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My favorite season - Micole Khemarrica
khromat
khromat
My favorite season
I have always loved autumn, which marks the beginning of "The Food Season" for me.  It's the time of the year when I bake a lot as the yearly crop of pumpkins appears.  Soups, breads, pies, stews, ice cream ... pumpkin can be used in both sweet and savory ways, and the heirloom varieties of Cucurbita Moschata are fabulous for the task.   As always, I like to buy from my local farmer's market where more heirloom varieties are showing up.  This year, along with my usual purchase of Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, I got a Fairytale pumpkin, which is deep grey-green when immature and cures to a lovely buff orange.  I also picked up a Rouge d'Estampes which is sometimes called "Cinderella" but I'm noticing there's now a different variety also called Cinderella which isn't nearly as red and is more deeply ribbed.  I keep the some of the seeds of each to save, even if I don't get a chance to plant them in the following year (until I own a home instead of renting, I'm never sure if I'll be able to have a full growing season for them).  Here's a picture of this year's Holiday Display on our front steps:

Pumpkins on my doorstep

Except for the Munchkin extra-mini pumpkins (light orange, slightly flattened, ribbed), the Tiger mini (mottled orange, flattened, strong ribs), and the Howden (biggest pumpkin), all these pumpkins are edible, with all the flattened heirloom types being excellent for baking.  I'll likely use the Sugar Pie (deep orange, round, smooth skinned) and the Casper (pale white, round, faint ribbing) for Amerind-style stews (I got a couple of recipe books on Native American cuisine).  I'll have to taste the Lil Pump Ke Mon (small, yellow-white with variable striping, flattened, ribbed) before I cook them -- mini pumpkins aren't known for being good cooking, but I've seen some gardener commentary that indicated these are.  The mini Wee-Be-Littles (bright light orange, round, smooth) were specifically bred to be edible and I might try stuffing them.

This year I'm going to try selling my pies.  I have ordered some shipping containers to handle mailing a few out but mostly I'll be making pies for the local Bay Area for "delivery".  I've yet to find out the yield for this year's pumpkins, but as C. Moschata varieties have dense, smooth, fiberless flesh that's naturally very sweet, I usually get a pretty high yield of puree (average is 2 cups puree per pound of raw).  We'll see how the Rouge d'Estampes will do (in spite its flat shape, it's not C. Moschata but actually a variety of C. Maxima).

If I do ship out pies, I'll have to figure out a way to have the shipping box sent back to me -- I might do a "subscription service" where the added cost of the box becomes a value: the customer sends me back the box and I make more pie to ship back to them.  Would anyone be interested in that?

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Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

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Comments
tuftears From: tuftears Date: October 13th, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Curiosity compels me to ask why you need the shipping boxes returned! Shouldn't that just be part of the shipping cost?
khromat From: khromat Date: October 13th, 2011 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Because I believe in being Green: The specialty shipping boxes can be better recycled by being re-used, and it would offset my costs of buying them by having them be value to a customer rather than a cost.... what better value and reason to re-use than sending it back for more pie? :D
tuftears From: tuftears Date: October 13th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, my concern is that the boxes will have contained food items, and thus if you reuse a shipping box, you risk introducing germs into the next pie! Wouldn't it be easier to have customers recycle or use their shipping boxes as compost?
khromat From: khromat Date: October 18th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Shipping food

The pie will be wrapped before it's put inside the shipping box, so the chances of contamination are small... but just as important, the foam can be safely cleaned.
tuftears From: tuftears Date: October 18th, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Shipping food

All right. ^_^ Hope it goes well! I hear that you already got a bunch of orders in.

One of these days I should try baking a pie, 4realz!
niall_shapero From: niall_shapero Date: October 13th, 2011 07:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Boxes...

And what about those who might be able to pick up the pies directly (Yes, I know, LA is some 350 miles away from whereever you are in San Jose, but I _DO_ get up to the SFBay area "every now and then").
khromat From: khromat Date: October 13th, 2011 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Boxes...

Well, in that case I'd just have the pie in the Deep Freeze ready for pick-up. :)
niall_shapero From: niall_shapero Date: October 13th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Boxes...

Certainly sounds like a plan to me...:-)
twentythoughts From: twentythoughts Date: October 13th, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Coming from newspapering, that "subscription service" thing sounds like a good idea. Especially since it keeps you in customers' minds. Buying a pie doesn't just become a fire-and-forget thing, but this forces them to make the decision about whether or not to come back for more, without it feeling like you're pushing it onto'em.

While Tuftears does have a point about the hygiene of it, as long as it's washable it sounds doable.
coppercheetah From: coppercheetah Date: October 14th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
(Having tackled a similar problem at my workplace...)
Might I suggest the following process:
The box is a fairly standard double-wall cardboard container (as these are sturdy enough to survive multiple trips), with a plastic liner and (possibly) custom foam insert made to house the pie. (I can get you costs from the packaging firm I've dealt with in the past, but for a run of twenty or so, costs are still pretty minimal.) With the correct choice of foam, not only are all components replaceable, but for the parts most likely to have contamination issues (the liner and insert), you can use various cleaning techniques like hot water and detergents with no effects to the packaging.

(Following the 'subscription' model,) inside with the given pie is a prepaid FedEx return mailer for the empty container and an order sheet for the customer's next pie.
(You'll have to tell FedEx you want their reusable airbill mailers--these use a ziploc seal rather than adhesive to close the airbill pouch, and will then get attached and remain on the shipping container. The customer then needs only to place the new airbill inside the mailer, close the seal, and drop it off for shipment back to you.)

In this way, the customer buys their subscription and the pie is delivered with the ability to ship back the container with the customer's next order.

With that all said... Caveat Entrepreneur! Right now, markets that deal in 'luxury' items (like custom-made pies) are going to be thin. Expect this. You'll get rushes around the holidays, but month-to-month orders will have dry spells throughout the year. I'd be curious how much the shipping cost to various locations would be in comparison to the cost of the pie itself.
khromat From: khromat Date: October 18th, 2011 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
The boxes I've ordered are specifically designed to handle shipping of cakes and pies... the foam inserts are formed to handle the odd shape, so that's covered (although, if you can get me a better price on them, I won't complain)

I'll definitely talk to FedEx about reusable airbill mailers, and find out how much the empty box would cost to be shipped back. I don't have a business account with them yet, maybe if I start getting regular orders I will.

Shipping of perishables is always very expensive -- you're paying for speed for temperature control. As I start doing this as a business, I'll be able to have a better idea of the actual costs.
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