MATTAPOISETT — Jennifer Joslin is the mother of three children who don’t like vegetables. This may be a common complaint among parents of young ones, but Joslin decided to solve the problem and was so successful, she turned it into a business. She made sauce.
“It was difficult to find a combination of vegetables that all three of my kids liked,” says Joslin, 39, who was cooking for daughters Hanah, 12, and Emma, 10, and son Luca, 7. So she started experimenting with a variety of vegetables and pureeing them into sauce. With nature’s produce as her palette, Joslin’s goal was to incorporate six different colors to provide a wide range of nutritional benefits. The veggies had to taste good together and, when pureed, end up the familiar dark orangey-red mixture the children were expecting. “It still had to look like regular pasta sauce,” says the entrepreneur.
Tinkering for many months, Joslin finally landed on a combination of tomatoes, carrots, red cabbage, green beans, eggplant, and garlic. Her children readily ate it on pasta and pizza and so did their friends.
It wasn’t until after her marriage ended that Joslin considered turning her kid-friendly sauce into a business. Looking back, she says, “I never thought I’d be starting a pasta sauce company.” The former lab technician credits her science background with helping allay any jitters about monitoring temperatures and pH (acidity) levels.
In January 2010, she launched Joslin Foods and Summit 6 Pasta Sauce — named for the six vegetables in the jar — initially making and bottling it at a shared-use kitchen in Dartmouth. Shared-use kitchens allow budding food entrepreneurs to rent fully outfitted space for the hours they need, rather than having to invest in expensive equipment and kitchen space. Joslin quickly outgrew the 40-gallon steam kettle in Dartmouth, which she used to simmer the veggies, then moved her operation to How on Earth in Mattapoisett, where a 100-gallon kettle now serves her needs.
Her first sales went to Lees Market in Westport and Clements’ Marketplace in Portsmouth, R.I., and she kept approaching shops. “I just continued adding stores, one by one,” she says, describing it as a slow process because she had no employees. Today, three Summit 6 sauces — the original Kids, Smooth & Mild; the newer Classic, Thick & Savory; and Spicy Chunky with a Kick — are in more than a dozen Whole Foods Markets and a few Shaw’s on the Cape.
If you glance at ingredient lists on supermarket pasta sauces, they’ll reveal that only a few contain vegetables other than tomatoes, and many have added sugar and relatively high sodium levels. Summit 6 sauces have about half or a third of the sodium of most other sauces and contain no added sugar (the Kids sauce is sweetened with honey).
At home, Joslin uses the sauce in all of her children’s favorite dishes and as a base for pasta e fagioli (a hearty pasta and bean dish that can be thick or soupy) and shellfish stews. A lunchtime favorite in her house is stromboli, in which pizza dough is spread with sauce and grated cheese, rolled up like a jelly roll, baked, and then sliced into spirals.
Over the years, home cooks have dealt with picky eaters by hiding greens in meatloaf, beets in brownies, and squash in muffins.
You have to wonder if Joslin intended to be sneaky when she added cabbage and green beans to her pasta sauce.
“Absolutely,” she says. “You get creative as a mother.”
Summit 6 sauces are available at Fruit Center Marketplace, 10 Bassett St., Milton, 617-696-5274, and 79 Water St., Hingham, 781-749-7332; some Whole Foods Market locations, including
200 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, 617-491-0040, and 442 Washington St., Wellesley, 781-235-7262; or go to www.joslinfoods.com.
Lisa Zwirn can be reached at lisa