How do you supercharge the flavors of fresh fruits and vegetables? Pack ‘em into jars! Coldwater Canyon Provisions accomplishes this feat with award-winning results among its dozens of jarred jams, jellies, chutneys and pickles.
While owner Rondo Mieczkowski offers many of the classics at Los Angeles farmers markets, he also features some varieties you’ve probably never heard of, such as kiwi jam, red guava butter, tarragon cherries, and pickled crab apples.
Rondo learned how to preserve foods from his grandmother while growing up in Ohio and Michigan. Pickled watermelon rind particularly brings back memories.
“It was something my grandmother would make in the summer, and we couldn’t touch it until Thanksgiving,” Rondo said. He remembers how well it paired with turkey, mashed potatoes, and other starchy foods. “It revitalized the palate.”
Though his grandmother’s craft for food preservation was a necessity in times of scarcity, Rondo absorbed her sense of resourcefulness. Even with the abundance of foods available today, some heirloom fruits and vegetables are hard to find and enjoy at their peak ripeness. Coldwater Canyon Provisions captures that experience in jars.
Customers at farmers markets are often looking for tastes that remind them of holidays, picnics, and other good times, and with the right ingredients, Rondo can get pretty close. “It’s like we’re selling memories on some level,” he said.
Rondo’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Most recently, Coldwater Canyon’s Habanero Jelly placed third in last year’s World Hot Sauce Awards condiments division of hot/x-hot jam/jelly. In both 2017 and 2013, his Tarragon Cherries won the national Good Food Award, which recognizes authentic, responsibly produced food with sustainable ingredients. The pickled Spiced Crab Apples were also nominated for the Good Food Award in 2012.
The catalyst for starting a business occurred at the 2010 California State Fair, when his Strawberry Rhubarb Jam won the category for “Best In Show – All Jams and Jellies.” At that point, Rondo and his late partner Danny Barillaro had yet to sell anything at the markets.
“We were just having fun,” he said, “and we thought, ‘Why don’t we enter state?’”
Eight years later, Rondo still enjoys submerging fruit and vegetables in vinegar and pulverizing foods into jams and spreads. He especially likes discovering rare heirloom foods — such as baba raspberries, Pakistani mulberries, Elberta peaches — even if they only yield a few jars.
“Peel it, chop it, jam it,” Rondo recited as his motto as he realized, “I should put that on a t-shirt.”
When you finish off a jar of pickles, Rondo suggests saving the juice to put to good use as a marinade for meats, a vinegar for salads, or even drink it like “an old-fashioned Gatorade.”
Rondo uses fresh organic or responsibly grown California produce from the farmers markets, making all of his products vegan and gluten-free. He sources from Mud Creek Ranch for oranges, McFarlin Family Farms for pomegranate juice, Chuy’s Berry Farm for blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and J&J Produce for strawberries. He then prepares and cooks each batch at the Chefs Center of California, a shared rental kitchen in Pasadena for food entrepreneurs.
In keeping with his support of the local community, he also donates proceeds to Under the Bridges and On the Streets, a Los Angeles County nonprofit program that brings sack lunches to the homeless.
Coldwater Canyon Provisions are available at five farmers markets in the Los Angeles area: Altadena (Wednesdays), Westwood Village (Thursdays), Playa Vista (Saturdays), Studio City (Sundays), and Hollywood (Sundays). You can also order jars online from their Etsy shop or at MilkAndEggs.com for delivery in Los Angeles and Orange County. Bon Vivant Market & Cafe in Atwater Village carries a variety as well. And you can find Coldwater Canyon at the Vegan Street Fair in North Hollywood on March 25.
Most jars of pickles and jam at the markets range from $8 to $12, with package discounts available: buy three jams for $29 or get $5 off a purchase of four items.
Rondo highly recommends them as gifts, wittily remarking, “Nothing says I love you like a jar of pickles.”