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Behind the Business* - We Don't Dropship

Posted on February 12, 2018 by Emily Kociolek | 0 comments

We don't like following the crowd. So when something doesn't make since to us, even if everyone else is doing it, we don't follow suit.  Often times it makes things a little bit more complicated for us, but knowing we can stand behind our business and the products we sell is more important than a quick buck!  Which is one of the reasons why we don't dropship!

We import all of the items we sell direct from Poland.  We work with my father-in-law Jacek who is based in Poland to source and purchase all of our products direct from the small companies who make them.  We gather the products at a warehouse in Poland, and then load them all together to ship them to us here in the US.  We store all the items we sell in our own warehouse and pack each order individually to ship to the customer who ordered it.

Most online businesses don't even stock the items they sell.  Instead, an online business will choose items from a catalog that they have often never seen or used, and list them on their website.  The catalog is provided by a large distribution company who imports the items and stores them at their gigantic warehouses.  When an item sells, the business will automatically transmit the order information to the distributor's warehouse, and the distributor is the one to pack and ship the order.  This is called "dropshipping", where the seller of the product doesn't ever possess the items they sell.

All of this is extremely cost efficient, and impersonal.  Have you ever tried to get detailed information about one of these products from the online business, only to get very generic answers?  It might be because they have never actually seen or used the product themselves! 

While we've had many offers to set up this kind of arrangement for Stone Creek Trading, it just doesn't make sense to us.  We founded our business on the notion that our customers deserve a connection to products they purchase.  We want you to know where your products came from and we want you to know that the products we ship meet our high quality standards.  If we never even see the products ourselves, we couldn't do that.

We know we could increase our profits if we changed to a "drop shipping" website.  But we believe that the value of a small business is something greater than money.  We hope that our customers choose to purchase from us not just because of our quality products and low prices, but because they want to support our traditional small family business!

* This blog post is part of a new series - Behind the Business.  We want to give our customers more insight into the decisions we make everyday that contribute to how our business runs.  We try to always keep the customers best interest in mind when making these decisions, and we want you to know why we at Stone Creek Trading aren't your "normal" online business.  We are proud that we don't follow the "business rules" and choose to do things a little differently!

Behind the Business* - The "Discount Code Game"

Posted on February 05, 2018 by Emily Kociolek | 0 comments

As most of our customers know, we are a small family business.  We have a few core values that guide our business practices.  Today, we are starting a new series that dives deeper in to those values to give you better understanding of the company you are supporting. 

To start things off, let's discuss one of the questions we get most often - Can I get a discount code?  The short answer is most likely "no".  But because that isn't the answer most customers are expecting, this blog post explains a little more behind our reasoning!

One of our core business values is fair, honest pricing.  We know first had how hard all of us have to work to make ends meet.  So we want to make sure when you choose to spend some of that hard earned money on our products, you are getting the best value we can offer.

We have always tried to keep our prices as low as possible.  We don't mark up products just so that we can offer a discount or sale every other week to make you think you are "getting a deal".  This stressful "discount code game" that many retailers play isn't our style.  We don't want you to feel pressured to buy something before you are ready just because it's "on sale".  We'd rather you take the time to research our products and know that when you do decide to purchase you will be getting the best deal. 

Now, we do occasionally offer sales or discount codes.  As much as we resist it, there are times when it just makes sense.  Our business has no investors or loans, which means we don't have to worry about anyone else telling us how to run our company.  But it also means when it comes time to buy more inventory, we occasionally need a little extra cash.  When this happens, we sometimes offer a discount to increase sales in order to purchase new products.  This isn't how most companies come up with capital to purchase inventory, but so far it's working for us!

We also observe how products are selling on the website.  When we have a large inventory of an item, we will occasionally offer a sale on those items to remind customers that they are great products!  At this point we have over 50 varieties of fermenting crocks (all made in Poland!) and it's easy for some of the items we've had around for awhile to get lost. 

Because we want you to take the time to research your purchase, we know how valuable first hand customer reviews are.  We also know that having a customer make additional purchases after their initial order is extremely valuable.  Because of this, we do offer a discount to customers who review our products through the email request that is sent approximately 2 weeks after your purchase.  It's our favorite way to say "Thank You" for supporting our small family business!

It's not easy telling customers no, especially when every other website is offering constantly changing discounts and sales to encourage impulse buying.  We could raise our prices and start running sales like everyone else.  But for as long as possible, we want to keep want to keep our company running the way we wish all of them did.  We want you to feel confident making your purchase when it works best for you - knowing that no matter when you buy you're paying a fair, honest price for high quality products!

* This blog post is part of a new series - Behind the Business.  We want to give our customers more insight into the decisions we make everyday that contribute to how our business runs.  We try to always keep the customers best interest in mind when making these decisions, and we want you to know why we at Stone Creek Trading aren't your "normal" online business.  We are proud that we don't follow the "business rules" and choose to do things a little differently!

Order Early - Holiday Shipping Deadline!

Posted on December 05, 2017 by Emily Kociolek | 0 comments

Order by 2pm CDT on December 14, 2017
for the best chance of delivery before Christmas!

It's the most busy time of the year!!  Even though we are seeing record numbers of orders, we've been able to keep up with shipping and are still shipping out items 1-2 business days after the order is placed.  But unfortunately, UPS seems to not be quite on top of their holiday shipping game this year!  We are seeing order shipping times already delayed by 1-2 days, and have had a few orders with multiple boxes delivered on different days. 

I personally had some shipping mixups on my online shopping orders from other companies as well, so it seems to be an issue across the board.  When I inquired about a shipping deadline for UPS Ground shipments, we received this update -

Yikes!  This is not good news for a business like ours which relies on UPS Ground Shipments.  Unfortunately, for large, heavy packages like our fermenting crocks, any other shipping option is just too expensive! 

But we want to make sure that customers can shop with confidence from our website.  Which is why we have decided to offer a Holiday Shipping Guarantee, even if UPS and USPS isn't.  So here it is -

All orders placed by 2pm CDT on December 14, 2017 will arrive before Christmas - December 25, 2017.  If your order does not arrive by 12-25-17, we will personally refund your shipping fee.  To be considered for a shipping fee refund, you must order before this cutoff date & time. We are not responsible for and will not issue shipping refunds for delays resulting from shipping addresses entered incorrectly, undeliverable orders, orders not delivered because customer is not available to receive the delivery, or any other delay caused by customer error.

This cut off date will be most important for shipping address in the western United States - especially California, Oregon and Washington.  These areas typically have the longest shipping times from our location in Frankfort, IL and will need the most time in transit. 

Please read all the details about our holiday shipping guidelines here.  If you have any questions, email me - Emily@stonecreektrading.com.  And as I said before,

ORDER EARLY!!

Happy Holidays!

-Emily & Kryz

 

Which size Cabbage Shredder is right for you?

Posted on November 19, 2017 by Emily Kociolek | 0 comments

With 3 sizes to choose from, it's hard to know which cabbage shredder will work best for you.  Since I know these products well (we've been selling them for almost 5 years now!), I'm happy to offer our customers my take on the advantages of each size!

Medium Cabbage Shredder

Our most popular size by sales is the Medium Cabbage Shredder.

 

This size of shredder seems to offer the best balance of features and price.  It has the cabbage holder box which makes shredding much easier and safer.  While it's not a small shredder at 2 feet long, it doesn't take up as much space as the large size.  For most customers, the Medium size will work great.  When a customer asks which size to buy, I most often recommend the Medium Cabbage Shredder.

Large Cabbage Shredder

If you make a lot of sauerkraut and have the space for it, the Large Cabbage Shredder is the way to go!

The Large Cabbage shredder is just that, large!  It's wider and longer than the Medium size shredder, which makes it harder to find a place to store.  The extra width means it has a larger cabbage holder box, which in turn means a bigger chunk of cabbage can be shredded at once.  The extra length makes the shredding process much smoother as you can build more momentum in each slide across the blades.  If you have the space for the Large Cabbage Shredder, it really does make quick work of shredding your cabbage.  

Small Cabbage Shredder

If you are tight on space, or like a finely shredded cabbage, I recommend the Small Cabbage Shredder.

The biggest disadvantage of the Small shredder is that it doesn't have a cabbage holder box.  But, it is also much more compact and therefore easier to store, especially if you live in a small house or apartment.  Another unique feature of the Small Cabbage Shredder is that the blades are set closer together, giving you a shred of about 1/16" versus the Medium and Large shredders which have about 1/8" shred. 

Hopefully this "insider" information will help you make an informed decision about which size will work best for you!  Which one will you choose?

Buy Now - Can It & Ferment It Recipe Book

Posted on September 12, 2017 by Emily Kociolek | 0 comments

For many years we have been searching for just the right fermenting book to offer on our website.  Last summer, Stephanie Thurrow of the Minnesota From Scratch blog reached out to us about a book she was working on combining canning & fermenting recipes.  Since I grew up canning, and Kryz grew up fermenting, this sounded like the perfect book for our family and business!  Over the year that Stephanie was writing Can It & Ferment It, I had a chance to get to know her better and now consider her a friend.  It was such an honor to send her some of our favorite fermenting supplies to use while she was trying out recipes for the book. 

We were also thrilled that she asked to include our Polish Dill Pickle recipe (which comes with every crock we sell) in the book!  And when Can It & Ferment It was finished, I got to read an advanced copy and offer my review, which is now featured on the back cover!

I was also happy to have the opportunity to attend the Can It & Ferment It book release party in Minneapolis.  It was great to see Stephanie and get to check out Gyst Fermentation Bar and sample some wonderful fermented foods!

 

Now that we have a copy of the book to use ourselves, we have been exploring many of the fermenting and canning recipes!  Our garden has been very productive this year, which has meant we need more creative ways to preserve the harvest.  I love being able to flip through Can It & Ferment It and see lots of options for how to transform our veggies into year round goodies!

I'm sure all of you will enjoy Can It & Ferment It as much as we do.  And now you can purchase it along with your fermenting supplies right here on our website!  It's the perfect way to make sure you have everything you need to get started fermenting.  Because like I said on my back-of-the-book review -

"Reading Stephanie's book is like having your own personal canning and fermenting expert right there with you."

So don't delay and add one to your order!

 

Mountain Ceramics

Posted on July 17, 2017 by Emily Kociolek | 0 comments

Summer is in full swing and fermenting season is here!  We started our first crocks of garden veggies last weekend in our favorite Mountain Green & Cream Crocks.  These crocks have been out of stock for 3 years while the artisan took a break from his business.  But now he is back to work and we are able to offer these popular crocks again!



While most fermenting crocks are a dark brown color, customers are always looking for other options.  Which is one of the reasons we love these green and cream colored crocks!  Plus, the small 2L & 3L sizes are great for fermenting small amounts, like what you pick each day in the garden.  We also love that we can put the entire crock in the fridge when it's done fermenting and eat right out of the crock!

We also have a garlic crock from the same artisan available in two sizes, a small brown crock for storing or serving and a gorgeous mug

Because we have been out of stock of these products for over 3 years, we decided they count as new products!  So be sure to check out all of our Mountain Ceramics.

How to Use a Fermenting Crock

Posted on June 15, 2017 by Emily Kociolek | 0 comments

Today I'm excited to share with you something I have been wanting to create for the last 4 years!  We are now including a "Fermenting Crock Basic Use" pamphlet with every crock we sell.  In addition to our family recipes for sauerkraut and pickles, you now have everything you need to get started using your crock right away! 

Just like our recipes, I know some people will misplace this guide.  Which is why I wanted to share the guide today on our blog.  I also want to make sure any customers who purchased from us before we created this pamphlet will have access to is here as well!  So without further delay, here it is -

Introduction

Fermenting is part science and part art.  Which means, it takes a lot of experimentation to figure out what will work best for you.  For every person who says that THIS is the only way to ferment, there is another person who does it the opposite way with great results!  Remember, there are many variables in fermenting, which means no two people or batches will turn out the same every time.  These instructions are a basic guideline on how to get started using your fermenting crock.  Hopefully your first batch will come out perfectly!  But if it doesn’t, make some changes and try again!

Caring for your Fermenting Crock

We recommend washing your fermenting crock with mild soap and warm water and letting it air dry.  Avoid exposing it to extreme heat, humidity or cold.  Do not place your fermenting crock in the dishwasher!  This will likely lead to the glaze on your crock cracking.  The Luna Glass Crock Weights, however, are dishwasher safe.
  

Instructions

1.  Choose your favorite fermenting recipe. 
There are many available online, in fermenting books, or you can use the 2 family recipes that we include with your purchase!

2.  Prepare the ingredients per the instructions in the recipe. 
Avoid using reactive metal kitchen utensils when working with fermenting ingredients. 

3.  Place the ingredients in the crock, filling it to 2/3 to ¾ of the way full. 
Fermenting Crocks are not designed to be filled to the top.  You need to leave space at the top of the crock to insert the weights and to allow for potential expansion of the ingredients during fermenting.  You do not want the brine to overflow out of the crock.

4.  Insert the Luna Glass Crock Weights into the crock
Insert the weights vertically one at a time into the crock opening.  Rotate the weight to horizontal while inside the crock.  Move the weight to one side.  Insert the second weight in the same manner, placing it next to the first weight to cover the top of your ingredients.  The weights will not completely fill the inside diameter of the crock.  There will be some space between the edge of the weight and the crock. 

5.  Be sure that the ingredients are completely covered by the brine.  Add additional brine if needed to cover everything. 
Additional brine is created during fermenting as the salt pulls liquid from the ingredients.  You can wait a few hours before adding additional brine to see if this will happen.  A Cabbage Masher will help cabbage release more liquid.  To avoid pieces floating on top of the brine in finely shredded ferments such as sauerkraut, save a few large leaves of cabbage before shredding.  Place these on top of the shredded cabbage before inserting the weights.  

6.  Fill the moat at the top of the crock with water or brine.
In order to create the airlock, water or brine must be present in the moat at the top of the crock.  If you have extra brine, you can use this in the rim.  Changes in barometric pressure or temperature swings can cause the water/brine to be sucked into the crock.  If this happens, slowly lift the lid until the water/brine is released.  The water in the rim will also evaporate over time.  Check the water level in the rim every few days and refill if necessary.

7.  Place the lid on the crock and wait!
This is the hard part!  Each ferment will have a different number of days suggested to ferment.  You can sneak a peek inside your crock, but each time you open it you could introduce a foreign substance that can lead to mold or other issues.  We try to wait at least 3 days before checking your pickles, and a week to 10 days before checking sauerkraut. 

8.  Listen…..
After a day or two you should start hearing a little “blurp” noise.  This is the sound of the carbon dioxide created during fermentation escaping through the airlock water moat.  This is a very good thing!  It means that fermentation is happening.  If you don’t hear the sound, there may be something wrong.  The more “burps” you hear, the faster it is fermenting!

9.  Skim floaters or mold if needed.
If you see evidence of mold on the surface or “floaters”, you can skim them from the surface. 

10.  After several days, move the crock to a cooler place if desired.
You can leave the crock in place the entire time you ferment, or move it to a cooler place after some time.  Moving to a cooler place will slow down fermenting, allowing the flavors to develop differently. 

11.  Decide when the ferment has reached your desired flavor and texture.
Another part of the experimenting with fermentation is deciding when it’s done!  The longer it ferments, the more probiotics are created, but there is a greater chance that something could go wrong.  The flavor will also become more sour over time, while shorter times yield a milder flavor.  The recipe you are following will likely have a suggested fermenting time, but ultimately it’s up to you to find the balance of when you think its “done”!

12.  Remove ferment from the crock for storage.
When you are ready, remove the ferment from the crock and place it in storage containers.  We recommend using glass jars as they are inert and will not react with your ferment.  Place ingredients in the jar and cover with brine from the crock.  Extra brine can be used as a probiotic “gut shot” drink if desired.
Store the ferment in your fridge when it is finished to slow down/stop the fermenting process. 

13.  Enjoy!
Most ferments will last about 3 months in the refrigerator, but some can be safe for longer.  Your recipe should note how long it can be stored.  Use your nose and brain – if it smells rotten it probably is!

Tips & Tricks

-  Large fermenting crocks become very heavy once filled.  We recommend filling large crocks with ingredients in the place where it will stay during fermentation.  The process can be up to 6 weeks for sauerkraut, so take some time to plan for where the crock will be during this time!

-  The time it takes to ferment will vary depending on the amount of salt used (more salt = slower, less salt = faster) and the temperature (cold = slower, hot = faster). 

-  We do not recommend water bath canning your ferments.  The high temperature will kill off many if not all of the probiotics present in the ferment.  It will also change the texture and flavor of your recipe.

-  If you have an unfinished basement or root cellar, you can store the ferment in the crock like was traditionally done.  Make sure that the crock is set directly on top of the concrete floor so that the cool temperature of the ground is transferred into the ceramic crock.  This cold temperature is what suspends fermenting.  However, if you do this, you won’t be able to use your crock to ferment another batch!

Now that you know what to do, go buy a fermenting crock so you can start using it!

 


  

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