Paige Collett never intended to start a canning company. She fell into the food world with a weekend job helping run the Wasatch Front Farmers Markets as a college student. “It was the funniest community of people to get involved with,” she says. “Just tons of creative people working hard. My parents were self-employed. So I think I’ve always had a lot of respect for people doing that.” When she started Cache Canning & Ferments, “it was meant to be just a little side gig when I started doing my booth at the farmers’ markets. But by the time I graduated college, it was busy enough that I just decided to keep going until it didn’t make sense anymore. And here we are; this is my ninth season.” And it still makes sense.
Paige grew up with a family vegetable garden at her grandmother’s house. We’re talking big. “I remember in middle school, I realized that not all of my friends went to their grandma’s house to work in the garden every weekend,” she says. “When you have a massive garden like that, you learn to can and preserve because there is always too much. My grandparents grew up and the era of the Depression and believed in saving everything. So learned how to can when I was young. As I got older, I realized not everybody knew how. I thought it was an interesting skill to have.” And Paige’s skills are indeed interesting. Shaped by her parent’s entrepreneurism and her grandparent’s mad garden skills, Paige has carved out her blend of traditional preservation methods with an innovative eye for flavor in a jar.
With the recent interest in slower living and the cottage core trend brought on by current events, canning and fermenting have seen a resurgence. There are entire communities (online and otherwise) built around preserving food. From canning clubs, fermentation forums, and community canning centers opening back up, it is more than a fad. “I don’t know what it is about canning and fermenting that brings people together like that,” she says. “Maybe it’s just sharing the food that you’ve made.”
Sharing her jars of pickled veggies and jams brings Paige a lot of joy. Another joyful moment in her journey as an entrepreneur came earlier this year. She recently moved to Boulder, Utah. And with the move came a new adventure—opening a rustic shop to sell her preserves, art and goods from other local producers. Announcing the new location on Instagram, Paige writes, “I always knew my next step with this business would be opening a storefront, but in my mind, it was several years down the road. Well, today, on a whim, I signed a lease on this cute little building in Boulder, Utah. This is a risk, deciding to take a store on, but when you live in a town of just 200 people, you cannot let opportunities pass you by. You must pivot and spring into action, taking advantage of any small thing that comes your way. It’s how I’ve always run this business, and it has (almost) always paid off.”
Whether you find her pickles in local stores in Salt Lake City, like Central 9th Market or Hello!Bulk Markets, at the farmers’ markets or in her shop in Boulder, you can reliably find freshly made, seasonal produce bottled up safely with skill and flavor. Look for dill and jalapeno pickled carrots, lemon and ginger golden beets, bread and butter onions, and all the ‘krauts. Oh, and lots of jam, applesauce and mustard. Not to mention the best pickled garlic, which in turn makes for the best Bloody Mary garnish, trust me.
Safety First. Then tradition. Then creativity.
When asked for canning tips, Paige says, “Take a class. There’s a lot of bad or outdated information out there. We’ve learned a lot about food safety over the years. So updating your canning method from what your grandma taught you is important.” You don’t want to mess around with anything risky with canning and germs. When it comes to fermenting, Paige’s advice is almost the opposite. “Fermentation can be intimidating for people. There are so many unknowns with natural fermentation. Even if you follow a recipe, sometimes your batch gets messed up for unknown reasons. So my best advice for fermentation is to get started and do the batches. You can read about it all you want, but you won’t get good at it until you get in there with your hands, do it a bunch, and mess up a lot. And then you just have to keep trying.”
Some additional tips and resources for canning and fermenting:
• Make sure that your recipes are from legitimate sources. There are so many online recipes that give bad or dangerous advice.
• Follow your recipes closely. Changing the amount of sugar or the ratio of salt can not only change the outcome but can also impact the safety and shelf life.
• Pay attention to altitude. Here in Utah, our higher altitude means water boils at a different temp, translating to longer processing times.
• Pay attention to acidity and pH levels. Get a good pH meter so you can check the final batch and ensure you hit the pH you need. Paige does this with every batch and sends the in-development products she sells for 3rd party testing.
The gold standard online reference for canning and preserving is the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Talking about what a canning day looks like, Paige describes it as starting pretty early or working into the night. “I head into the kitchen, and the first thing is a ton of veg prep. It’s just like peeling and chopping for several hours. It’s a little tedious. I listen to a lot of podcasts and a lot of audiobooks. I’m by myself. I’m a bit of an introvert, so it’s nice alone time. And I wouldn’t be into this job if I didn’t at least enjoy tedium. After hours and hours of peeling and chopping, the actual canning doesn’t take as long as the prep. Then I wash and fill jars and send them through the canners for the rest of the day. Everything goes to the shop afterward, where I do all the labeling while I’m there.”
Stop by the store in Boulder, Utah, at 842 Utah Highway 12. The shop is open Thurs-Sun, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (ish). But do note the sign on her door that reads: “If I’m not here when I say, I hope you’ll forgive me. Boulder is like that sometimes. Often I hike much further than I intended, and sometimes I take off early to catch the sunset with a view. It’s not because I don’t love you, it’s just that I love outside more. I hope you get outside today, too.”
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