From homemade to home business
Dipping oils, salsa move fast at Crooked Birch
By Susan Reilly firstname.lastname@example.org
Gov. John Lynch is a fan of the black bean and corn salsa from Crooked Birch. Judging by the rapid growth of this Lee-based company, it seems he is not alone.
In late 2005 stay-at-home mom Marisa Daly started jarring salsas and dipping oils. She and her family had just moved to Lee. They did not know a soul, so her husband suggested that she sell her products at the Lee County Fair. He saw it as a way for her to get to know people in town.
In a few hours, the several cases of salsa and oils that she brought were sold out and she started taking orders. Today she has a product line with more than a dozen established offerings ranging from oils to salsa, jam and grill sauces, plus a dozen more being released this year and a cookbook in the works.
Daly has no formal culinary training, but grew up in a household where everything was made from scratch using local products.
Her mother is from Italy and she grew up eating traditional Italian food, like homemade gnocchi and marinara. Every week, her mother would drive to Boston’s Haymarket and shop and Daly says that she never had convenience foods like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until after high school.
Despite her mother’s skill, Daly is not a fan of Italian fare, favoring Mexican instead.
“I started making the salsa because we ate them. I wasn’t trained as a chef, but I have three daughters and a husband who all like to eat,” she said.
She started her business without a plan and now is going through growing pains. She leases time in a local commercial kitchen and is on the hunt for a commercial kitchen to rent so that she can grow her business. If she can’t find a space, she might build one adjacent to her home.
In the meantime, she is tending to her wholesale customers and spending Thursdays at the Amherst Indoor Farmers’ Market turning people on to her products.
“The growing pains are, well, painful,” she said. The popularity of her product has forced her to turn away commercial accounts because she just can’t do it all.
“I’m the cook, I jar everything, make all of the labels and deliver. Plus I have a family that I am raising, so I have a lot on my plate,” she said.
All of Crooked Birch’s oils, jams and salsas are made by Daly without preservatives from only fresh ingredients.
The current lineup includes salsas in pineapple and chipotle and a tomato and jalapeño. Dipping oils come in sun-dried tomato and roasted garlic, red pepper and garlic and balsamic and red pepper.
For the grill and all-purpose sauces, try the sweet chili and garlic, citrus garlic and honey and orange honey chipotle. And finally, jams are whipped up in apple pepper and strawberry rhubarb amongst others.
Daly is putting together a cookbook with recipes using Crooked Birch products. She expects to have it out in six months.
Lee, NH, 659-0207
Where to find Cooked Birch products:
• Milford Fish Market (251 Elm St., Milford, 673-4200) On the menu, and for sale.
• Amherst Indoor Farmers’ Market (Rte 101A Saltzburg Sq., Amherst) Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
• Springledge Farm (230 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, 434-7619)
• Wisteria Flower Shop (16 East Broadway, Derry, 434-4600).