August 20, 2019
After overcoming addiction, and being in recovery for over four years, not everyone would want to be reminded of their past. Ashlee Steinhauer is different. She chose the name of her company specifically so it would remind her of how far she's come.
"I just wanted to remind myself that the stigma that can follow people in addiction doesn't, and I don't need to have that follow me through my whole life," says Steinhauer. "So, I named the company Worthy, because I just wanted to remember that. I'm worthy."
Steinhauer has had an interesting and winding road to becoming a 'girl boss,' as she calls herself, to a local jam company. After working administrative jobs, she realized her passion was food and cooking, so she started working as a personal chef. At the same time, she was also doing some small acting gigs in community theatre, and an opportunity presented itself.
"Another woman in our community acting group here made jam and she did it for like farmers markets and a couple of restaurants in Calgary. She told me, 'you know, I'm getting to that age and I just want to stop working so much, do you want to take these two restaurant contracts, and make jam for them?' I said, sure, but, I had never produced jam en mass like that, I'd only done it really at home. So, she came in and taught me one day."
Eventually Steinhauer's jam's popularity grew and the company took off. She dropped the personal chef work, rebranded the company under the Worthy name and started growing the business.
Today, Worthy Jams' unique flavours are available across Calgary, including Co-op stores. Worthy Jam Chocolate Blueberry jam, Strawberry Cardamom, Earl Grey Lavender-Peach and Vanilla Rhubarb jams are all found in the deli department, and alongside fine jams and preserves on store shelves.
"When I do tastings I get great feedback from people right in front of my eyes. They come up and say, 'Oh, jam!', and they start reading the flavours, then they're like, 'what?'. I think they get overwhelmed by the amount of different flavours there are and just how different they are from traditional jam. It's so fun to give them a taste and see their eyes light up and they're like, "Wow, that's so delicious and unique". The response has been positive, overwhelmingly positive."
Until recently Steinhauer was making the jam in small batches, working over a hot stove with a handful of others in a borrowed commercial kitchen.
"We would be able to produce about 500 jars over two eight hour days in the kitchen," recalls Steinhauer.
Recently Worthy Jam transitioned to a larger commercial kitchen set up with bigger, better equipment that allows them to still make jam that's handcrafted, only on a much larger and more reliable scale.
"We now use a kitchen in Strathmore, with a giant steam kettle where the outside of it heats up, and it steams. Now we can make 800 jars in just six hours. It's like a dream, it's so much more refreshing."
Nostalgic, just-like-we-had-as-kids food products are growing in popularity. Whether it's vintage sodas, handmade cheeses, or fresh and preservative-free baking, there's a huge market for food that's made with local ingredients... and loving care.
"I try to get local fruit, but it's not always possible in Calgary. All the fruit that I get, no matter where it's coming from, is non-GMO. And then, the pectin that I use is actually a pure citrus pectin. Our jams are just the fruit, sugar, and whatever kind of fun interesting flavours we're making, and then the pectin. Making homestyle jam, I feel like it's this cool, beautiful thing. To me, it's never really felt trendy, but I can see it's becoming more popular. There's something about preserves that is just really lovely. And I think that like just making them a bit different than the traditional stuff sets us apart, too."
Find Worthy Jams at your local Co-op store.
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