetable broth concentrate that is dense in flavor, low in sodium, and made from vegetable remnants. By working with farmers and food service providers, their broth makes use of the 40% of the vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. 

Q:  So how did you become aware and interested in food waste?

A: I built a healthy eating program for youths and families living in public housing in New York City, in all five boroughs and an educational program at a farm Upstate…I was working with youths and families who had an enormous desire to eat healthy food, but had no access because of food deserts… the beginning of Matriark was developing a business that could utilize large scale amounts of surplus which then became also additionally, upstream waste streams into healthy, affordable products. Affordable is key for lots of people.

Q: What are obstacles that come with working with food waste? And what obstacles have you faced specifically?

A: What obstacles have we not? Supply chain, paperwork, sourcing, getting things from one place to another intact storage against production, failures of the production facility, getting product to market distribution. And literally every challenge that there is practically in creating a product or getting something to market, including the volatility of the product itself… we’ve met those challenges and scaled those walls. I think that why we’ve been able to be successful is that there is a zeitgeist right now around the urgency to do something about the environment. And food waste is one of the most kind of accessible, or seemingly accessible, ways to do that.

Q: What are your goals for Matriark in the future? And what do you think you can accomplish? 

A:  Our vision is to become a multi-channel business that really works on these three, in these three ways. To upcycle as much vegetable waste as we can, and create a variety of types of affordable, healthy food to large numbers of people. 

Q: What do you think an individual person or consumer could do to actually create an impact in their own food waste?

A: Well, one of the largest contributors to food waste is home waste. So being much more careful about planning your meals ahead, to reduce food waste, but also to think about what you’re buying….people need to understand that the littlest action that they take cumulatively will have a very big effect, you know, either through the cumulative effect of the action, or because their action inspires someone else, also to act. On that note, I say, everyone should vote.

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Cranberry Apple Sauce

Cranberry sauce from the can has always been an obligatory purchase on my family’s Thanksgiving table. My odd uncle would be the only one out of dozens of guests to dig his knife in it, because quite frankly, it is gross. Because of this, I was made to believe that I did not like cranberries. The jiggling cylinder of overly sweet mixture cranberry juice and high fructose corn syrup is always thrown away at the end of the night, yet reappears each year without fail. 

My opinion of cranberry sauce changed the day I decided to make my own. Finally, the cranberry sauce was a star on the table, and none of it ended up in the trash. My recipe is non-traditional in that it contains more than just cranberries and sugar. I decided to cut the tartness of the cranberries by adding apples and honey. I then toss in some warming spices, orange zest, and ginger for good measure. My mom visited a cranberry bog last year, and we are still using the stash of cranberries she brought back from Pine Barren Native Fruits

Curious if I was alone in my feelings toward cranberry sauce, I sent out a google survey, and received 71 of responses regarding other’s opinions on cranberry sauce. My survey asked the respondents if they like canned, homemade, both, or neither. It then asked for reasoning towards their choice. 

From my survey, the highest percentage of people liked homemade cranberry sauce. Seven percent of all who responded (5 out of 71 people) preferred canned. I received comments such as “I love fresh, homemade cranberry sauce with orange in it. We also buy a can of cranberry sauce, and it goes to waste!” and “I don’t care for the sweet gelatinous canned stuff from my childhood in the 1970s, when there was no other option served.  The variations for homemade cranberry sauce can be interesting too.” What I found most interesting, was those that chose that they like both the canned and homemade sauce, further stated, “Homemade is what I really like, but grew up with the canned stuff so it’s “traditional” and “Nostalgia for the canned and fresh for creativity and flavor”. 71.2% (52 out of 71 people) responded they like homemade, or both homemade and canned cranberry sauce. But, many of the people who responded they like both homemade and canned addressed their reasoning for liking both is the nostalgic feeling canned sauce brings. With these responses, I am concluding that the majority of people prefer homemade, but agree that the canned cranberry sauce is ‘nostalgic’, so they feel like they need it on the table too. Let’s start making homemade cranberry sauce ‘nostalgic’!

Cranberry sauce that I made and will freeze until my Thanksgiving dinner next week. 

Cranberry Apple Sauce

  • Servings: 6 cups
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Ingredients

  • 24 ounces cranberries
  • 5-6 apples, diced
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 inch chunk of ginger, grated
  • 1/4-1/2 cup honey (depending on preferred sweetness/tartness level)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a pot.
  2. Cook over medium to medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes until the cranberries and apples are broken down.

Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole

My favorite technique for cooking sweet potatoes is slow roasting. My recipe for this you can find here. Once you cook the sweet potatoes, you can utilize the following recipe for my sweet potato casserole.

Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • flesh of 8 sweet potatos
  • 1 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)

Directions

  1. Add the sweet potato flesh, spices, and milk to a blender and blend until very creamy
  2. Spread the creamy sweet potatoes in a casserole dish.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Top the creamy sweet potatoes with maple nuts (see recipe in other blog post) and bake the casserole for 30 minutes until hot.

Philadelphia Clark Park Farmers Market and Slow Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Late Saturday morning, I hopped on my bike and made my way to Clark Park Farmers Market with friends to buy our weekly vegetables and fruits from the farmers and artisanal food suppliers. This wonderful aspect of the West Philadelphia community was started in 1998 and operates year-round. Unlike most farmers markets in Philadelphia that close in November for the season, Clark Park Farmers Market always seems to be open and ready to serve its community jam, cheese, vegetables, fruits, flowers, wine, bread, and more. It has built a trust and community within itself that can be seen any time you visit on Saturday. 

Before we entered the market itself we navigated our way through a crowd. Philadelphia was alive with excitement after the projection of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes resulted in a definitive victory for Joe Biden. Outside of the entrance to Clark Park farmers market, there was a dance party and cacophony of honking cars shouting for joy. Children were running around and banging pots and pans with wooden spoons like it was the New Year. The people of West Philadelphia were dancing, laughing, and feeling a weight lift from their shoulders due to the defeat of Donald Trump for President.  I felt proud to be a part of the Philadelphian community at this moment. 

As I looked around I spotted faces I knew (under masks) from the climbing gym I am a member of and the bakery called Lost Bread, that I interned at. I always seem to run into people I know at Clark Park. We entered the market and I made my way directly to the sweet potatoes. The wonderful multi-colored fingerling sweet potatoes at Livengood Family Farm’s  stand are delicate and delicious. Cooking sweet potatoes at a low heat, and for a long time, creates a caramelized, unparalleled sweetness in the flesh and skin. Preparing them in this way will insure you never want to throw away your potato skins again and save you time in the kitchen. The different colored sweet potatoes have different tastes/textures too, so make sure to get a deep purple, white, and bright orange colored ones to try. (see recipe for slow roasted sweet potatoes below)

For Thanksgiving this year, my plan is to have such an array of sweet potatoes in addition to a pasture raised turkey from Livengood Family Farm at Clark Park Farmers market. Sourcing food from farmers you know means you can have more control in how the meat you are buying is treated and raised. Buying from local businesses, especially during this pandemic, supports your own neighbors and community’s economy.  I am excited for the turkey, and the turkey broth that I will make after the turkey is carved! 

After picking up a bundle of sweet potatoes, I stopped at Hand of the Earth Orchard next which has beautiful apples, including my favorite variety called Jonagold. Jonagold is a cross between the crisp Golden Delicious and the blush-crimson Jonathan. But, at Hand of the Earth Orchard, I ask for their seconds. The seconds are apples that have a bruise or blemish which makes them unsellable to the farmer at a normal price. The seconds are usually half-price and perfect for making applesauce, or eating if you find ones with small, almost unnoticeable differences. 

After, I made my way to other farm stands selling butternut squash, spaghetti squash, kabocha squash, cabbages, and brussels  sprouts on the stalk. The brussels sprouts on the stalk are fun to snip off and roast or roast on the stalk! The leaves are also delicious on the top and taste similar to collards. My friends and I got a good laugh from trying to find the best way to carry our Brussels sprouts for the remainder of our trip (see below). 

Another great vendor at Clark Park Market is Ploughman Cider, which sells wonderful hard ciders. They are located in Aspers, Pa., and attend the market on the second Saturday of the month only. Although they weren’t at the most recent market, their ciders are delicious and worth a trip for when they are there. 

Other great fall products that we picked up were baked goods and apple cider. I love to heat up my cider with whole cinnamon sticks, cloves, and allspice. Most farms use their second quality apples to make their cider, which takes a product that could easily be wasted to create a delicious drink. 

When you get the chance, research farmers markets near you and support the farmers and artisans that surround your neighborhood. If you are in Philadelphia, Clark Park Market is one of my favorite markets around! 

Slow-roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • Servings: 4 potatoes
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Ingredients

  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a pan with foil, or parchment paper.
  2. Rinse the sweet potatoes under cool water to remove any dirt.
  3. Coat the sweet potatoes in oil, just enough to cover the outside lightly.
  4. Coat the sweet potatoes in salt.
  5. Place the sweet potatoes on the pan and bake for about 3 hours until caramelized and extremely soft.

Sauerkraut Step by Step

Do you ever buy a head of cabbage to make a specific dish and end up using less than half of the head? Instead of throwing out the remainder of the cabbage, you can easily make sauerkraut! All you need is cabbage, salt, and a jar with a lid.

My interest in fermented cabbage started through the dishes of my grandma’s Slovakian and Germanic-rooted cooking. During my recent conversation with her, she reminded me of the stuffed cabbage filled with meat, and covered in a tomato sauerkraut sauce that I devoured as a child. Bratwurst and pierogies with sauerkraut were dishes that are anchored in childhood. As my grandmother explained to me how her grandmother also made sauerkraut for her when she was growing up, I recalled how regularly I had eaten this tangy, crunchy ferment. It was the cheapest, most logical option for their family. I am excited to bring back happy memories through fermenting my own sauerkraut like my grandma used to do for me. 

Recently, fermentation has grown in popularity due to the health benefits it provides. Making your own fermented products means you can have a constant supply to fulfill all your sour needs. Fermented products provide great health benefits such as prebiotics and bioactive compounds due to the activity of enzymes and microorganisms. But that isn’t the only reason to ferment food. Highly perishable foods, such as fruit and vegetables can utilize fermentation as a technique to extend shelf-life. Because of the salty environment that sauerkraut is in, it can last about 4-6 months in a fridge. Let’s get started on making our own!

Grab the biggest bowl you own and get ready. 

Flip your cabbage over and cut out the core. Take off a few of the outer leaves. Save the core and the outer leaves- they will be important later. 

Cut the cabbage in half.

Chop the cabbage as thin as possible. The sharper your knife, the easier it will be to do this. 

Once all the cabbage is chopped, add it all to a bowl and sprinkle the salt on top. For every pound of cabbage, you should use 1.5-2 teaspoons of salt.  Make sure the salt you are using is not iodized. Iodized salt can inhibit yeasts and bacteria in fermentation. Sea salt is my favorite to use for all fermentation and pickling projects. 

Start massaging the cabbage! You are trying to break down the cell walls of the cabbage. Once you can squeeze water out of the cabbage similar to the picture shown above, your cabbage is ready for canning. Note that the cabbage will reduce to about ⅓ of the volume you start with from massaging. 

Press the cabbage into a clean glass jar with a sealable lid. Allow liquid to cover the cabbage. Take one of the outer leaves you saved and fold it to fit in the jar (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Press the cabbage leaf down so the salty liquid covers everything. Seal the jar with the lid and allow the sauerkraut to ferment for about 1-2 weeks. 

My jar-method sauerkraut, ready to ferment! Unscrew the lid of the sauerkraut daily to release any pressure build up from the gas produced during fermentation. After a week, taste the sauerkraut, and keep fermenting until you have reached your desired taste. 

Sauerkraut

  • Servings: 2-3 quart jars
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Ingredients

  • 1/2-1 head of cabbage
  • sea salt
  • *for every pound of cabbage, use 1.5-2 teaspoons of salt*

Directions

  1. Cut core out of the cabbage and strip the outer leaves off of the cabbage. Save both for later.
  2. Cut all the remaining cabbage as thin as possible and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add the salt to the cabbage and massage the cabbage for 10-15 minutes until you are able to squeeze water easily from the cabbage, and liquid has pooled at the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Pack the cabbage in clean jars as tight has possible, leaving 2 inches of space between the cabbage and the top of the jar.
  5. Add any extra liquid to the jar.
  6. Take the extra outer leaves of the cabbage or core and use as a weight to hold the sauerkraut down, so it doesn’t float in the jar. If using the leaves, fold them into a square about the size of the opening of the jar and press down as tightly as possible, liquid will cover it.

Here are two of the finished sauerkraut flavors I made. On the left is a beet, ginger, apple, red, and green cabbage sauerkraut mixture. On the right is a simple green cabbage sauerkraut.

Things you can do with sauerkraut include: eating it as a side with a meal, pairing it with eggs, adding it to soup, blending it into a salad dressing, and adding to sandwiches, burgers, or wraps. There are many more possibilities than this, so explore what your kraut can do!

Pickled Ginger

Pickled ginger lasts for up to a year in the fridge, so you can make a large batch to eat with rice, sushi, or anything else you want. I use it in my homemade peanut sauce as a secret ingredient.

Pickled Ginger

  • Servings: 3-4 cups ginger
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Ingredients

  • 12 ounces ginger (about 2 large heads)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions

  1. Peel the ginger with the back of the spoon.
  2. Cut the ginger extremely thin with a sharp knife or a mandolin
  3. Place the ginger in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let sit for 10 minutes
  4. Bring a pot of water for a boil and add the ginger. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Strain the ginger, reserving the cooking liquid to drink(it is ginger tea!)
  6. In a large jar or container, add the. vinegars, water, and sugar. Mix until sugar is dissolved, and add the ginger.
  7. Allow the mixture to sit for 2 hours before eating. The pickled ginger will last for up to a year in the fridge.
  8. Note: you can adjust the vinegar and sugar ratio to your liking. I prefer mine less sweet.


Vegetable Scrap Broth

Save those scraps! Even if you are composting, finding a second use for your vegetable scraps is a great way to get the most out of all the food you buy.

Any vegetable scraps can be used for this broth except for large amounts of cruciferous vegetables scraps because they may impart a bitter flavors. I tend to use a majority of onion, carrot, celery, leeks, and kale scraps in my broths. Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage are great additions as well. Now that I have so much stock from my vegetables scraps, I have been making amazing soups during these colder months.

When I buy a chicken, I try to fabricate the bird and save the carcass in the freezer until I have enough vegetables for a big pot of stock as well. Then, I will add all the scraps and carcass to the pot and make a chicken scrap broth!

This scrap broth is not an exact recipe, but one that can be easily bent to your preference and ingredients on hand. I fill a pot with about 4-6 quarts of water when I can fill a gallon size bag with vegetable scraps.

Bring the broth to a simmer, then reduce to the lowest setting and cook overnight on low, or for about 5-8 hours.

Strain out the scraps and store the broth in the fridge or freezer for future use in soups, sauces, or anywhere you would usually add water to give your dishes a new depth of flavor.

Vegetable Scrap Broth

  • Servings: 4 quarts
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Ingredients

  • 4-6 quarts of water
  • gallon size bag of vegetable scraps
  • chicken carcass (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook for 5-8 hours.
  3. Strain the scraps from the broth.
  4. Store in the fridge or freezer.

Apple Sauce and Apple Vinegar

I have a box of ‘second’ apples that I bought for $10 at a farmers market. Since I have all these apples, I am going to show you how to use them all up! The three ways I plan to use these apples is for apple sauce, apple cider vinegar, and spiced apple shrub.

Apples chopped for apple sauce before cooking

Apple Sauce

Ingredients

  • 15 pounds apples
  • 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water

Directions

  1. Peel, core, and chop the apples into large chunks, reserving the cores and peels for scrap vinegar.
  2. Add the apples to a large pot with the water, cinnamon and salt. Cook over medium, or medium low heat for 2-3 hours until the the consistency is to your liking.
  3. Allow to cool and store in the fridge or freezer.

Apple scraps before sugar water is added to the jar
One week into fermentation
Apple cider vinegar after straining the apple scraps from the liquid

Apple Scrap Vinegar

  • Servings: 1-2 quarts
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Ingredients

  • apple scraps (cores and skins)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions

  1. Put the apple scraps in a large glass jar.
  2. Make a mixture of 4 cups of water and 1/4 cup of sugar. Dissolve the sugar, and add the sugar mixture to the space between the apple scraps in the jar.
  3. Make more sugar water if the apple scraps are not fully covered.
  4. Weigh down the apples so they are not exposed over the liquid with a fermentation glass weigh or a small glass jar.
  5. Cover the jar with a towel or fabric and allow to ferment for 1-2 weeks until bubbles stop forming.
  6. Once the bubbles stop forming, strain the apple scraps (they are compostable).
  7. Return the apple/sugar liquid to the jar and cover with a cloth or fabric.
  8. Allow the liquid to ferment for 4-8 weeks until sour to your liking.

Garlic Confit and Garlic Oil

Garlic confit. Spread it over everything and thank me later.

Confit is a method of cooking slowly over a long period of time time, usually in fat. This long, slow cooking results in garlic that is creamy, sweet, and spreadable, as well as a garlic infused oil that is begging to be used in all your next cooking endeavors.

Garlic Confit

  • Servings: 8 oz oil/8 oz garlic spread
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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups garlic cloves, whole
  • 1 cup oil

Directions

  1. Add the garlic and oil to a pot.
  2. Cook over low heat for 2-3 hours.
  3. Separate the oil and garlic into two different containers.
  4. Mash the garlic until it is uniform and spreadable

About Me

My goal is that within this blog you’ll find inspiration to reduce your food waste in fun, accessible, and easy ways. When I was seven years old, I was introduced to utilizing food waste when I started helping make wine with my dad and his friends.  Although, at first, I only attended these long days of laborious tasks because I would get a cream filled donut and a cup of decaffeinated coffee, I grew to love them. I was able to see the progression of our endeavor, from the grape to the bottle, and enjoyed the community of friends that we formed. Once the wine was bottled, the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems (also called the pomace) were leftover. My dad would take the pomace and make grappa, a clear grape-based brandy. Grappa is an exemplary zero waste product.  While I didnt know it  then, this concept of lowering food waste would follow me throughout my life.

A few years after I corked my last wine bottle, you’d find me in high school working at Cherry Grove Farm, a small raw milk cheese, meat, and egg farm in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.   I worked countless hours per week, got stepped on by pigs, and peed on by cows. Despite this gruesome work, I loved it. At Cherry Grove Farm, my appreciation and view of food changed even more dramatically. The hard work that we poured into the food we ate made every bite more delicious. My attentiveness to food waste grew from my work there. We used rotational grazing to feed our herds of cows and heifers. The vast amounts of whey produced from cheese making was fed to the pigs. Goats were used to browse the overgrown areas. I slowly realized how little was wasted day to day.  Even the cracked eggs were fed to barn cats instead of tossing them in the trash. 

My inspiration for sustainability and food waste has grown since I last milked a cow. I’ve continued my education in Culinary Arts & Food Science, with a focus in Food Science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. And I’ve gotten involved in other companies and organizations that hold the same values as me. About 30-40% of the food supply in the U.S. goes to waste which makes every little step we can take to reduce our individual waste have the potential to make an impact on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. It is exhilarating to discover delicious uses for things people usually throw away. For instance, banana peels are edible, cauliflower greens are delicious, and carrot tops make a wonderful pesto. Education and inspiration is all most people need to highly utilize the food they buy. With Cook Clever, Waste Never I hope you find your own motivation to generate change, and make some new, delicious food along the way.