Thom Johnston loves to make jellies and jams.
Beginning in October, Johnston can be found at Fort Wayne’s Farmers Market at Parkview Field selling jams, jellies and sauerkraut under his brand, Dos Homos.
“I started selling Dos Homos brand products in 2011. The law that allowed home-based vendors in Indiana, HEA 1309, was passed in 2009. The law allowed home cooks to sell at farmers markets or roadside stands,” says Johnston, of Fort Wayne.
“There are restrictions and labeling requirements,” he says. “We’re not allowed to sell pickled products, but we can sell fermented. So, I sell sauerkraut. I’m up to eight varieties. I started out with three sauerkraut varieties.
“At one time, I had over 30 jams and jellies. Currently, I have 56 dozen jars for the market. I haven’t started making the peach, the grape or the herbal jellies.”
From the time he was 10 years old, Johnston, a programmer retired from Charles Schwab in San Francisco, says he was in the kitchen watching and helping his mother as she made various jams and jellies.
“I got to turn the crank when we made green tomato relish. I was in the kitchen with my mother when she made (jam). This was hot stuff when you made it,” he says.
Instead of using lids to seal the jams, paraffin was placed on top. Johnston said his mother kept her canned jam and jellies under the stairs. When she moved out of her home, he found her collection of jams and saved one unopened jar of strawberry jam that he still has.
Recently, Johnston and his spouse, Bob Gould, picked more than 100 pounds of blueberries, and the plan is to make more jams.
“I have to make minty blueberry, blueberry with balsamic vinegar, blueberry lightly spiced and a plain blueberry. Some people like plain – imagine that,” he says with an astonished look on his face.
“In California, we would make jam and give it away. Bob likes to give it away. I’ve made five dozen jars of Queen Anne’s lace jelly. We rarely buy commercial fruit to make jams. We freeze a lot,” he says.
Johnston says the couple grows strawberries and raspberries at a community garden, and the harvest is used to make jams and jellies for the farmers markets.
He also mentions that all profits from the market sales go to the Allen County Public Library.
“The library in Fort Wayne is beyond awesome,” he says. “I do love to read. I’m involved with the Real Men Read program, and we have a Little Free Library near our home.”
Q. What’s your favorite jam or jelly?
A. Man, that’s like asking my mom who is her favorite child. Strawberry jam with balsamic vinegar and black pepper. Eaten on toast. Put in plain yogurt. Spread it on chicken breast. I try to make really good jam. Not for peanut butter and jelly (sandwiches). The other one that’s really good is lime marmalade. It was really good. I make lemon, (also) blood orange with whiskey. I make a chunky grapefruit. I’ve also made beer jelly. It was more of a gimmick.
Q. Do you have a favorite cookbook?
A. Favorite? No, over the years I’ve typed my recipes into my computer. I can’t remember what cookbook a recipe is in, so that’s why they’re on my computer.
Q. How many cookbooks do you have?
A. Thousands. I keep them at the Allen County Public Library.
Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?
A. I respect and enjoy using a sharp knife. I cut the cabbage for my sauerkraut by hand because I love to play with knives.
Q. What’s your favorite vegetable?
A. After I figured out how to cook each one, they’re all my favorite – even Brussels sprouts.
Q. If you were stuck on an island, what’s one food you would have to have?
A. My weakness: Chips. What kind? Yes.
Q. What’s something people would not find in your refrigerator?
A. Hopefully, my car keys.
Beets with Lime Butter
3/4 pound beets, peeled and coarsely grated, about 13/4 cups
1/8 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
11/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens
In a heavy skillet, cook the beets and the zest in 1 tablespoon of the butter over moderately high heat, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the beets are crisp-tender, and remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve the beets sprinkled with the scallion greens. Makes 2 servings.
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch or two of dried oregano
1 cucumber, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese
Stir vinaigrette ingredients together and taste. Adjust ingredients as needed. Toss vegetables with feta cheese and vinaigrette. Makes 2 to 4 servings.
Summer Black Bean Salad
1 (15-ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1 lemon
Drizzle of olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or as desired
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Combine all ingredients and let marinade for at least 30 minutes. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 4 servings.