Earlier this month I signed up for the first Indy Food Swap of 2015. My friends have been food swappers since the first event in 2011, and I’ve known it existed, but I haven’t attended because either the timing wasn’t right or I contemplated too much over what to bring. This food swap was a bit of work to prepare for, but I had so much fun and am sharing my experience in hopes you can join me next time.
If you aren’t familiar, Indy Food Swap is coordinated by Suzanne Krowiak, an Indy go-getter who was inspired by food swaps in Brooklyn, Austin, Minneapolis and Portland. Nothing like it existed in Indianapolis, but with our growing focus on local food, urban gardening, canning and preserving and all things DIY, Suzanne realized there was a market for such an event. She got started by creating a webpage and setting a date to see if people would come to the Indianapolis City Market to swap their home goods with soon-t0-be new friends.
The people came, and now the event registration sells out within minutes.
There are so many creative people out there and Indy Food Swap is an opportunity for all of them to come together and trade homemade goods one-for-one with each other. Here’s a list of just some of the items I tasted, everything made by the people in the room:
- Ginger beer
- Tomato Jam and Blue Cheese Biscuits
- Pimento Cheese
- Spicy Cheese Sticks
- Ground Cherry Jam
- Quince Jam
- Red Hot Vodka
- Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
- White Bean and Sausage Soup
- Lemon Loaf
- Oreo Cookie Butter
- Freshly Baked Bread
- Dried Bean Crockpot Meals
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Turmeric Tea Paste
And so, so much more was there.
Of course I was so excited that I didn’t take a single photo of my table or anything else at the event! I’ll have to remember that next time. Here are a few photos taken by those at the event:
Sacha was assisting Suzanne with setting up and managing the food swap, answering questions from newbies and helping us find each other during swap time. Her photos show off some of the things people brought.
Here’s how it works: Suzanne provides you with a table, a paper table cloth you can write on, crayons, name badges and bid sheets. Once you set up your table with your wares and samples, you fill out the sheets to explain the name of your item, the ingredients and any dietary notes, such as gluten free, vegan, etc.
You spend about 20 minutes walking around sampling anything and everything you want. If you like the item, you write your name on their bid sheet and offer an item up for trade. You can write your name on more items than what you bring if you like, since you may not be able to swap with everyone you want.
After the sampling is over, you grab the bid sheets at your table to see who wants to trade with you. This is the mad dash to find the item you really want before it is gone, and before you are out of items to swap. People may want to trade something you don’t want (I have nut allergies so there were a few things I couldn’t have). For my first swap, I made it out with quite the bounty.
I learned a few lessons during my first food swap that I want to pass on to anyone who is thinking about attending in the future OR starting your own. My friend Toni Snearly has taken on the Northwest Indiana Food Swap, but someone should consider starting one in Terre Haute or Bloomington or elsewhere. Not sure if there is one already happening in your area? Check out the Food Swap Network and search your location.
FOOD SWAP TIPS
Start Out Small – You can swap for as many items as you bring. I brought 13 jars of goods, so I could trade for 13 things of similar value. Someone wanted to trade a large loaf of bread for two of my jars so I agreed to that. I would be overwhelmed on my first swap if I brought more than 15 items, just because there are so many people to trade with, things get a little crazy. At the same time, I walked away without a few items because I traded everything so quickly that I forgot to grab my friend Jenn’s ginger beer or Jessica’s lambic sorbet.
Plan Ahead – Decide what you are going to bring as soon as you register for the event. I already knew I’d bring jams and pickles since I enjoy canning in the winter, but it took three days to can three different things. If you want to bring freshly baked bread, plan on making it the morning of. If you are bringing refrigerated items, plan on keeping them frozen or very cold so that they do not warm up before the person has a chance to get the item into their refrigerator.
Bring Samples – People are much more likely to trade if they can taste your item. I forgot to bring my sample jars which were already opened in my refrigerator at home, which I was really bummed about because I ended up having to open jars that I planned on trading. However, one person wanted to trade her quince jam for my sample jar of dill radish relish, and I said heck yeah! Consider bringing disposable toothpicks or spoons/knives/forks if you have hummus, spreads, jams, things that are going to be spread on a cracker or eaten as is, or bring souffle cups for soups, drinks and liquid items that people can easily sample without having to pour themselves.
Come Hungry – There were at least 25-30 people at the January food swap, and each person had samples of breads, jams, soups, dessert loafs and cookie butters. Sampling even the smallest bite of each item there is like snacking your way through lunch.
Take Baskets and Bags – When it comes time to swap with everyone, a few people put all of their items in baskets as they walked around to make their trade. You will definitely need something to carry everything home, and since you don’t know if you’ll be taking large or small items, bring bags, baskets or boxes that can anticipate both kinds of items.
Have Fun – It feels slightly nerve-wrecking putting yourself and your homemade goods in front of a crowd. Will people swap with me? Will anyone want what I brought? Of course they will, you just bring your best smile and come ready to make new friends. The best part of the food swap is less about the food and more about the sense of community you get when you meet people with similar interests.
My dill radish relish, strawberry rhubarb lambic preserves and beer pickled carrots were traded for a mix of sweets, savories, pickles, whole meals and snacks that I could eat out of this box for week or so and be totally content. Since the chicken noodle soup wasn’t frozen, Rahul and I decided to eat it that night for dinner alongside a few slices of fresh baked bread.
STRAWBERRY RHUBARB LAMBIC PRESERVES
The inspiration for these preserves came entirely in the form of sour and fruity lambic beer. While I don’t usually drink it by itself, I enjoy experimenting with the lambic beers in cooking. Could I add lambic to a jam? Would the consistency be too runny? Would the sour flavor overpower it? These questions were enough to get me to consider making a preserve of some sorts with lambic.
Like most strawberry rhubarb jams, the rhubarb flavor is barely present, hidden underneath the prominent strawberry flavor and the multiple cups of sugar used to sweeten the sour flavor. But the cherry lambic beer is sour and it enhances the sour flavors in the rhubarb. The lambic beer also thinks the jam, turning it into more of a preserve that can be slathered on fresh bread (like the one I picked up at the food swap), swirled into diet 7UP for a refreshing citrus twist, or cooked with. When you do your jam test, know that this recipe will be thick but not as thick as what you are used to with a jam that does not use lambic beer.
STRAWBERRY RHUBARB LAMBIC PRESERVES
MAKES 6 HALF PINTS
- 2 pounds strawberries
- 2 pounds rhubarb
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 750-ml bottle of Cherry (Kriek) Lambic Beer
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- Wash, hull and slice the strawberries into a large bowl. Mix with 1 cup of the sugar and let sit for 1 hour to macerate.
- Set a plate in the refrigerator for your consistency test later.
- Slice the rhubarb into pieces the size of a centimeter. Place them into a large Dutch oven with the other 1 cup of sugar.
- Turn the heat to medium high as you cook the rhubarb, stirring often to prevent the fruit and sugar from burning.
- Once hot, add the strawberries and the entire bottle of cherry lambic beer and the lemon juice. It will be very frothy.
- Allow the fruit to boil, stirring often. After about 10-15 minutes, the froth will begin to diminish and the fruit will start to darken in color and form a jam-like consistency. You can place a lid halfway on the jam to keep it from bubbling everywhere, but continue to stir.
- Test the consistency by placing a spoonful of the preserves onto the cold plate from your refrigerator. If the fruit is runny, it is not yet ready. If it is only slightly runny, then you can turn off the heat and allow it to cool slightly before canning. The fruit should be softened well.
- Water bath can this recipe by sterilizing your jars, filling them with the preserves leaving 1/4 inch head space, and processing for 10 minutes. Allow cooling before storing in a dry, dark place until you are ready to use them.