Opening the lid of a grill, spatula in hand, Colleen Lemza served apple-maple smoked buttered chicken to her hungry family.
Lemza and her husband Mike run the Keeseville-based Adirondack Grilling Pellets (AGP), a company that produces apple-maple pellets.
Colleen and Mike officially launched in the spring of 2012 when they created their first packaged product.
Lemza, vice president of marketing, said it was a slow process at first, but now it’s beginning to pick up.
“This is really the first season we’re trying to ramp up and take it to market,” Lemza said. “The feedback has been really good so far.”
The pellets are made with real apples provided by Champlain Valley Specialty, a company that packages apple slices and apple juice in Oswego. The apple cores and pulp left over after processing is shipped to AGP as dry apple pomace to make AGP’s current flavors; apple, apple-maple and apple-cherry.
To make the different flavors, AGP takes the pomace and mixes it with leftover cherrywood and maple wood sawdust from their pallet operation Essex Pallet and Pellet. Once mixed, they dry, heat and place the mixture into the large extruder that turns it from a mixture to pellets, waiting to be packaged by Mountain Lake Services in three-ounce, one-pound and 35-pound bags.
Once the pellets form, they’re ready to start smoking meats, vegetables and other grilled foods. In order to do that, a third of a cup of the pellets need to be placed in an aluminum pouch with a small incision on the top for the smoke to escape. Next, it is placed on the burner below the grill to allow the smoke to rise. Once that’s done, the smoking process can begin with the lid closed. Depending on what is being cooked, time will vary.
“When you cook with it, smoke with it, grill with it (apple-maple), it just smells like Sunday morning breakfast,” Lemza said. “We made apple-maple smoked ribs for father’s day, and they were amazing!”
The pellets, so far, sell in 25 to 30 different stores, including General Trading Company in Plattsburgh and Oscar’s smokehouse in Warrensburg along with other gift shops, grocery and convenience stores, butcher shops and smokehouses, hardware stores, sporting goods stores, drug stores, farm stands and more. Right now, they’re trying to increase their sales revenue by adding more stores.
“It’s a challenge,” Lemza said. “It’s a challenge for small guys like us: tiny, little, family ma and pa businesses to get into those larger retail outlets.”
Also to help them grow, AGP hopes to incorporate new flavors in order to appeal to more markets. Currently, the company is trying to incorporate an apple-hickory flavor and, if they can find a vendor, a grape flavor as well.
“It’s fun to experiment with new flavors and new techniques,” Lemza said.
AGP currently works with Curtis Hemm, former dean of the New York Culinary Institute who trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, to create different types of recipes with the pellets, trying to get ahead of the other national chains that sell wood chips for grilling.
Today, smoking is becoming a new trend in the U.S., Lemza said, and it’s spreading throughout the country. Unlike wood chips that can be a hassle to work with, Colleen Lemza said the pellets are easier to use, healthier for flavoring than various sauces and makes the food taste better.
“The real fruit adds a more intense flavor infusion than just plain wood,” Colleen Lemza said. “It adds more angles and opportunities for grillers to get flavor.
“It’s easy, and it’s fun.”
If anyone would like to know more about AGP or order pellets online, visit their website adkgrillingpellets.com/.