Top Shelf Preserves

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Visiting Top Shelf Preserves’ cozy Glebe workspace is like going to your cool friend’s house— the one who has awesome taste in music and makes amazing homemade… well, everything.

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Okay, I don’t actually have a friend like this, but visiting Sara Pishva, the woman behind Top Shelf Preserves made me wish I did. She started the company in 2013, after years in the restaurant industry and the workspace has been active since May of 2014.

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Ottawans are likely already familiar with Top Shelf Preserves. Since she began selling her preserves wholesale last Summer, the bold black label has become a mainstay in bars (their pickled green beans are incredible in Caesars) to gift shops, to local health food and fine food stores. After tasting her maraschino cherries or brandied plums, it’s easy to understand why.

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Each batch of preserves is made with care and it’s easy to see the passion that goes into her work. It is the sort of passion that drives someone to spend their days cutting up hundreds of pounds of vegetables (on that day, she and a helper, Lou, were working their way through 200 pounds of carrots).

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That passion has its roots in her upbringing. Canning has been in her family for generations on her mother’s side, from pickled beets to bread-and-butter pickles to tomatillo salsa. Family memories and worldwide influence inform the recipes that she writes. This is evident in her spicy pickled carrots, which are reminiscent of Korean pickled vegetables and slightly addictive. One of her favourite things to make includes brandied plums, which began as a recipe to make use of fruit from a friend’s tree. Another favourite? Dill pickles. “You have to wait for them… there is an element of anticipation”.

It’s impossible to visit the space or try one of Top Shelf’s Preserves and not feel inspired to try one’s own hand at canning. When asked if she had words of wisdom for novice home canners, Sarah said: “Have a plan. Before you go to the farmer’s market, think about if it’s something you like to eat”.

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