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Many years ago I chose to be a cook. Maybe it was because my mother hated to cook. Her favorite cookbook was the I Hate To Cook Cookbook by Peg Bracken. I was amazed that a zucchini was a vegetable that looked like a green carrot and not some mush in a plastic bag which you needed to heat in boiling water.

Years later, after working in many fine (and not so fine) restaurants, I moved to the Czech Republic. We have been operating our international cultural project CESTA here for almost two decades. Over the years I have learned to make jams, sauerkraut, vinegars and breads. As well, I create foods and products not available here at a reasonable price.

Traditionally, people preserved their fruit for winter, used milk from their animals to make cheeses, and stored things for future use. Using these traditions, and utilizing my experience with cooking and travel, I have chosen some of my favorite products to manufacture and sell.

With the addition of modern technology such as temperature – time controlling machinery and computers, I have made the job much easier and precise. As I learned more about traditional manufacturing I realized not only is the addition of chemicals and preservatives unhealthy, but such additions defeat the natural process of fermentation and ripening.

The products I create are made with the freshest, least-processed ingredients possible.

Cheeses are made with fresh, unpasteurized local milk, and jams and pickles with seasonal ingredients. Generally, the water I use is distilled or mineral, the salt is non-iodized sea salt, and the oils are vegetable.

Soaps are made with a base of coconut, palm, sunflower and flax seed oils saponified with lye and distilled water. Additional ingredients depend on the type of soap. All ingredients are natural products, free of chemicals and pesticides.

Hopefully you will enjoy these selected products as much as I do.

Christopher Rankin