Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Photo Essay: E. Waldo Ward & Son Ranch

There are some places in Southern California that are a bit intimidating at first glance, appearing even inhospitable.



But if your curiosity incites you to park your door, climb a staircase, and creak open a screen door, sometimes you're greeted not as a stranger, but as a welcome visitor.



Local family-run gourmet food company E. Waldo Ward & Son doesn't really advertise that you can not only visit, but also take a tour of, their ranch / orchard / factory / kitchen / warehouse in Sierra Madre, but when I called and asked if they were accepting visitors last Saturday, they answered with, "We're open til 3!"




The 3.5 acre estate (reduced down from its original 30 acres) features original buildings in very good condition, like the home that Edward Waldo Ward Sr. built in 1900, which has housed various members of the Ward family over the years...



...including current owner Jeff Ward, the fourth generation of Wards to run the family business.



The house is currently occupied by Jeff's sister, and is surrounded by kumquat trees...



...which bear the fruit that E. Waldo Ward & Son famously pickle and jar (so much so that they were sold out on the day of my visit).



In fact, all of E. Waldo Ward's citrus-based gourmet food products - including a variety of marmalades - are made from fruits grown right on the ranch property.





Inside the kitchen, large barrels bring Spanish olives in for jarring...



...to be stuffed and brined and otherwise flavored and seasoned.



Large kettles cook California-grown fruits of the non-citrus variety (berries, etc.) down to the perfect level of maceration for jams and jellies...



...soon to be placed in jars to be sent down the conveyer belt...



...and off for labeling.



Ward has preserved much of the original features of the kitchen, including the burners...





...and many pots, pitchers and pourers.



The striking red barn, with its looming tower, is also an original, preserved structure of the ranch, dating back to 1902...



...and includes a historical museum featuring an original jar of marmalade and empty jars with original labels...



...as well as the presses that embossed the labels.





Ward and his employees take a lot of pride in the rich history that has gone into making their gourmet foods, which have expanded beyond marmalade and other preserves into butters, sauces, marinades, syrups and cherries.

But with no current heir, who will Jeff pass the business onto when he is ready to abdicate?

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