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Raising a stink

By Mike Peters ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-01-26 09:13:23

Raising a stink

Photo by Mike Peters / China Daily

Cowell gives tours of the new orchard facilities, including temperature-controlled aging rooms, bottling and packaging room, formulation and mixing room - and a room for complimentary tasting.

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"From these tours you are able to see how the liqueurs are made and bottled," he says. "We can also bring guests into our small, artisanal, vinegar fermentation room, where I can give step-by-step explanations."

Spear points out that the new fruit-based products are designed to help sustain agriculture in the surrounding community.

"The orchard land itself was mainly planted with chestnut when we acquired it," he says. "We are changing the mix of trees and it will take several years for the new trees to bear. However, our goal has never been to obtain most of the fruit from our own orchard. Rather, we want to purchase from our local neighbors who meet our standards. For our current products, some have been made with our own fruits but most have been obtained from local producers and vendors."

Vinegars made from pears and red wine will be the first into bottles, Cowell says, because the ingredients are plentiful.

"A lot of specialty vinegars are pasteurized wine vinegars with added flavors," Cowell says, "but we are trying to make vinegars directly from the fruits being juiced and fermented. This makes these products more season-dependent, but the results have more nutritional value. We are also keeping our vinegars 'alive', by not pasteurizing them, since pasteurization results in killing all of the healthy bacteria for which vinegar is acclaimed."

Cowell and his team know that doing good won't excite customers at The Schoolhouse or at upcoming farmers' markets if what they produce doesn't taste good, too. Based on the way dinner guests over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's were scooping up the 100-yuan bottles of liqueur after sampling the goods, Cowell seems confident that base is covered, too.

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