Chatham County’s Fiddlehead Farm wins Good Food award

by Debbie Roos

Pittsboro, NC – A Chatham County farm has won a coveted Good Food Award in recognition of superior craftsmanship and a commitment to sustainability and social good. Emily Boynton of Fiddlehead Farm traveled to San Francisco with her family earlier this year to receive the award alongside other food producers and farmers from around the country. The awards are given to winners in several categories: beer, cider, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, preserved fish, honey, oils, pantry, pickles, preserves, spirits, and elixirs. Fiddlehead Farm won a Good Food Award for their roasted strawberry preserves. They were also Good Food Award finalists in 2016 and 2017.

Emily Boynton of Fiddlehead Farm won a Good Food Award for her roasted strawberry preserves, shown here with a few of the other 60 products she makes. (Photo by Debbie Roos.)

There were 199 Good Food Award winners chosen from among over 2,000 entries. 10 of the winners came from North Carolina. Other North Carolina winners included Fullsteam Brewery, The American Pig, Lady Edison with San Giuseppe Salami Co., Boxcarr Handmade Cheese, Looking Glass Creamery, Chocolatay Confections, Escazu Artisan Chocolates, Nena’s Provisions, and Pick and Preserve.

Fiddlehead Farm has quite a devoted following of fans in the Triangle region so no one here was surprised to learn that Emily had won a Good Food Award. Emily makes over 60 different products from her kitchen in Pittsboro, including jams, jellies, preserves, hot sauces, finishing salts, and baked goods.

Fiddlehead Farm started out as a vendor at the Chatham Mills Farmers’ Market in 2010 selling vegetables and homemade bread. The market didn’t have anyone selling jam and so Emily saw an opportunity. She was already making jams, hot sauces, and pickles at home because she wanted her family to eat well. But a visit to her mother-in-law Nancy’s house in South Carolina provided a turning point. Nancy gave Emily the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook and that book really opened her eyes to the world of jam-making. Emily was inspired by the book’s creative fruit combinations and it gave her the confidence to make her own recipes. She bought a copper jam pot and never looked back.

All of Fiddlehead Farm’s products are made in small batches which means the focus is on high quality seasonal ingredients. Emily sources her ingredients from local organic and sustainable farms with the exception of fruits like citrus and cranberries that are not grown in North Carolina. You can view a list of the farms that Emily sources from on her website. She also uses organic sugar and lemon juice and locally milled organic flour and oats for her baked goods.

The small batch processing approach means that each batch is unique. Jam made from strawberries may taste different depending on which farm grew the berries. Emily knows that it’s the quality of the fruit that makes a jam stand out. She lists the farm names on her labels so that customers will know where the ingredients came from. That way her customers will know which farm grows their favorite strawberries, or which apple variety makes the best apple butter.

Boynton family from left to right: Daniel, David, Emily, and Willie. (Photo by Debbie Roos.)

Emily and her family grow many of the vegetables and herbs they use in their products. Their biggest crop is peppers: Carolina Reapers, Trinidad Scorpions, ghost peppers, chocolate and mustard habaneros, datils, jalapenos, and others that they use to make hot sauce and pepper jelly. They grow unusual herbs like cinnamon basil, anise hyssop, and lemon balm to use in the jams and salts. Their popular Blueberry Cinnamon Basil Jam was a finalist for a Good Food award in 2016. Kids Willie and Daniel help with harvesting peppers, fruits, and honeysuckle.

Emily’s friend Katie Thornburg helps in the kitchen. Emily calls Katie the Granola Guru. Katie recently developed a recipe for a reduced sugar granola that they named Katie’s Blend and it’s become a huge hit with customers. Emily also gets help in the kitchen from her family: husband David is a scientist and enjoys making products that have recipes that require exact measuring – for example, jellies that require pectin. Emily prefers being creative and not having to follow an exact recipe. Emily’s youngest son Willie also enjoys hulling strawberries and prepping jars for filling.

Filling jars with roasted strawberry preserves. (Photo by Debbie Roos.)

At the peak of the season Emily makes about 35 different jams. They get as much fruit from North Carolina as possible – if it grows here, they buy it local. They even get Meyer lemons grown in Chatham County! Every summer they visit David’s family’s cherry orchard on Lake Michigan and bring back cherries, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, and black raspberries.

I love that Emily even finds a way to make tasty products out of things that we consider invasive weeds! They harvest Japanese honeysuckle blooms and use them to make Blueberry Honeysuckle Jam and Tangerine Honeysuckle Marmalade. Her popular Bloumi-berry Jam is made from blueberries combined with the berries of autumn olive (Eleagnus umbellata), an invasive plant found in North Carolina woodlands.

The names of Emily’s creations will make you drool: Salted Caramel Apple Butter, Blueberry Jalapeno Jam, Roasted Peach Preserves, Orange Chili Marmalade, Tangerine Honeysuckle Marmalade, Broiled Grapefruit Marmalade, Blueberry Hibiscus Jam, Northern Michigan Tart Cherry Preserves…it’s always exciting to see what new flavor combinations she comes up with.

Fiddlehead Farm table at the Saturday Carrboro Farmers’ Market. (Photo by Emily Boynton.)

Fiddlehead Farm sells direct to customers at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market; you can also purchase their products at Angelina’s Kitchen, Weaver Street Market, Funny Girl Farmstand, Fair Game Beverage Co., Sugar Island Bakery, and on-line through the Fiddlehead Farm website.

Debbie Roos is a Chatham County Extension Agent, Agriculture – Sustainable / Organic Production