Bambi Porter is living a life she’d never imagined five short years ago.
As the face and mastermind behind Gypsy Cowgirl Kitchen Co., Porter travels the valley sharing her passion for canning, fermenting, as well as cheese making when the opportunity arises.
This current path, however, is one which the kitchen enthusiast stumbled upon when her life took an unexpected turn five years ago, by way of job loss. Both unprepared and shocked by her dismissal from a job she loved, Porter shared she took her time and really thought hard on what would be next for her.
“At the time I thought it was the worst thing ever to happen in my life,” she said of the job loss. “In hindsight it was the best thing.”
She shared that as she looked to her future she made a list of things she loved to do versus things she hated to do. Among the things listed on the ‘love’ side were gardening, cooking, sales/promotion, as well as canning.
“I just figured I’d make a list and I prayed about it … a lot,” she said. “I just waited for a sign.”
Her “sign” came via an unexpected crossing with an article in the New York Times highlighting a group of 100 people completing a Master Food Preserver Program in Los Angeles.
“I saw the story and dug into it,” Porter said.
She quickly tracked down the instructor featured in the article, fully prepared to travel to Los Angeles and take the class herself, only to learn the same program already existed here in Stanislaus County. Upon sitting through her first introductory class, the canning enthusiast realized she had indeed found her sign.
“I just went for it,” she said of attending the extension program, with visions of creating a business from her expanded knowledge.
Porter noted as a gardening enthusiast, she herself has canned for the better part of the past 25 years. As she attended the classes she learned of things she had done improperly. That prompted a feeling of gratitude for escaping illness and equally feeling empowered to share this knowledge with others.
“That’s what’s so important about doing these classes,” she said. “I really tell people they need to stick to a recipe that’s been tested in a test kitchen to be sure that the ratios are correct.”
Her go to: The Ball Book of Canning and Preserving. From proper measurement of preservatives to correct processing of the jar, canning has a science element which is critical to creating a healthy product.
“We are so lucky,” Porter said of living in the Central Valley and the bounty of produce and fruits available year round. Her peak season for demonstrations and classes tends to run from March until about November.
“Even though it’s my business and it’s how I make a living, it doesn’t really feel like work,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a job and I love that.”
Porter also loves the ability to educate others on controlling what is put in their food via canning. making mention of a growing consciousness of food ingredients as she’s gotten older.
“You’ve got to watch what you’re putting into your body,” she said. “If you wonder why you’re getting sick all the time, look at your menu. I’m the catalyst to help them get to another place and that just warms my heart. That’s my passion.”
As awareness of what she offers has grown, so too has the demand for her demonstrations and classes throughout the Central Valley. Gypsy Cowgirl Kitchen private parties are also available.
“This is a great way to connect and support one another,” Porter said, sharing that she encourages students to invite friends to their homes when they do canning. She said it’s a great time to put the phones away and really connect with one another.
“Ultimately, I’m just so grateful to the people who have supported me,” she said. “Being in charge of your future is empowering.”