It’s one of my favorite things to do here at Indy Food Swappers– the Swapper Spotlight! Let’s get to know a member of our swap community better, and snag a delicious new recipe while we’re at it, shall we?
Today, meet Amy Altman. Amy was one of the brave souls who showed up to our very first swap last summer. Lucky for us, even though she didn’t learn about the swap until the last minute, she just happened to have more than a dozen jars of homemade jams and jellies at the ready. It was an impressive display of food awesomeness. We all wondered to ourselves “who is this magic woman, and what planet does she rule where the streets are lined with homemade jelly?” (“And might she take us with her when she returns home on her spaceship?”)
Amy grew up in Zionsville, Indiana and graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Aquatic Science. She worked at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for several years, where her focus was nonpoint source water pollution. In layman’s terms (code for ‘the internet told me’), nonpoint source refers to water pollution resulting from things like runoff from agricultural areas into a river or stream. (This contrasts with source pollution, which is a result of a single, identifiable source of pollution, such as wastewater pipes from a factory.)
Amy married a fellow Hoosier and settled on the northeast side of Indianapolis. After the birth of their first child, Amy took a break from her job because of the travel required for her position. When a second child came along, Amy wanted to find work that allowed her more flexibility and time at home with her family. A job fair led her to Easley Winery, a local, family-owned business in downtown Indianapolis. She started doing general work around the winery, first as a wine steward, until she eventually became the banquet manager. Her favorite things about her job? Working at a small, family-owned company, in a position that meshes perfectly with her interest in food and wine.
Here, she cheerfully subjects herself to our swapper spotlight questions, and shares a recipe for strawberry honey butter. It’s the perfect recipe to have on hand as we head into strawberry season in Indiana.
Q: What three words come to mind when you think of your first food swap experience? Exciting, community, welcoming.
Q: What did you find the most surprising about food swapping? It’s so surprising how creative people are. It keeps me wanting to explore food more.
Q: How did you decide what to bring to your first swap? I found out about the first swap the day before it happened. I was really excited and wanted to attend, but there was not much time to get anything together to make. I remembered that I had an overabundance of jellies that I had made a few months before, and thought I could bring that.
Q: You often bring your children to the food swaps. What do they say about the experience? The first swap I attended with both of my children. It was great! Everyone really enjoyed having them there, and my oldest daughter really liked seeing all of the food and picking out what to swap. Abby, my oldest, has been to a couple other swaps and constantly asks when the next one is. She was devastated when she could not come to one of the swaps with me, but was easily comforted when I brought home so much good food.
Q: How long have you been cooking? Ever since I can remember. My mom had a garden at our house when I was young and my grandparents were farmers. I cooked the most with my dad and grandma. They really had a passion for it and were adventurous eaters. I think I gained my loved of cooking from my grandmother.
Q: Do you have a favorite cooking memory? My favorite cooking memory is probably making Christmas cookies with my grandma. We used to make springerlie cookies (German anise-flavored cookies). She taught me techniques to make them soft, and she shared stories while we used my great grandmother’s wooden springerlie cookie boards to create the designs.
Q: Do you have a current ingredient or dish obsession? Goat cheese. I use it in everything!
Q: What tool in your kitchen do you use more than any other? A wooden spoon. I’m obsessed with wooden kitchen tools. Also, my cast iron skillet.
Q: What kitchen tool would you say is the most overrated? Non-stick pans. We have one that we use for eggs, but that’s all. I was so tired of buying new ones when the coating would start to come off. My friend, who is a trained chef, taught me some tricks for cooking so that I could give up my non-stick pans. Cast iron is what we use most.
Q: Imagine Oprah gives you a Visa gift card to buy whatever kitchen item you want. What do you pick and why? A new stove. We have an electric one now and I really prefer gas.
Q: Imagine Oprah also offers to babysit and buy you and your hubby dinner at the Indy restaurant of your choice (because Oprah’s a giver, you know!) Where do you go and why? My husband and I like to try all types of food. There is a Korean restaurant called MaMa’s House on Pendelton Pike that I used to go to for lunch when I worked on that side of town. The food was amazing, but I have not been able to get back for a couple of years. At dinner they have the full Korean BBQ where you grill your food, and they have all of the yummy sides that come with the meal. That is just one of many.
Q. OK- you meet someone who is curious about food swapping, but nervous about attending. What would you say to encourage them to give it a try? I would suggest maybe coming and observing the first time. That way you can see how the swapping is done, the portion sizes, packaging, etc. I actually encouraged my friend Melanie, who is an amazing cook, to attend a swap with me. She really wanted to swap and was unsure of what to bring. I told her to think of something she likes to make, and she can package it up to swap. She ended up having an over-abundance of oats and decided to make some granola. I explained that you do not have to have a certain amount of an item. She could make as much or as little as she wanted, and package it up in a reasonable portion size. When we got to the swap she had small and large bags tied with a cute bow, and the ingredients attached to each bag. They were a hit and so cute! She did a great job.
Strawberry Honey Butter
Amy brought this delicious butter to one of our swaps. It has minimal ingredients and is really quick and easy to make. Yields three 4-oz jars.
- 1 pint strawberries, hulled (can also use frozen strawberries, thawed)
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
- 1 and 1/2 sticks butter, softened
- Puree hulled strawberries in a food processor or blender.
- Press strawberry mixture through a sieve into a saucepan. Discard seeds and larger solids, or reserve for use in yogurt or other food of your choice.
- Add the honey and lemon juice to the saucepan with the strained strawberries. Bring to simmer, stirring frequently until thickened, approximately 3-5 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Combine softened butter and strawberry mixture in medium bowl and whisk to combine. (can also use the disk attachment in a stand mixer)
- Cover the butter mixture and let stand in a cool place for one hour to allow the flavors to develop. (do not refrigerate yet)
- After one hour, transfer strawberry butter into a container and refrigerate for up to two weeks. (Swap tip: divide into three 4-oz mason jars for trading.)