This is a guest post by Penny Leigh, owner operator of Penelope’s Island Emporium, founder of Roatan Renegade Rescue, and the lady who put to use the multitude of mangoes that would have gone to waste on our property.
How it all started…….
I always wanted to have my own line of food………Miss Penny’s “whatever.” I am a gourmet cook, ran a Chicago gourmet club for eleven years and really enjoy experimenting with new recipes. I always thought if I had not been such a busy corporate executive’s wife and mom, I would have given Martha Stewart a run for her money.
Moving to Roatan five years ago and opening Penelope’s Island Emporium kept me pretty busy in the beginning. I marveled at all the luscious tropical fruits growing abundantly, much of it falling to the ground. I remember paying $5.00 for a mango back in Chicago and it looked a lot worse than the discards here on the island!
I was browsing through my Caribbean Pantry Cookbook and found a scrumptious sounding recipe for Mango Chutney. My friends were coming to visit from Atlanta, it was mango season and this would be a new adventure they would surely enjoy. I contacted Dave and Genny to ask permission to pick a truckload of mangos. I had been by their property and had actually “heard” the mangos falling off the trees. Well, the Big Mango Adventure Day arrived. Mangos are sticky with juice and the jungle is hot, humid and buggy.
My compatriots were less than thrilled. I thought my friend, Francine had passed out somewhere deep in the jungle, when actually she had been rescued by Genny & was enjoying a cool drink and the shade of their deck. In hindsight Francine was the smarter of the bunch.
We loaded up the truck with hundreds of mangos and dragged them home, upstairs onto my deck. I couldn’t let them spoil in the plastic garbage bags outside, so set them up all over the deck. Then came the invasion of bats……………Uck Muck! Back in the bags they went, getting softer by the minute. One look at Francine’s face the following morning told me she would not be joining me in the cleaning, cutting and pit removal of this oozing mess I had created. My partner immediately announced he was allergic to mangoes, couldn’t even touch them…………..of course he was.
I got through it finally, took a whole day.
Next, the cooking. I had large canning pots, cauldrons going on all four gas burners. I had had other friends bring me down Cardamom seed pods and fresh vanilla beans, $6.00 a bean! Twenty-three ingredients went into the pots, simmering for two days and it was 90 degrees outside, so about 150 degrees in my kitchen and I don’t have air conditioning. Alas, there was no turning back.
I did not mention that, being the organized person I am, I had ordered ten dozen jelly canning jars from our biggest grocery market two months before jumping into Mango Land. Every week I was told they would most definitely be on the next boat. Well, long story short, the chutney was ready and I had no jars. My big chest freezer was destroyed in a flood and I was in full blown panic mode. Fortunately, my next door neighbor developer let me store the chutney in his empty condo freezer compartments, as it was only for a few days……
1 month later!
The canning jars have arrived…the size of mayonnaise jars.
2 months later!
The canning jars have arrived…quart size.
4 months later!
The canning jars have arrived…pint size.
Not jelly jars, but dammit close enough. Just in the nick of time as I got a call that people were moving into the condos and would not be pleased to find mysterious bags of unrecognizable glop in their freezers.
Thawed and reheated the mango chutney, boiled all the jars, filled them and hand labeled each jar. Ready to go on the shelf! Feeling quite accomplished, I then had to figure out how much to charge. Anyone running a business knows you must keep track of all your costs to determine your selling price of an item.
So: Gas for the truck, a half day of labor x 4 people, 200 gallon size ziplock bags, 12 hours of cleaning and peeling fruit, 2 days of cooking with propane, 120 canning jars, 23 ingredients, 120 fancy labels, raffia decoration of jars, slightly damaged friendship…priceless.
I figured that if I priced them at $60.00 a jar I might break even. At $10.00 a jar they sold briskly and I only have 2 jars left. Genny, I hope you enjoy your Mango Voodoo Chutney, because it will NEVER, EVER be made or sold at Penelope’s again!!!
Penny Leigh, owner operator of Penelope’s Island Emporium, founder of Roatan Renegade Rescue
Thanks for sharing your story Penny! Wednesday March 31, the Roatan Vortex Radio Show, on Roatan Radio the theme will be all about “Mangoes and Other Tropical Fruit Adventures on Roatan.”