Small batch, artisanal, gourmet products have become a huge market segment and a popular purchase at local farmers markets and grocery stores. The opportunity to support local vendors, while consuming fresh, natural, tasty ingredients is a winning combination. Options can be overwhelming, which is why I am simplifying it for you – Scratch products are bar none.
Stephen Etzine, a South African native, is the mastermind behind the Scratch line of artisanal jams, spreads and relishes. As the name suggests, each batch of product is made from scratch, using locally sourced ingredients with meticulous attention to detail. Steve is a radical culinarian, in a good way – his passion for quality and authentic food has become a borderline obsession, which delivers an unbelievable finished product.
The scratch product line changes based on seasonal availability on products; however, when I sampled the products I tried the mango chutney, cilantro chutney, Italian caponata, and olive tapenade (prices below).
Chutney is a staple on most South African tables, usually made from fruits or vegetables and then seasoned with spices and sugar. Scratch’s chutney is made from mangos, a house blend a curry spices, and a few other subtle aromatics. The result is a wonderfully tangy and delicately sweet condiment perfect for meat dishes, or as a spread with warm bread and cheese. Not only is the taste magnificent, but consumer are able to identify the ingredients used in the chutney. The finely cubed mangos still preserve their shape, and provide a mild crunch. The dark gold specs of the curry powder shine in the rich, thick chutney. With most store-bought chutneys, all the ingredients have been pulverized to oblivion, and without reading the nutrition label you have no idea what you are eating.
The cilantro chutney has the consistency of almost a relish, similar to the mint/cilantro sauce found in a lot of Indian restaurants. This relish isn’t quite as “soupy” as its counterparts found in restaurants, and also has a much more refreshing taste. Cilantro leaves are pureed with coconut, ginger, sugar, chilies, garlic, and fresh lime juice. The chutney bursts with flavor, from the fresh earthy taste of the cilantro to the spiciness of the ginger and chilies. The sugar and coconut balances out some of the other bold flavors. Don’t be mistaken though, this chutney has the perfect amount of spiciness for any palette.
The applications for this chutney are endless. The flavor profile lends itself to various cuisines, such as Mexican, Indian, and even American barbeque. When I sampled the cilantro chutney, I used it on a grilled curry spice bone-in chicken breast, in which the spicy curry crust of the chicken was perfectly cooled with the chutney. I also used it with scrambled eggs and even on my daily turkey sandwich that I take to work. I also realized after the chutney was completely gone, that it would be great as a guacamole starter – meaning you could mash up avocados and just add the cilantro chutney and onion to the mixture and you would have authentic guacamole
Scratch also offers Italian caponata, which is similar to a relish but not quite as sweet. Steve starts by roughly chopping eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic and celery. The vegetables are then lightly sautéed with yellow raisins until all components are soft and the flavors melded together. The onions and tomatoes add a natural sweetness to the earthy mixture of vegetables, which get a touch of brininess from fresh capers. It is very difficult to not consume the entire bottle in one sitting – it is truly addicting, The caponata is also perfect for entertaining – guest will love putting the caponata on crusty Italian bread or it can be paired with pasta for an easy vegetarian dish.
As Peyton Manning says in a popular commercial “…there’s nothing like tapenade”, he’s right – especially the Scratch Green Olive Tapenade. Scratch’s tapenade incorporates Steve’s house cured green olives with capers, garlic, thyme, olive oil and a touch of cayenne pepper. The mixture is pureed until course, which allows for a nice texture while still being very spreadable. The green olives are premium quality and would be a perfect appetizer on their own, so naturally their salty brininess provides the perfect tangy “bite”. Unlike most other tapenade’s this product isn’t very acidic due to the fact that the olives are fresh (not from a can) and doesn’t contain any preservatives. The perfect spread for parties, on top of grilled vegetables or the star ingredient of a perfect muffaletta sandwich.
As previously mentioned, the Scratch product line is ever changing based on local ingredient availability, or whatever new creation Steve comes with. All of his items are extensively researched and tested until the result is sheer perfection. The batches are usually small and quantities are limited.
You can purchase Scratch Gourmet products by contacting Steve directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting him at the JFX farmers markets starting in late spring.
Cilantro Chutney – 4 oz. $5
Other Chutneys/Caponata – 8 oz. $7
Tapenade – 8 oz. $8