Category Archives: Journal

Found: Tomatillo Salsa (in the Ottawa Citizen!)

With spring just around the corner I start craving vibrant, fresh flavours. I have been tapping into my stash of Top Shelf Preserves Tomatillo Salsa — taking egg burritos and black bean quesadillas up another level.

fresh, aromatic cilantro
fresh, aromatic cilantro

In fact, I just cracked open a jar to sauce up some steak tacos last night. Seared beef, corn tortillas, refried beans, pickled jalapenos, sour cream, cilantro sprouts, and Tomatillo Salsa combined to make a deeply satisfying feast! And, as my boyfriend pointed out, we were participating in #TacoTuesday! Now where is that taco emoji everyone is taco-ing about?

270mL glass jar of Tomatillo Salsa with a black label and lid

I was pretty stoked to see that we were in the Ottawa Citizen today! Food writer Laura Robin features local products and dishes in the “Found” section every week, doing a service to Ottawa foodies who are always hungry for something new and fresh! Check out the article by clicking the photo below!

ott citizen march 16 2016

Every fall we source locally grown tomatillos, serrano peppers, cilantro and garlic. We roast the tomatillos and peppers, combine them with onions and garlic and simmer on the stove, adding Ontario apple cider vinegar for acidity and a wonderful depth of flavour.

organic garlic from Britannia Backyard Edibles
organic garlic from Britannia Backyard Edibles

One of our neighbours, Greg, grows beautiful cilantro and we scored bunches and bunches from his Just Food Farm garden last season. Long simmering makes our salsa thick. You can see flecks of charred tomatillos and peppers throughout this blended sauce.

a handful of tomatillos in Jasmine's garden at Mariposa Farm

I haven taken a couple days off to help at the Jasmine’s garden in the last two seasons, helping prepare beds for planting and then coming back later to harvest tomatillos! These little hardy plants are prolific and are well suited to Ottawa’s short season. I just love them.

Our shop is open Sunday March 20, 2016 from 11-5 to celebrate the first day of Spring and the Persian New Year! Stop by to shop our wide selection of handmade pickles and preserves!

We also sell the Tomatillo Salsa (and other goodies!) online through and ship Canada-wide.

What’s your favourite way to use Top Shelf Preserves Tomatillo Salsa?

Meet the artisan food maker and founder of Top Shelf Preserves

We put together a video about Top Shelf Preserves and founder Sara Pishva, take a look!

With our recent press in the Ottawa Citizen, we want to remind everyone to check out our upcoming events and our stockists to find out where to purchase our small batch artisan pickles and preserves.

"Proudly Local" excerpt by Laura Robin, published in the Ottawa Citizen November 29, 2014.
Excerpt from “Proudly Local” by Laura Robin, published in the Ottawa Citizen November 29, 2014.

Take a look for us at one of Ottawa’s best independent craft sales, Urban Craft Market, this Saturday December 6th at the Glebe Community Centre 10am-3pm. We are working with N-Product to do a mashup, so come early to see what we’ve put together!

Happy gifting and thank you for your ongoing support!

A new home for Top Shelf Preserves

We’ve been looking for a workspace and just about stumbled onto this gem in Old Ottawa South. We began moving in May 1st, and hope to be open to the public on weekends as early as this July!
We made an announcement on Facebook and Instagram last week, and have been inundated with high fives, offers to help (thank you so much everyone!) sage advice (“take your vitamins!” says Briana who recently re-opened Café My House), and a few glasses of celebratory bubbly at Oz Kafe (thanks Oz!!)
Sara standing outside the new home of Top Shelf Preserves, in Old Ottawa South.
Sara standing outside the new home of Top Shelf Preserves, in Old Ottawa South.
Our next event is MAC Fair at Immaculata High School this Saturday, May 10. In addition to our usual pickles and preserves we will have superb herbal tea wildcrafted here in Ottawa by The Wild Garden and some locally roasted coffee beans by Happy Goat.
We will update when we have more info. Stay tuned!

Spring Shows 2014

It won’t be long until little garlic scapes start pushing up from the earth and mark Top Shelf’s first trip around the sun (we are almost 1 year old!). In the meantime we have signed up for some excellent spring gourmet and craft shows.

Flavours of Ottawa is April 12th. We will have our assorted pickles & preserves, mustard & marmalades. Our favourite sweets maker, Morsel, will be there and you ought to do yourself a favour and pick up some of their fantastic caramels. Hummingbird Chocolate will be showing off their single origin confections… this small batch local chocolate maker knows how to please the dark chocolate lover.

Flavours of Ottawa Easter Food Market
Flavours of Ottawa Easter Food Market

We are excited to join the excellent 2-day show by the Ottawa Valley Crafts & Collectibles (OVCC) Guild at the end of the month, April 26 & 27. Vibrant! Artisans @ the Archives showcases an outstanding collection of Ottawa Valley handcrafts. Handmade goodness!

Artists @ the Archives

We are excited to join 75 vendors at Immaculata High School for their Annual day-before-Mother’s-day craft sale, MAC Fair: Bloom May 10. We have heard fantastic things about this show that supports student activities. There will be all sorts of handmade gifts for mom. In addition to our regular lineup we will be selling wildcrafted herbal teas by the Wild Garden and locally roasted Happy Goat Coffee beans. To top it off, we have heard that there is a pancake breakfast! $1 admission.

mac fair
We have applied to the farmers’ markets, and eager to find out where we will be this season. We also have a few other potential shows in the works and we will post details as they come. It’s shaping up to be a very, very exciting year!

New products & some reflections

Small business can be tough. There’s always more to do, and it seems like there’s never enough time. I can be stubborn and spend hours on something that seems insignificant, taking valuable time away from making, planning, and selling. You can be your own worst enemy and your own hero when you’re your own boss.

Chatting with Jesse Reynolds at Spotlight 613
Chatting with Jesse Reynolds of Spotlight 613

Entering my 11th month of business I am finally starting to see that Top Shelf Preserves is what I do now, and it’s working! It’s been a lot of hard work, but it also feels like a lot of luck and tons of love from friends and colleagues. I feel this imperative to keep going, work out the kinks, keep learning from my mistakes, and keep sincerely creating.

Instagram user @stirlbot's "The Hustlin' Iceberg"
Fellow Urban Crafter Instagram user @stirlbot‘s “The Hustlin’ Iceberg” (

Meanwhile, I’ve been learning about bookkeeping with self-directed resources from Invest Ottawa and the raw data from my business activities. It’s taking a lot of my time that would normally be spent in the kitchen, and all those numbers can zap my energy. Luckily it seems to have some positive effects too! I have focused on test kitchen activities and come up with some really great new products! And I have realized that my dream is actually unfolding like a carpet at my feet, and nothing makes me want to work harder (and smarter) than that first taste of success.

I have some great new products available. Now I am going to post some pictures of them in various stages!

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#smallbatch Blood Orange & Lemon Marmalade with Saffron
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#smallbatch really good Beau’s Beer Mustard
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Grapefruit jam beginnings
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preparing bitter oranges for a Jameson-spiked marmalade
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#smallbatch Jameson & Bitter Orange Marmalade

I’ve been so fortunate to meet Ottawa’s best makers, artisans, and specialists, and it really makes me feel at home in my new endeavour! I am thrilled to be setting up shop alongside some of my favourite local small businesses at Urban Craft on March 15 10am-3pm at the Glebe Community Centre (175 Third Ave. Ottawa ON).

Come visit! And make sure to check out the seriously excellent lineup of other vendors!

You can also find some of our #smallbatch pickles & preserves at Goods, inside Victoire clothing boutique 1282 B Wellington St. West Ottawa ON.


The test kitchen has been bustling here at Top Shelf! There have been pounds and pounds of beautiful and fragrant citrus being zested, chopped, macerated, simmered, and jellied for the last two weeks and we’re happy to announce that we’ve got some really special new products!

The most exciting new marmalade is made from bergamots, a citrus fruit known from its familiar aroma in Earl Grey tea. The whole fruit is used, including rind, pith, fruit, and seeds to make this marmalade. The seeds contain pectin which gels the mixture of fruit and sugar into a medium-firm set marmalade. They are soaked in water overnight and then strained out.

bergamot marmalade
Small batch bergamot marmalade

Making marmalade and jellies is really fun, though it can be frustrating. There are a lot of hours logged in the test kitchen that make “failed” batches, but with a bit of resourcefulness those failed batches can be wonderful in their own right. A batch of Ontario Italian prune plum jelly with a too-soft set made excellent mix for a plum Negroni at Mello’s Supper Club, and the five-fruit marmalade that had a too-soft set will be a splendid addition to my lemon poppyseed cake.

Failures in the test kitchen are good. I’ve learned a lot as a cook through trial and error, but the lessons that stick are usually borne out of errors. There is a lot of trial and error when learning new recipes and techniques, and gathering all the data tends to lead me to some conclusions. For instance, there were several batches of jellies that did not set this summer, but it showed me that using a heavy duty cast iron dutch oven isn’t any good for making jelly. You need a thin and good heat conducting pan with a lot of surface area. I learned not to fill the pan more than an inch and a half deep with jelly or marmalade makings. For now I use a wide stainless steel pan, but I’m lusting after a French copper marmalade pan ever since seeing one in action at Preservation Society.

Mauviel copper preserving pan, hand hammered, made in France.

The sloped sides of the pan let water evaporate more quickly and the large surface area helps to reduce your fruit more quickly, losing less aroma and helping develop natural pectin (pectin breaks down if it is cooked too long, something I learned when trying to fix a grape jelly for the third time). For more on copper preserving pans, check out this great blog post I found through

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Labeling new marmalades and jellies, sipping small batch raspberry soda

So far we have the bergamot marmalade, as mentioned above (fantastic on a cheddar biscuit) and we also have lime marmalade and Seville orange (bitter orange) marmalade. We’re planning to develop a blood orange marmalade next!

If you are interested in these products, come out for a taste test tomorrow Saturday February 8th at For the Love of Winter An Art Market presented by A Curious Shop. The event is part of Winterlude, so come out and celebrate winter. If you get cold come on down to the art market and warm up with a hot cup of coffee: we’ll be brewing the Happy Goat coffee Support Local roast (and selling whole beans, too!).

You can order products through email, too. Contact for more information or to place an order. Delivery within Ottawa is available for a fee.

Citrus has arrived

It’s a citrus party at Top Shelf!! Blood oranges, bergamots, limes, Seville oranges, Buddha hand, and lemons. We’re working on lots of new recipes, and trying out different marmalade techniques.
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Preparing bergamots for marmalade. Very powerful aroma! #smallbatch
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Top Shelf Raw Pickled Turnips

Our pickled turnips have been a hit this season! Maybe it’s an Ottawa thing, but I love shawarma and all the fixins. I didn’t really fall in love with the turnips until I made my own.

Top Shelf pickled turnips are featured in the baby kale salad with on the Manx Pub menu. It’s available at lunch & dinner.

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They start out as humble root vegetables…

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Turnips just begging for brine.

With the addition of a simple pickling brine and some cut beets, the turnips transform through lacto fermentation into crunchy, garlicky, salty pickled turnips!

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Ready to devour!


uOttawa market tomorrow

After an incredible season of craft and food fairs this winter (thank you Ottawa!) Top Shelf is going to stick around and make things happen in 2014! We’ve identified the crowd favourites (Sriracha garlic scapes & dill pickled beans, holla!) and we’re still going to be making lots of small batches throughout the year (it’s just what we do).

Our first market of the season is tomorrow, at the indoor farmer’s market at Ottawa U hosted by the Student Federation as part of Green Week 2014.

Maryanne at the SFUO Farmers' Market
Maryanne at the SFUO Farmers’ Market having a bowl of chili from Top Shelf Preserves.

The market is going down 9am to 4pm Thursday January 16th, and there are lots of awesome vendors with a real range of products and grab-and-go food for lots of different diets. I love snacking on Ethiopian spicy vegetable injera wraps and sipping on the natural grape soda from Kulture Foods. There’s also a dedicated fudge vendor for you sweets-loving people.

Hope to see you there!

P.S. if you have an event coming up and are looking for vendors, drop us a line.