As part of my previously documented attempt to kick myself out of my winter cooking rut, I wound up signing up for the Hatchery Tasting Box, a monthly subscription in which you receive a mystery box with half a dozen sample size ingredients. (Astute readers will note that I also did a tasting box from Relay Foods in February.)
These items are from small producers across the country, which gives you a chance to try things from people you’ve never encountered before. Everything was very well packed with recyclable materials, and the shipment includes a nice fold-out with information about the products and suggested recipes, which you can find (eventually) on Hatchery’s website.
Before I signed up, I searched around online quite a bit trying to find reviews. I did find a couple of blogs where folks unboxed a shipment, speculating about what they might do with the various items. But I didn’t find anything where someone discussed what they actually tried to do, and how it went. (I also learned that there is an entire internet subculture of people who sign up for every possible subscription box and just report on what they receive.)
Before I jump into what I got in my February box, and what I did with it, I want to talk about the variety of reactions I had to this box. Naturally, when it first arrived I was excited! This was tempered a bit when I saw two pumpkin based items in my box – I’m not big on pumpkin flavor. As I started to try and figure out what to do with this stuff, I got frustrated. The samples are small – 1 to 1.5 ounces – and the recipes provided don’t necessarily account for that. I’m not afraid of scaling a recipe down, but some of the suggested recipes were not going to scale down easily. I did find that the producer’s websites tended to have good ideas. While some were more like ideas than recipes, they were enough for a confident home cook to proceed.
So, here’s what I got in my February box, and what I did with it:
- 1.5oz of Chai Heart Pumpkin Jam from The Jam Stand
- 1.5oz of Curry Pumpkin Pesto from HerbNZest
- 1oz of Basil Specialty Olive Oil from O & Co
- About two tablespoons of Five Pepper Blend from Mrs. Belem Trading Co.
- 1oz of Mild Jerk Sauce from Baron’s International Kitchen
- About a heaping tablespoon of Organic Pink Fijian Ginger from Wakaya Perfection
The pumpkin jam and olive oil were easy. I make a lot of jams and fruit butters myself, and use them in my oatmeal or yogurt. So, I put the jam in my yogurt. It was a nice quality spread with a good strong flavor, with a very similar flavor profile to pumpkin pie. Unfortunately for me, I’m not a big fan of that flavor profile so this didn’t do much for me.
The olive oil came to a dinner party with me, was served with some saltless Tuscan bread, and was enjoyed by all. This came in three small packets, and the third is still hanging out in my pantry for an appropriate moment. Good stuff but if I am going to make basil oil, I’ll make a small amount myself as it’s so easy. And while I do appreciate a high quality olive oil (particularly in the summer), I’m more likely to go over to a grocer in Little Italy or get something from a stand at the farmer’s market if I’m going to splash out.
I wanted to try making the suggested recipes with the curry pumpkin sauce and the jerk sauce. However, one wasn’t going to easily scale down for the sample size, and they were both going to leave me with lots of random amounts of leftover ingredients. As I currently had a fridge full of random amounts of leftover ingredients, this outcome was not appealing.
For the curry pumpkin sauce, after asking for suggestions on Twitter, I wound up chopping and roasting a carrot, a small onion, a handful of green beans and a cup or so of broccoli florets (tossed in olive oil, salt & pepper first). I added some leftover chicken, tossed it all with the sauce, and served it over wild rice for lunch. This was so delicious! There was just enough sauce on the veggies and chicken that it added a nice touch, but they weren’t overwhelmed. I would get this again, particularly towards the end of my farmshare’s season when it’s root veggie time.
On the website for the folks who make the jerk sauce, I found a simple vegetable saute using just about the amount of jerk sauce from my sample. So, we julienned a red and a yellow bell pepper, and prepped some green beans. I heated some garlic and olive oil in my biggest frying pan, tossed in the veggies and let them cook for a couple of minutes before adding the jerk sauce and letting them go a bit more. This was delicious on the peppers but we were not as sure of it on the green beans – my theory is that it couldn’t cling to them as well. I liked this but I’m not sure I’d order this exact product – I figure there must be a pretty good jerk sauce I can buy locally.
On the same night we made the veggies with jerk sauce, we used the five pepper and salt blend on chicken. I don’t often work with seasoning blends, so I looked on their website for ideas and found a suggestion for baked chicken. So, I used the package to as a seasoning rub on two chicken thighs, patting it on under the skin. The chicken turned out pretty well, but if I had it to do over I’d cut back how much of this I used, as the salt was overwhelming. In retrospect, I don’t think this is actually a good application of this product – it’s basically screaming to be used as a brine. Other than that, you might also toss it in a salad with some fresh veggies in the summer.
Lastly, the ground ginger. It was so deliciously spicy and pungent that it seemed a shame to use it as I would my normal ground ginger. The tin this came in suggested making tea with it, and I also found a recipe for roasted pecans on their website. I used that recipe as a jumping off point and roasted 1 cup each of pecans and almonds, tossed with 1 tsp of the ginger, 1/4 tsp salt and a scant tsp of vegetable oil. I had intended to include the sugar but forgot. This was good but a little salty. I do have enough ginger left over to try this at least once more, which you can be sure I will.
Overall this was interesting and served the purpose of getting me out of my cooking rut. It actually pushed me even further than I might have thought – I rarely use pre-made sauces, and so this was a bit of a a revelation to me. I know, a big DUH from the rest of you, but I really don’t keep sauces on hand. This discovery will go a long way during farm share season, when I often make “sauteed random veggies over couscous/quinoa/rice” for lunch.
I would recommend this for adventurous cooks, but if you need or prefer to follow a recipe, I don’t think this is for you. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay signed up – I enjoyed this, but I was able to do more with the full-size products from the Relay box, which I can more easily order at whim (though you do get a discount for subscribing to that through their Refill program). That said it was fun, and once I figured out what to do with most of these items I started to look forward to the next box, which should arrive any day now.