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Nothing says tasty like Magnolia State-made specialty foods

There’s no shortage of good food in Mississippi, including a wide range of tasty treats that make great gifts. These products proclaim the best of Mississippi to clients, perspective customers, friends and long-lost relatives. They might even make expatriates homesick for the Magnolia State.

The long list includes cheese straws, pickles, jams & jellies, pecans, beer, Edam cheese and cakes, to name a few.

What says Mississippi better than Elvis’ Peanut Butter Banana Straws made by the Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory and packed in a Gail Pittman-designed decorative tin?

“That’s a Mississippi gift that has it all,” says Hunter Yerger, whose family owns the Yazoo City-based Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory. “It doesn’t get any more Mississippi than that.”

The cheese straw/cookie makers have been involved with Pittman in joint ventures for several holiday periods now. They also brainstormed with Elvis Presley Enterprises on this one, and it didn’t take long to come up with a very good cookie, Yerger added.

Now in their 17th year, the Yergers also make Asiago Cheese and Fire Roasted Tomato Straws along with their regular cheese straws and several sweet cookie straws. Their motto is ‘The mouth has 10,000 taste buds. We hope that’s enough.’

Mickle’s Pickles also shouts Mississippi with its crunchy goodness. Founder Mickey Fluitt says he makes two kinds of pickles, “good and gooder.” Based in Picayune, he taught school 21 years before quitting seven years ago to devote his life to making pickles.

“A fellow teacher tasted my pickles and suggested I make some to sell at a street fair where I was planning to have a booth to talk about education,” he recalls. “I made 220 jars and sold all of them before noon that day.”

That great response has continued. Mickle’s Pickles are sold in 34 places and are shipped to 900 cities and every state. The pickles, some with hot peppers and some without, are individually packed and labeled. They have become special gifts for members of the military stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It makes me so proud to get e-mails and notes from troops serving in these wars,” Fluitt said. “I’ve even received two battle flags, which is quite an honor.”

However, he cautions that his pickles may be the world’s worst holiday gift because many shoppers eat them before they can give them away.

At The Mississippi Gift Company in Greenwood, Cindy Tyler sells and ships a lot of Mississippi-made products.

“We sell a lot of pecans from Indianola, Comeback Dressing, Delta Fudge Pie Mix, Snaps cookies made in Petal,” she said. “We make up lots of baskets and have all sizes but we always include cheese straws.”

Tyler even has some locally made caramel and strawberry cakes that she ships by two-day express. For a gift that doesn’t have to be shipped, she has catfish pate’. Although most consumers want ready-to-eat foods, she sells a variety of mixes for dips, soups, breads and brownies, especially as the weather gets cooler. She’s been particularly impressed with the line of mixes from A la Carte Alice in Madison, finding them quick and easy along with being tasty.

The Make Mine Mississippi program of the State Department of Agriculture and Commerce has more than 100 companies in its specialty foods category, one of 30 categories that include everything from aqua culture to wood products.

“These 100 specialty food companies are really just the tip of the ice berg,” says Donna West, division director. “There are some small ones that do it as a hobby. We have producers scattered all over the state.”

The program was launched in 1999. Any manufacturer, processor or producer that adds at least 51% of the value of a product in Mississippi is eligible to participate. To find more outstanding Mississippi made specialty and gourmet foods, log on to www.makeminemississippi.com.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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