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From Biscotti to Granola, ArborShire Enterprises is Healthy and Fun

7/12/2010

By JOHN CARLSON jcarlson@muncie.gannett.com July 11, 2010


Encountered across a small table at the Farmers Market at Minnetrista, Sharon Downhour seems as wholesome as the granola she makes and sells.

"A lot of people use it on yogurt," said the friendly Blackford County resident.

Before her as she spoke, 16-ounce bags of her homemade granola filled a basket. Nearby, her other offerings -- including peach and strawberry jams, oat bran English muffins, bread laced with exotic cheeses and plump strips of biscotti -- were displayed.

All these foods and more are produced by ArborShire Enterprises Ltd., the business she owns with her husband, Stuart. At this point, it''s primarily a bakery.

"And that''s my baby," she said with a laugh, tracing her baking experience back to the fourth grade when, on her own, she whipped up an apple pie for a favorite teacher.

Still, the granola, which costs $7.25 a bag and is sold under the label CrunchTime! Granola, seems to be the centerpiece of her offerings, with blends including apple-walnut, pumpkin pie, tropical, maple-walnut and honey-pecan with raspberries.

"Granola is just a combination of oats with other ingredients," said Sharon, who was working the market with her son, Nate, noting the baked mixture also includes flax seed, wheat germ and sunflower seeds.

She has made this stuff for years.

"I always put a lot of stock in eating good food," she continued.

Her base of operations is the Downhours'' 10-acre hobby farm, but ArborShire is not the culmination of a lifelong dream. Earlier, she worked with her husband in their contracting business, among other jobs, then spent time traveling with him.

Something bugged her, though.

"What was missing in my life was that creative element," she explained.

But not anymore.

In producing the food she sells, she is aware of sating her customers'' hunger for quality goods, as well as answering some important questions for them.

"Where''s it made. What''s in it? Is it good for me?" Sharon said. "People want to know these things."

A measure of her dedication to this back-to-the-roots idea is the fact that the Downhours raise chickens on their farm.

"We started a flock," Sharon said, "just so we''d have eggs for the bakery."

Sharon''s jam sessions

The same idea holds true for her jellies and jams. She was preparing to make kiwi jam, and if she has sour cherries, she''ll make sour cherry jelly. Next year, she said, she''ll be offering rhubarb jam, as well as another one.

"I planted gooseberry bushes," she said, "so I''ll be making gooseberry next year."

She''s not afraid to test new items, either.

"I get to experiment," she said, "and if it turns out, I offer it."

A case in point: Her oat bran English muffins.

"Those have become very popular," she said of the pale muffins, two of which she used tongs to drop into a paper bag for a customer. "They taste nothing like what you buy at the store."

The biscotti she displayed included triple chocolate almond and a butterscotch toffee almond, selling for $3.75 a pack under the label Gram''s Best Biscotti.

"It''s crunchy and firm, but you don''t have to dunk it before you eat it," Sharon said. "One of my customers says it''s not ''nail hard.'' That was his quote."

In discussing her foods and her business, she said the Farmers Market was a perfect fit for her.

"It''s fun," she said, "and if people like your product, it just reinforces your love for what you''re doing."

As for what the Downhours will be doing in the future, they are taking things slowly.

Sharon plans to seek the designation of an Indiana Artisan, which can only come after 18 months in business. Corporate gifting is liable to be another area of emphasis for ArborShire.

A small vineyard and winery is also part of their plans.

"Our focus is going to be on blended fruit wines," Sharon said.

While she is looking forward to the fruit, literally and figuratively, of that development, she also takes great satisfaction in the business as is, and its bounty of wholesome, honest foods.

"It''s good stuff," she said with a smile, "and why not share it, you know?"



Try Downhour''s favorite treat from her recipe stash

We asked Sharon Downhour for a favorite recipe, and this is what she sent us.

"I decided on my grandmother''s cream pie recipe," she wrote. "This was a recipe that busy farm wives frequently used -- it was quick and delicious.

"As another note of interest, my grandmother was always supportive of my baking, and I recently acquired her Seller''s cabinet -- a wedding gift from my grandfather''s parents. I was so happy to have it. It was in her house for 84 years and now it''s in mine. When we move into our permanent bakery, it will be displayed prominently.

LORAIN''S CREAM PIE

2/3 cup sugar
4 level tablespoons flour
1 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
Nutmeg

Mix sugar, flour and salt in the bottom of a pie plate lined with pastry. Mix cream, milk and vanilla and pour over the dry ingredients. Sprinkle nutmeg over the top and dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Cool on wire rack.


See the article on The Star Press website.


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