Galluzzo's Gourmom Salsa a locally grown treat

It's a common scenario. You're invited to friends for dinner and you want to bring something, so you decide to bring your specialty food that friends keep raving about. After a while, friends and family expect you to bring your specialty with every visit. They love it so much they say, "You should sell this. It's so good."

Sarah Galluzzo of Middlebrook Place, a thirtysomething mother of two, decided to do just that. She is in her second year of marketing her own homemade organic salsa and simmer sauce. Her brand is Gourmom and the jar of salsa is her first product on local market shelves, including The Pantry and A. & S. Fine Italian Foods. It is also available at A. & J. Farmstand and Whole Foods in Westport.

What sets Gourmom Salsa and Simmer Sauce apart from all those other jars of salsa is that the product is USDA/Organic Certified. That is no easy accomplishment.

Galluzzo explained the process during a recent interview at the kitchen table beautifully adorned with small bowls of her two kinds of salsa, mild and spicy, and a bowl of chips, served with a steaming cup of tea. (Bigelow, of course). Galluzzo believes in thinking and supporting local producers, especially when it cones to buying her ingredients from certified growers and suppliers,

The ingredients range from the Roma tomatoes, green bell and red peppers, onion and garlic to the vinegar, herbs and spices. What more could a parent love than to see their children eating salsa made with all organic ingredients?

Galluzzo emphasizes her goal is to make her salsa with certified Connecticut grown products. She acknowledged that this past growing season proved quite a challenge with the tomato blight that hit many of the local crops. She admits that there were times that she faced many challenges; however, she was buoyed by a comment from an USDA official who encouraged her when he said, "You have good energy and a good product."

In seeking out locally grown Connecticut produce, she buys from White Gate Farm in East Lyme, a main provider, along with Urban Oaks Farm in Bristol. She also relies on CT Farm Fresh Express, which delivers local produce and other products direct from local farms and producers right to a home or restaurant who want to serve local and fresh food.

Galluzzo spent a good year researching and coming up with just the right recipe for the salsa and simmer sauce.

"We did a lot of tasting with friends. Mom helped," said Sarah, a reference to her mother Madeleine Gauthier, of Rowland Road, whom Galluzzo refers to as "her secret ingredient" because her mother was her chief taster.

"She's always so encouraging and great in the kitchen," said Galluzzo, noting how her mother would work along with a crew of volunteer friends.

In preparing the ingredients, everything is handcut, mixed and scooped into jars in a commercial kitchen in Oxford. The kitchen had to be approved in order for Galluzzo to receive her USDA certification.

Gourmom Salsa and Simmer Sauce is not just for serving with chips. Online, Galluzzo offers recipes for using her product in soups, tacos and burritos, omelets, and fish and meat dishes. She also has a recipe for using salsa when stuffing a chicken.

Gauthier says Gourmom is a terrific name for her daughter's product.

"She was a `gourbaby' and a gourkid,' recalls Gauthier, who cooked for four daughters and recalls that Sarah, the youngest, who was born when her sisters were 6, 8 and 12, had different tastes in food than the rest of the family. She wasn't in to her mother's casseroles. She preferred asparagus.

`"She was very particular about the way the food looked. Her plate had to look good or else she wouldn't eat it,

"She was my worst eater because it had to be gourmet," said Gauthier, who refers to herself as a `mamacook'?

What is a `mamacook'?

Gauthier says, "It's when you have a big family, and usually they bring home friends, so you just put a lot of things together, like stews, spaghetti and casseroles or cook big things that feed a family and make them happy."

The daughter of French Canadians, Gauthier grew up in West Hartford eating a lot of farm produce. She recalled that during World War II, a time when food was rationed, her father and his brothers bought a farm in Glastonbury where they would grow their own produce for family consumption. She learned a lot about fresh produce, much of which the family canned. She taught her daughters canning.

While Gauthier does not recall her daughter growing up cooking, she does recall her writing, a career path that Galluzzo did pursue. She graduated local Catholic schools including St. Thomas, Notre Dame and Sacred Heart University where she earned a Bachelor's degree in 1994 and then a Master's degree in writing from Manhattanville College.

Prior to starting her own business she has worked for a number of advertising agencies as a copywriter and continues to do so when opportunities present themselves. During her early career, she met her husband Jay, who is in advertising sales.

As a copywriter, Galluzzo "successfully named and helped rebrand Over the Moon Milk and two SOBE beverages." In addition to her professional writing, Galluzzo is pursuing her interest in fiction writing as a participant in local writing workshops.

In summing up her role as an entrepreneur, Galluzzo says it's a combination of creating a "delicious," USDA Organic Certified salsa and simmer sauce that tastes great and promotes good health while using local farms and sustainable agriculture to produce the product whenever possible. She donates a portion of the profits to promote good stewardship by giving approximately 5 percent to charities that help children.

Looking ahead, Galluzzo already is planning to market a peach salsa, possibly a green relish and also her own chips. She feels fully confident that her products will have long shelf life in the competitive market for she says, salsa is the number one condiment, superior to ketchup and mustard.

In addition to the local retailers, Gourmom Salsa and Simmer Sauce is also available by the case for purchase for retail or home use by contacting Galluzzo through her Web site.

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