They’re swappin’ in Brooklyn – jams and quick breads are crossing palms. They’re doing deals in San Francisco for put-up plums and handmade mustards. Minneapolis has some busy swappers, trading sauerkraut for cinnamon buns.
Food Swaps are the lastest homemade, back-to-the-kitchen food trend going – and Marie Castro of Wilton Manors wants to start one in South Florida.
“I’ve read about them on the web. They’re doing them in Los Angeles and Brooklyn’s is really popular. I looked for one but couldn’t find any here, so I decided to start my own,” she said.
The food swap concept
Nobody makes just one jar of jam or one bottle of beer. Same thing with breads and rolls and huge batches of pasta sauce. Or maybe your garden is spewing peppers, or your mango tree’s on steriods.
Cooks and gardeners bring their extras to the Food Swap and trade for something they don’t have or don’t make themselves.
“The focus is on homemade foods. You’ve cooked a bunch of soup or canned dozens of jars of pickles – that kind of thing. It has to be something you’ve invested time and money in – we don’t want storebought foods. Most of us are foodies and like to cook or garden, so we like to try new things. This gives you a way to get things you might not make.”
Some people don’t bake, but appreciate homemade breads. They might trade a jar of jelly for your bread, she said.
How swapping works
Cooks bring their foods, labeled with ingredients and their name, in the amounts they want to swap. Several varieties of jams and some peanut brittle might be on one person’s table, while dozens of individual packages of homemade granola is on another’s. Its up to the swapper to decide how much of each to package (think smaller for more trades) for each swap, and whether they want to bring a variety of foods or only one food.
Everyone assembles and checks in, finding their stations. They put out their labeled foods and a sample on the communal tasting table. There’s a set time for viewing and sampling everyone’s foods, then bidding begins. A bid sheet for a jar of mango jam might read: “6 caramel cupcakes for 1 jar” or “1 bag peanut brittle for 1 jar.”
At the end of the bidding time, bids are collected and fulfilled. It’s up to the owner of the food to decide what they want to swap or not. It’s fine to say no – and easy to do by simply saying, “I don’t care for zucchini pickles, sorry.” Or, “I’m allergic to nuts, and can’t eat your granola.” Or just simple, “No thanks.”
At the end of the swap, you bag up your wins and go home to eat. “It’s not hard once you’ve done it,” Castro said. “It just takes a while to explain.”
Homemade – anything
Food that’s homemade or grown in your yard is key – but the list and possibilities are endless.
- Jams, jellies: fruits or vegetable jams or jellies, or fruit butters
- Spreads and dressings: cheese spread, salad dressings, pates, mustard, ketchup, vinegars
- Pickles cucumber, okra, green beans, watermelon, green tomato, sauerkraut
- Candies: fudge, chocolates, brittles, nougat, peanut butter balls
- Breads: yeast or potato rolls, sourdough, quick fruit breads, cinnamon buns, corn bread
- Sauces: pasta sauce, fudge sauce, barbecue sauce, barbecue glazes
- Soups and stews: chicken soup, stock, chowder, vegetable soup, beef stew
- Spice mixes: barbecue rubs, pickling spices, soup spices, chili mixes
- Sweet things: cupcakes, whoopie pies, pastries, cookies, mini pies, custards, brownies, rugelah
- From the garden: Herbs, vegetables, fruits, fresh eggs
- Mixes: granola, trail mix, cake-in-a-jar mixes, soup mixes, sourdough starters, vinegar mothers
- Drinks: homemade root beer, beer, sodas, wines, fruit concentrates
How to label foods
You don’t have to get fancy (some will anyway) but foods must be packaged safely and labeled with major ingredients so that any food allergies are apparent. Your name and phone number should also be on the food. All canning jars must be properly sealed. Frozen foods should be kept in coolers until swap time.
First swap June 1 in Wilton Manors
Interested? Castro is planning her first swap at a church in Wilton Manors, June 1 at 7 p.m. Participants must register first, and she’ll provide all the details needed to swap.
A small donation may be requested for use of the church, but there’s no money involved otherwise. The only other admission is food – it’s not for sale, so if you don’t bring something, you can’t swap.
South Florida Food Swap: June 1, Wilton Manors. For information and to register, contact Maria Castro by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.