Mountain Ash Farm Passes the Torch

Since 1967, Max and Elaine Steiger have owned and operated Mountain Ash Farm in the Kelly Creek area of Powell River, BC. With a philosophy of using natural farming practices and raising their five children on healthy food, they tended their small market garden and a handful of cows, pigs, lambs, goats, chickens, pheasants, and emus.

To the city folks, they are probably best known for their outstanding preserves which they sell in shops from Victoria to Vancouver (click here for a full list). Everything from onions to garlic tips to beets were brined with finesse —the first time I had a Mountain Ash Farm pickle I realized it was the first real pickle I’d ever had. The crunch is amazing, the flavour like summer captured. Throwbacks to condiments our grandparents can recall are winning over the younger generations. Their Chow chow, Sandwich Spread, and relishes are packed with vegetables, not sugar, and crunch with just the right amount of sweet and tart. On the sweeter side, their jams and jellies are potent with fruity, sticky goodness. Their Strawberry Fig jam is totally decadent —perfect on toast— while their Banana Blueberry Jam is an instant hit with kids and can be swirled into plain yogurt. The savoury wine-infused Garlic and Onion Jam is hands-down one of my favourite BC foods —especially when paired with a small slab of Natural Pastures Comox Brie and a Bonnie Bea’s oatcake.

The Steigers recently announced their retirement and have moved off the farm. But Strawberry Fig jam fans take heart; they’ve handed the reins over to Brooks Secondary School. A student-run enterprise will be carrying on Elaine’s preserveration arts as an educational program run by Chef Mike Austin and business teacher Anne Hutchings. It’s a win-win-win; a new generation learns the satisfactions and fruits of growing and preserving food, loyal customers get to keep their favourites, and the farm will continue to thrive and be enjoyed by kids.

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