How Salt & Straw Creates Sustainable Ice Cream

Spent Grains & Bacon S’mores, Salt-Cured Backyard Citrus Creamsicle, Banana Bread Pudding – if you are at all familiar with Portland-based ice cream shop Salt & Straw, known for their outrageously creative (and delicious), small-batch, organically-sourced ice cream, then it probably comes as no surprise that these flavors have graced their menu in the past. However, you probably didn’t know that each of these flavors, along with 12 others, were carefully crafted by Salt & Straw’s R&D team using food that was destined for the garbage as part of their Rescued Food Series in June 2017.

Inspired Beginnings

Salt and Straw Ice Cream
Tyler and Kim Malek of Salt & Straw

(Photo provided by @saltandstraw)

The idea came to light when Tyler Malek, one of Salt & Straws two founders, learned that one in seven people in Oregon, including over 194,000 children, face food insecurity, or the consistent lack of food to maintain a healthy lifestyle, on a daily basis. From this realization, and their past experience donating to local food rescue organizations, the idea to make ice cream using rescued foods – such as leftover ingredients from restaurants or slightly imperfect-looking veggies rejected by grocery stores – came about.

To the Source

(Photo provided by @saltandstraw)

Leveraging their existing connections with Urban Gleaners in Portland, Food Forward in Los Angeles, and Food Runners in San Francisco, all esteemed food rescue organizations, to connect with local farmers and restaurants, Salt & Straw got to work buying leftover ingredients at a fair – and sustainable – price. “Nothing was just donated to us – we weren’t looking to get free stuff,” said Kat Whitehead, Head of R&D at Salt & Straw. “We wanted to show that these ingredients still had value.” The next challenge was working with each vendor to develop specialized distribution plans, as the logistics of getting leftover food to those in need is often the toughest challenge faced by food re-distributors.

Salt & Straw sourced a vast range of rescued food ingredients, from leftover organic popcorn from the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco to whey (a cheese making byproduct) from Ancient Heritage, urban cheese makers in Portland.

Fantastic Flavors

With an armada of carefully sourced and fairly bought ingredients on hand, Salt & Straw’s R&D team crafted and conceptualized unique flavors that celebrated their local rescued foods in a safe and sustainable way.

Spent Grains & Bacon Smores

(Photo provided by @saltandstraw)

The Spent Grains & Bacon S’mores flavor, sourced from Portland’s Breakside Brewery, used spent brewery grains in three different ways: 1) toasted, candied, and made into a chocolate bark, 2) ground into a tea infusion, and 3) fed to pigs at Naked Acres farm, and made the resulting pork belly into a bacon marshmallow fluff, swirling it together with the chocolate bark and tea throughout the ice cream.

Salt-Cured Backyard Citrus Creamsicle

In Los Angeles, Salt & Straw partnered with Food Forward, which harvests overflowing residential fruit trees in Southern California. They bought bucketfuls of oranges, lemons, pomelos, grapefruits, and limes, creating a sweet and salty marmalade to fold into their Salt-Cured Backyard Citrus Creamsicle flavor.

Food Rescue at Home

The flavors were a hit with their customers, leading Salt & Straw to donate a portion of the proceeds back to Urban Gleaners, Food Runners, and Food Forward, and allowing these organizations to feed and support even more local food insecure families. These flavors also started new conversations around food waste and sustainability in Salt & Straw’s own kitchen, leading them to implement the larger philosophies they had learned about food supply chains and rotations to reduce accidental waste moving forward.

We can all make an impact when it comes to reducing food waste in our communities. Here are three tips from Kat Whitehead on how to reduce food waste in your own home:

1. Plan

When you go to the grocery store, don’t just throw random ingredients in the cart. Meal planning will help you buy only the amount of food you need and use each week.

2. Freeze

If you do buy too much, keep track of expiration dates and freeze food until you know what to do with it. Kat’s own grandmother kept a bucket of bones and vegetables trimmings in the freezer, using these leftovers for delicious and cost-effective soups.

3. Experiment

“A big part of food rescue is being flexible,” says Kat. Make dishes like pot pies, pastas, soups, and fried rice, which are perfect for using up any odd bits and ends laying around the kitchen.

Do you have brunch plans this weekend? Check out this blog post about wine pairings for your favorite brunch dishes. Discover delicious eats in your area, ready to be ordered.