This is Good Girl Bad Girl Preserves. It’s Vancouver-based preserves, workshops, and catering powered by “just a couple of girls, Zoe and Karen, who love good food, are inspired by one another, the community they live and work in, and the people they get to meet and the people they know.” They make all these creative and tasty preserves like Meyer Lemon Goat Butter Curd, Spicy Bourbon Pickled Green Beans, and Pickled Chickpeas. Yum! And, the best part? They offer workshops to teach you how to make these preserves yourself! Read on as Karen tells us more.
1. How did Good Girl Bad Girl Preserves come to be?
GGBG was born out of the working and friendship relationship that Zoe and I formed while working at W2 together. We’re both really interested in the relationships between food, culture and practical knowledge and found that after doing so many catering and culturally specific food related events that we wanted to explore the role food plays in building community and the sharing of knowledge.
Food preserving is as old as human existence, and all cultures have practices of preserving food, and these practices were (less so now) passed on through families and communities and most often through orally shared knowledge. We were having fun experimenting with things, and I’ve been preserving food since I was a child, so we wanted to bring others together and encourage their curiosity and passion.
2. How did you come up with the name?
The name Good Girl Bad Girl Preserves literally popped into my head one night while I was on my couch at home, drafting a recipe I wanted to test with Zoe. I sent her a text that basically asked her what she thought, and if she wanted to do it, and she text back saying “Yes!” and within an hour had sent me a draft of our logo.
The name is part play on how our personalities interact and are sometimes perceived by others, and part attempt to ignore the sometimes firm projected boundary between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ . We also wanted to think about and make good healthy food in a way that doesn’t come off as making people feel guilty for indulging once in a while and we wanted to make it fun for people.
3. What’s your favourite preserve that you’ve made?
Great question! Favourite preserves that we’ve made so far.. hmmm… I would have to say that mine are probably the Spicy Bourbon Pickled Green Beans (especially if you wait a month or more.. the spicy, smoky flavor is so good), and the Woodland Conserve, made with cranberries, juniper and rosehips. Zoe’s are probably, the goat milk butter Meyer Lemon Curd we made this spring, and the chile and toasted cumin carrots we set up last fall.
4. Tell me about your workshops? Do attendees get to take home their own preserves?
Our workshops are geared to be highly interactive and get people past their nerves, or fears, or any other misgivings they may be having about attempting preserving. And, we really wanted to capture that sense of what preserving used to mean in farm and rural communities; bringing people together to share stories and food, and make a lot of work, less onerous.
Tasting, smelling, touching, everybody is engaged in the prep, and the clean-up, and for us the best part has absolutely been getting to meet so many great people, from so many different backgrounds and interests. And yes! At the end of a the classes people get to take home a jar or two of the things we’ve set up that day.
This year we have been working with The Sharing Farm in Richmond, with a percentage of our course fees going to the farm, and hoping to highlight the amazing work they do in the community, raising food for distribution to people who need access to high quality, fresh produce.
We want people to be really creative and challenge their taste preferences and their ideas about how food can be made, but we also want people to think about where their food is coming from and how it is produced, and why this matters.
5. If I’ve never tried preserving before, where should I start? What’s the easiest recipe?
Another really great question, and one that seems to be at the forefront of a lot of folks who attend our classes. Start simple. Get the basics down first, get comfortable with the steps (i.e. sanitizing jars, keeping them warm, cleaning the produce, picking your flavors, processing the jars).
A great place to start is with some really simple pickled carrots, or green beans, and working with a classic pickling spice.
6. What’s in the works for you in the near future?
This year we’ve been focusing primarily on our classes. Things kind of exploded a bit quickly last year, and we had preserves in several shops and were catering, but the reality of that is you can get over extended pretty quickly and we both ended up with some pretty exciting opportunities this year. Zoe is working with great people at East Van Roasters, and I’m the Chef at Graze food and drink. So, we wanted to tighten our focus back to what was the primary reason we began our project, the classes. We’ll be doing a limited fall release of some of our preserve staples and gearing our focus for next season’s classes which will start earlier and be geared toward different parts of the harvest season; spring, summer, late summer, fall.
We will be launching a new, limited, line of our own preserves with recommended recipes for their use, and are developing a couple of other community based projects for delivering preserving workshops in different communities in Vancouver.
We have a couple of really exciting projects in development right now, but kind of want to stay hush hush right now.. no jinxing it!
7. What advice can you give to ladies & gents looking to turn their passion into a business?
Passion is absolutely essential, we think, if you want to create any business. But, you need to have something like a plan. Spend some time assessing your costs (both in terms of money and time); be honest with yourself about your willingness and ability to commit to make the move from earnest hobby to business. There are several great places to access information and training for developing a business plan (the Small Business office has some great resources), be willing to accept that there will be some times that will be more difficult and challenging than others, and think long, not just short term.
8. How do you keep your life playful & brilliant?
Fantastic question! Sometimes this can be the biggest challenge! Trying not to lose yourself in the midst of all the work and planning and the rest of our lives details! Zoe has her wonderful son, who is super creative and imaginative and she is always creating some new project at home, most recently building herself a drying rack for herbs and flowers, and I have just tried signed up for some Open Source courses that focus on food chemistry and physics for fun and try to get time kayaking or catching up with close friends who always have something interesting going on. We’re both really lucky to be working in our other projects with really warm, creative and inspiring people, so it’s not too hard to find some playfulness in our lives!
Wow, I’m suddenly hungry! That Meyer Lemon Goat Butter Curd sounds delectable. I can’t wait to take one of those workshops and finally learn the craft of preserving. I love how your workshops are so connected to people and passing on traditions. Thanks for sharing.