Everyone knows that the best parties always end up in the kitchen. Meet Will Rootham-Roberts, the owner of Rootham Gourmet Preserves, headquartered in Puslinch, Ontario.
ROOTHAM GOURMET PRESERVES
Tell us a little about how you became a preserve-maker.
My mother Marilyn started Rootham Gourmet back in 1984. She started by preserving the bounty from her garden and sold her preserves to neighbors and at local farmers’ markets. I tagged along and eventually took over the business.
What’s your favourite seasonal ingredient?
I love all kinds of fruits and vegetables but for me, asparagus and rhubarb taste like Spring! After a long winter, I’m ready to experience all the produce that we know will follow throughout the growing season.
What is something about the preserve-making process that people are often surprised to learn?
We sometimes spend more time working on machinery than we do sourcing ingredients. You’ve got to know a lot about electrical, plumbing, pneumatics, pipefitting, and hydraulics to keep things moving.
What is your favourite way to use preserves?
We use preserves in practically everything we eat – no surprise! My favourite has to be adding preserves to a charcuterie board. Products like our Tangy Red Pepper Jelly or Caramelized Onion Chutney really add a wow factor to prepared meats and cheeses.
What do you think is the most underrated ingredient grown or produced in Ontario?
Consumers have gotten used to buying imported garlic whether it’s whole, chopped, or minced. It’s convenient and relatively inexpensive. But that garlic can’t compare to locally-grown product. Garlic scapes are great, too. I suggest everyone take the time to find Ontario garlic. You won’t believe the difference.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a business owner?
Sourcing local ingredients and selling through local, independent retail has opened a whole world of relationships for us. We know our growers and we know the retailers who carry our product. We’ve made a lot of friends along the way and that’s been really rewarding.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I don’t spend much time in the kitchen when I’m not working! I really enjoy outdoor activities, so I usually find a way to get outside and enjoy nature.
What to you is the best part of working with Ontario food and drink?
Ontario is an amazing place – so much diversity, so many people creating locally sourced, delicious food. Our growers are the best and there’s not much we need to source from outside the province. We’re proud to be part of Ontario’s food and drink scene.
Why is Feast On important to you and your business?
There’s a lot of misinformation about food – where it’s made, where ingredients are sourced from. Feast On verifies that our products are genuinely local – made from local ingredients and sold through local retail. Consumers know they can trust the Feast On program and the food produced purveyors and restaurateurs in the program.
What does your ‘Perfect Weekend’ in Puslinch look like?
As I said, I prefer to be outdoors whenever I’m not in the shop. My perfect weekend in Puslinch usually includes a visit to the Aberfoyle Farmers Market in-season. It’s just down the road from our shop and I can always count on finding some food I’ve never tried before. And of course, it means I’m shopping local!