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repurposed military bags – the bag that started it all

repurposed military bags – the bag that started it all

Repurposed military bag

I once saw a bag for sale online that had been repurposed from old military textiles and immediately fell in love. It was so authentic, loaded with character and had such a historical significance that just really drew me to it. I wanted that bag, in a bad way, but it was really expensive!! Over the next couple weeks I kept going back to admire the bag but I knew I would never have it. That was when I told myself that I would learn to make one.

Repurposed military bag

I’ve always had a sewing machine and … I’ve always known how to sew. But I had never sewn a bag so naturally I thought it would be easier than it was. I spent endless hours online reading tutorials and watching DIY videos and weeks later, I pulled out some scrap textiles and made my first bag. It was not very pretty. So I made another. And another. Over the next several weeks, I made more. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I made more. I wasn’t very satisfied with any of them, never mind that it took me a ridiculous amount of time to make just one. I also made the mistake of trying to use military textiles right from that start which, in hindsight, was a huge mistake. Not only did I spend half of my time trying to dissemble them in a way that didn’t damage them, but they are also are very thick, old, worn and all around difficult to work with. I remember I would get blisters before I was even half way done with a bag! I wish I had taken pictures of some of those beginner bags but if you can imagine a very basic tote with no frills, no liner, no pockets, no zippers, some never even got straps! I just kept going through the motions., undoing what I did, and then doing it again. I was super determined!

Repurposed military bag

Well, I did eventually make my first military bag. And I loved it. I loved it so much, that I opened up an Etsy shop and listed it for sale. I didn’t list it for very much as I didn’t feel that I was a professional bag maker in any way, but it was a nice bag and I thought that someone out there would love it and be able to appreciate the time and thought that I had put into it. While I was making another one, it sold! And so it began. My shop at the time was called Rebagged designs and I was only making bags. We had another shop called Apothecary Art where we were making apothecary cabinets. Eventually we combined the two to create TNBC designs which 5 years later, became 1770 mercantile.

Repurposed military US Navy bag

So that is how it all started. And the best part? Hundreds and hundreds of bags later …. and I still have yet to make one for myself!!

Shop bags here >>

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potato crusted cod with jalapeno honey

potato crusted cod with jalapeno honey

potato crusted cod with hot honey

We’re big fans of anything crusted. I know, it doesn’t sound so appealing but trust us, this ones delicious! We like to serve this with whatever roasted vegetables are in season (pictured with zucchini and squash). This is one of our favorite, super quick recipes.

ingredients:

2 4-6 ounce codfish steaks

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1 cup dried mashed potato flakes

salt, pepper, parsley

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

fresh lemon or lemon juice

instructions:

Place the flour in a shallow dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In another bowl, beat the eggs. In a third dish, place the mashed potato flakes.

Heat the oil  and butter in a large non-stick pan on medium – high heat. Dip the fish steaks in the flour, then the egg, and then the potato. For crispier fish, dip into the potato flakes a second time. Cook each side about 4-5 minutes or until cooked through. Sprinkle parsley on each side about half way through. Remove from heat and squeeze fresh lemon. Before serving, drizzle with some jalapeno honey.

Makes 2 servings.

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more hot honey pleeeeeease

more hot honey pleeeeease

So we have been trying to show everyone how versatile our hot honeys are. It’s different, we know, and we are here to remove any hesitation you might have in trying one of these hot honeys. We personally put this stuff on everything we eat. Seriously. It’s that good. But pictures speak louder than words. So here are some of our favorites.

We have tried hot honey on all kinds of desserts. This is a french pastry with our cherry hot honey. YUMMM.

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Who knew Cannolis with a bit of spice could taste so good?!

Cannoli with hot honey

Yes, we always have dessert first. One of my favorite ways to use hot honey is to cook with it. It creates an amazing glaze! Below is a bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with a Habanero hot honey glaze.

Hot honey glaze

Hot honey glazed chicken wings, not kidding, this is amazing. These were glazed with our Thai hot honey, giving them quite the kick.

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So do ya need more convincing? Ok Ok, we have made it even easier. You can try our hot honey sampler which includes 6 different flavors (we only have 8, so that’s almost all of them)! And, it even comes in a pretty gift box for the hot sauce lover in your life 🙂

Try our sampler pack here >>

hot honey samplers

 

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What is macerating?!

What is macerating?!

macerating fruit

We’ve had people try our jams and ask us … whats your secret? Well, we’re going to tell you! There’s no secret really, it’s all about taking our time. We know that time doesn’t come easily these days between our jobs, our families, cleaning, groceries, bills, yard work, never ending house projects … did I miss anything? 😉

Anyway, I guess that’s our secret. We take our time. Which leads us into, what is macerating? Macerating fruit is like marinating meat … except with fruit. It means soaking your fruit in either a sweetener or a liquid, to draw out it’s natural sugars and sweetness. The longer your fruit “marinates”, the richer and more intense the flavor becomes. Additions such as liquor or herbs will enhance the flavor even more. Macerated fruits are often used as dessert toppings (we’ve all had strawberries that are swimming in a sweet syrupy liquid) or added to yogurt or ice cream. The above picture is a batch of our rum raisin apple jam that had macerated overnight in spiced rum and sugar. Look at all those juices!! We macerate all of our fruit for jams for at least 24 hours. We’ve found that we are able to use less sugar and do not have to add any pectin (pectin is usually added to jam to thicken it). Not only does macerating help to release the fruits natural pectin, but we also slow cook our jam until it reduces to the desired consistency. This means that none of the flavor is diluted such as when adding pectin to thicken it. The result? A delicious jam that just cannot be reproduced by doing it the “quick” way.

Here are some strawberries on their way to the refrigerator for a good night’s soaking. Oh, there’s amaretto in there too 🙂

macerating strawberries

And here are the results of a blueberry batch we just finished.

blueberry jam

YUMMM right??! So there you have it, so easy!! Now lets go macerate something!

chili pepper infused honey

chili pepper infused honey

1770 mercantile Chili pepper infused honey

We have a hot pepper obsession. But we think it’s a good obsession because we are constantly looking for new ways to use our peppers. This is one of our absolute favorites. Chili pepper infused honey aka hot honey. It’s not a hot sauce, its not honey, its more of the perfect, most versatile condiment ever. We use this on just about everything we eat from salads, sandwiches, pizza, burgers, pasta dishes, to desserts such as muffins, pound cake, and ice cream. It seriously goes with everything. How is that possible, right? Well, the combination of sweet, which hits you right away, followed by the slow build up of heat awakens literally every single one of your taste buds. Now that they have been awakened, everything you eat tastes better. Your able to taste the flavors of things better. Makes sense right? You have to try it to believe it 😉

We use only organic peppers in all our hot honeys. Our honey is locally sourced, raw wildflower honey. Our process takes a minimum of one month to produce one bottle of this delicious condiment. Why a month? Can’t tell you, it’s a secret! But it’s worth the wait, trust me! The result is a wonderfully sweet honey, followed by a very smooth heat. And we have 6 different heat levels, so something for everyone, unless you don’t like spicy because even our mild is made with hot cherry peppers. So while the heat is mild, it’s still there. Would you believe this stuff is amazing on ice cream?!

Ice cream topped with chili infused honey

Organic habaneros

Those (above) are habaneros and they may be small but they are HOT. We use these in one of our hottest (next to the ghost pepper one of course) honeys. Some other peppers we use are Thai, Cayenne, Jalapenos, Chocolate Habaneros, Scotch Bonnets, and about a half dozen others. I told you we had a pepper obsession!

Hot Chili peppers

We rate the “hotness” of each of our hot honeys based on the Scoville scale, which is basically a measure of heat a particular pepper has. Here is a sample Scoville heat scale.

Scoville heat scale

And of course, there’s the taste test 🙂

Are you craving some hot honey yet? No? That’s because you’ve never had it!

Purchase your hot honey here >>

save our bees

save our bees

bees

I know. They scare us. But did you know that our bees are endangered? Did you also know that bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat? That’s right, without bees, we wouldn’t have about one third of the agricultural crops that we have. That is about $131 billion that they could possibly be contributing to our economy annually.

Many of us have no idea how bees contribute to our agricultural crops but it is quite fascinating. Pollination is needed for plants to reproduce and many of these plants depend on bees to act as “pollinators”.

When a bee collects nectar and pollen from the flower of a plant, some pollen from the stamens (the male reproductive organ of the flower) sticks to the hairs of its body. When the bee moves onto the next flower, some of this pollen is rubbed off onto the stigma (the female reproductive organ of the flower). When this happens, fertilization is possible, and a fruit, carrying seeds, can develop.

Some plants that depend heavily on bees for pollination are okra, potato, onion, celery, star fruit, Brazil nut, beet, mustard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, hot peppers, watermelon, tangerine, orange, grapefruit, coconut, coffee, and so so many more!

So why are our bees endangered? There has been a huge decline in the bee population and this decline continues at a frighteningly rapid rate. The most common potential cause is that the heavy use of pesticides in our country is killing them. So what can we do to help our bee population? Believe it or not, there’s a lot we can do! One, which most of us probably do already, is plant some herbs and wildflowers in our yards and gardens. This helps provide bees with forage as they are loosing habitat to our farming practices and destruction of native landscapes. Plants such as lilacs, lavender, mint, black-eyed Susan, verbena, bush sunflower, and passion flower are a few good varieties. You know that perennial garden you’ve been putting off? Well, now you have another reason to plant that beautiful garden 🙂

Wildflower garden for bees

iced coconut chai latte

iced coconut chai latte

Iced coconut chai latte

This iced chai latte is one of our favorites and soooo easy and quick to make. Refreshing enough on a hot summer day and rich enough in the midst of winter. We like it best with coconut milk but it’s also tasty with almond milk!

ingredients:

coconut milk

chai tea

raw cane sugar

instructions:

Bring 2 cups of coconut milk to a boil. Add 1-2 tablespoons chai tea and 1-2 teaspoons sugar to taste. Let simmer for 3-4 minutes. Strain and let cool. Pour over a glass of ice and enjoy!

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jam jam jamin’

jam jam jamin’

1770 mercantile raspberry jam

Jam is one of our favorite foods. It’s deliciously sweet and good for you, comes in a hundred different flavors and is spreadable. Whats not to love?!

Of course, as with anything else and especially when it comes to food, quality is king. I practically grew up on peanut butter and jelly (but I mean – didn’t we all??) and I have always loved jam (grape, baby). But when I tried my first home made jam … well, let’s just say I almost cried. Who knew there would be such a difference?! So much so that I started making my own jam. Organic jam. And then one day I ran out of room in the cupboard.

And that’s pretty much how 1770 mercantile began selling organic jam 🙂

One of the reasons we insisted on making our own jam is because we wanted to use organic fruit. Fruit, and especially berries, is one of those foods where organic really makes a difference. Who wants to eat chemical soaked berries?? In addition, it has been proven that many berries retain more of their health benefits when purchased organically. Well, we know that can get expensive. So we started growing our own. One berry bush after another, we planted and planted and planted. And made jam.

Organic Jam - Strawberry peach Amaretto jam

Above is our strawberry peach amaretto jam. YUM! And below is our rum raisin apple jam.

Organic Jam - Rum raisin apple jam

And just so y’all don’t think we put alcohol in everything, this is our berry bash (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry) jam.

Organic Jam - Berry bash jam

So whats the difference between store jam and home made jam? TASTE! When fresh organic fruit and raw sugar are your only ingredients, you really can’t go wrong. It’s spreadable fruit. And when your buying home made jam, buying jam that is made in small batches ensures that your jam is fresh and trust me, you will notice a difference! And you’ll thank yourself for it 😉

Purchase your jams here >>

oh honey

oh honey

1770 mercantile Honey

It’s no secret we’re pretty big fans. I mean, the sweeeeetness! Not to mention how versatile honey is. We use it on almost everything from topping meats, pizza, burgers, ice cream, cake, as a sweetener in tea, veggies, did I mention ice cream?

So we can all agree that honey is super versatile and super sweet. But did you know that it’s also super healthy? Yeahhh it is. Not only does it contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, but also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. And let’s not forget about it’s antioxidants (our bodies love antioxidants) as well as being a good source of energy and promoting weight loss. For these reasons, honey has often been used as treatments for skin care, wound management, weight loss, and full body immunity. Furthermore, it is actually being used in hospitals to speed up the recovery of cancer patients after surgery. That’s pretty serious!

Honey, however, is one of those you get what you pay for things. Not all honey is equal and the benefits of honey that we get greatly depend on its quality. While there are many factors that affect the quality of honey, to get the most of the health benefits, honey should be purchase raw or unprocessed. Heating honey especially, drastically changes it’s chemical composition thereby removing many of it’s health benefits. Most of the honey that we purchase in supermarkets have been processed to prevent crystallization.

Speaking of crystallization, many people think their honey has gone bad when this happens but that is not the case. It is very natural for honey to crystallize because of it’s high sugar content. The next time this happens to your honey, soak it in a hot water bath until the crystals dissolve. It should stay in liquid form for quite some time depending on the temperature and environment.

One last topic we should mention is organic honey. Many honey sellers will not state their honey as being organic because it’s really difficult to guarantee that honey is organic. Bees can fly miles and miles away from their hives so unless your have a huge radius of only certified organic farming around your bee farm …. you get the idea. But this doesn’t mean (as mentioned above) that some honey is not better than others. We purchase our honey from a local bee farm (and by local I mean, I could ride my bike if I had a bike) that uses no chemicals, antibiotics, or anything artificial on, near, or around their hives. These are some good questions to ask when wondering how “natural” your honey is 😉

it’s official. blueberries rule

it’s official. blueberries rule

1770 mercantile blueberries

Blueberries are (in our opinion) the #1 superfood ever. The amazing health benefits of blueberries will make you want to go out and buy, pick, or steal some blueberries for yourself. And they taste so good!

Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, blueberries are among the most nutrient dense foods, including potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Gallic acid, Manganese, Lutein, Fiber, and more! If we lost you at Gallic acid, it’s an anti-fungal, antiviral agent and an extremely effective antioxidant. The many health benefits of blueberries include but are no where limited to, whole body antioxidant support (so think cancer, cardiovascular disease, immune system), blood pressure, inflammation (inflammation is at the root of most diseases), improved memory and motor function (blueberries are considered “brain food”), digestion support, weight loss, skin support, diabetes support, eye health, and mood. And that was the short list!

Did you know that most of the power of blueberries lies in their color? That pretty blue – purple is a byproduct of flavonoid – natural compounds that protect the brain from the damaging effects of oxidation and inflammation. And blueberries are one of the best sources of flavonoids you can find. Beautiful and powerful (and they taste good and they’re low in calories).

It’s no secret that we’re a fan of everything organic, but research has actually shown that organically grown blueberries have significantly higher concentrations of total phenol antioxidants and total anthocyanin antioxidants than conventionally grown blueberries, as well as significantly higher total antioxidant capacity. Plus there not covered with chemicals 😉

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