While it may be hard to believe, it is an unfortunate truth that we occasionally receive customer complaints here at the Co-op. In fact, one I hear quite frequently relates to some of the products that we carry. The complaint, however, may not be what immediately comes to mind. More often than not, the customer is not upset that we don’t carry a particular product, but that he or she wasn’t aware that we have carried it for a long time…sometimes even for years! With this in mind, we’d like to take this opportunity to make sure that you know about some really fantastic new products that have just become available recently. That way, one of two possible outcomes will occur: either you’ll immediately begin to enjoy these great new products, or, in a year, when you “discover” the product we’ll be able to say, “We told you so!” As an added bonus, all the products featured in this article are regional picks, so you can enjoy their fine quality and feel good about supporting your local economy.

Quince and Apple Gourmet Preserves
The first new item that you’ll love to try is actually any one of the new series of products (collect all four!) from Madison-based Quince and Apple (www.quinceandapple.com). They’ve created a fine line of gourmet preserves that depart dramatically from the rote and predictable safety of traditional jams and jellies. I recommend, for instance, their Shallot Confit with Red Wine, a fine preserve that features caramelized shallots that are slow-cooked with a robust red wine, so that the natural sugars of the shallot balance the audacious acidic vintage. Not created for the pedestrian PB&J sandwich, this is a truly adult endeavor. Pair it with a favorite cheese that tends to contort the face…like a pungent bleu or an aged sharp cheddar. Serve it with artisan crackers or with roasted poultry. But that’s not all. We also carry three other flavors from their line: Orange Marmalade with Lemons, Figs and Black Tea, and Apricot Almond (a seasonal flavor). Buy one to bring to your next Beaujolais party, enjoy the local quality, and revel in the instant gourmet credibility. If you’re short on ideas about how to use these unique spreads, visit their website. They’ve put together some really great pairings and recipes to help you out. In the meantime, you’ll find Quince and Apple in aisle four supervising the kiddie jams.

Sunflower Oil from Star Valley
The next really unique new local product you’ll be glad to know about is the certified organic Sunflower Oil from Star Valley, Wisconsin’s own Driftless Organics (www.driftlessorganics.com). This nutty oil is pressed from sunflower seeds grown nearby, and really lives up to their motto, “The Olive Oil of Wisconsin.” It can be used in any application in which one would typically use olive oil, but its earthy overtones make it a superior choice for dipping with fresh, warm bread. You’ll feel good supporting a local farm while you enjoy a Wisconsin original, and before you know it, you’ll be buying a second bottle. When you finally do stop in to pick up a bottle or two, you’ll find it with the rest of our specialty oils in aisle four.

Bear Clan Manomin Wild Rice
The next great local product is one that you’ll have to take advantage of quickly, or you’ll miss out. Our Bear Clan Manomin Wild Rice is a serious favorite here at the Co-op, and there is no doubt that you’ll agree. Manomin is the Ojibwa word for “tall grass seed,” and the fact that the Ojibwa Bear Clan harvests this incredible grain makes it the very definition of specialty. Okay, it’s true that this one-of-a-kind wild rice isn’t exactly new. We’ve had it for a number of years, but it is only in stock for a portion of the year due to the limited harvest. It has a dark green, long grain that folds in on itself, sheds its husk, and takes on a delightful spongy texture when prepared. The texture is so unique that I might even describe it as pasta-like. Slowly simmer this rice with some water, or stock, and a touch of butter. Maybe add a pinch of salt. Whatever you do, don’t overpower the natural taste of this rare grain. It’s the taste of your state after all. Bear Clan Manomin Wild Rice is available, while it lasts, in aisle two with the rest of the bulk rice.

Pecatonica Valley Farms Ring Bologna
Finally, since I hail from the Meat Department, I would be remiss to pass over one of the new local products in our meat case. Straight from Hollandale, Wisconsin, and previously available only at the Dane County Farmer’s Market, we are proud to offer two new ring bologna sausages from The Pecatonica Valley Farms (pecvalley.com). The two varieties we carry are designated as fine and coarse. The former exhibits a smooth, consistent texture and mild flavor. For something a bit bolder, however, try the latter. It boasts a much more robust texture that is known colloquially as “farmer bologna.” You may need to try both to decide which of the two you prefer, or maybe you’ll be like me and claim that they are both your favorite. Pecatonica Valley Farms Ring Bologna (fine and coarse) are keeping their cool in the meat case. Grab a ring or two next time you’re in.

Well there it is. You’ve got eight new, local products from four businesses and farms that are right in our area. Now you know all about them, so go try them. We’ll continue working hard to bring in local foods that you can appreciate for the quality, taste, and for the local Wisconsin values we share as a regional community. You’ll get as hooked as we have, and if you spread the word, I’m sure that this time around there won’t be any complaints.