Cottage Food Connection
Cottage Food Connection
Enews for Minnesota Cottage Food Producers

Meet Alida, Minnesota Department of Agriculture cottage food liaison

Alida Sorenson joined the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Food and Feed Safety Program in May 2019. Alida is the Response and Outreach Supervisor and liaison to the cottage food law.
Alida has a Master's in Public Health with a focus on Environmental Health. Her background includes work as a nutritionist, health inspector, and Team Diarrhea student worker with the Minnesota Department of Health. Outside of work, Alida enjoys spending time with family, friends, and her dog Darby.
As always, you can email the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at or call 651-201-6027 to get answers to your cottage food related questions.

Cottage Food Law workgroup gets answers to your questions
Did you know, a Cottage Food Law workgroup meets quarterly to answer questions and clarify issues related to the Minnesota Cottage Food Law on your behalf? Several cottage food producers, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, local health departments, Minnesota Farmers' Market Association, University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, and lawyers from Farmers Legal Action Group and Mitchell Hamline Public Health Law Center have clarified issues around types of foods allowed, production and sales location, labeling requirements and more.
If you have a question, concern or issue you would like discussed at a future Cottage Food Law workgroup meeting, contact the chair, Kathy Brandt. or 507-337-2820.


Summer and food safety 

Summer temperatures are enjoyable for disease causing bacteria and us. As the temperature and humidity rises, so can foodborne bacteria . The Centers for Disease Control sees an increase in foodborne illnesses from June to September.
Bacteria, including those that cause foodborne illness, grow fastest at temperatures between 90 to 110 °F. Monitor and control the rising temperatures in your cottage food kitchen during warm-weather months. Follow these safe food storage guidelines:
  • Keep dry storage areas with ingredients or finished product clean with good ventilation to control humidity and prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.
  • Store shelf stable food and ingredients at 50-70°F. Place a thermometer on the wall to check the temperature. Store foods away from sources of heat and light, which decrease shelf life.
  • Maintain refrigerator temperatures between 36-38°F to keep perishable ingredients like eggs at safe temperatures.
  • Check the refrigerator temperature. Use a refrigerator appliance thermometer or place a food thermometer in a glass of water in the middle of the refrigerator. Wait 5 to 8 hours. If the temperature is not 36-38°F, adjust the temperature control. Check again after 5-8 hours.
  • Make a habit of reading the refrigerator thermometers on a regular basis at about the same time of day. Slowly rising temperatures may be indicate the unit is not working properly.
  • Allow for air circulation around shelves and refrigerator walls to maintain proper food temperatures.
  • Check seals on your refrigerator door. It should have a good seal and close tightly to maintain the temperature.
Can I use commercially processed fruit in baked items or to top a cake?

A University of Minnesota Extension dietetic intern prepared a cake to test the safety of adding processed fruits to baked goods. Alexis made a Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe from using commercially canned pineapple. The cake had an initial pH of 4.8 with a water activity level of 0.80. The low water activity classifies it as a non-potentially hazardous food. Only non-potentially hazardous foods are allowed to be produced and sold under the Minnesota cottage food licensing exemption--- a pH less than or equal to 4.6 or water activity less than or equal to 0.85. These parameters control the growth of disease causing organisms.
These test results are 'unofficial' as they were not tested in an accredited laboratory. They cannot be generalized to all canned fruits or recipes. Remember, your finished product must meet one of the non-potentially hazardous food parameters. To ensure it does, you can have the product tested by an accredited commercial lab. Pricing varies but the average pH test costs $15 per sample and water activity costs $30 per sample. Here are a few labs cottage food producers have used:
  • Minnesota Valley Testing Lab, 507-354-8517, New Ulm, MN
  • R-tech Labs, 800-328-9687, St. Paul, MN
  • Market Fresh, 621-331-4050, Minneapolis, MN 
Why is freezer jam allowed but baked items like pumpkin pie, cheesecake and banana bread are not?
Currently in Minnesota, fruit based freezer jam is allowed to be sold as a cottage food if it meets our non-potentially hazardous standard in Minnesota statute. The finished product must meet the non-potentially hazardous parameters of a pH less than or equal to 4.6 or water activity less than or equal to 0.85. Alexis, our dietetic intern, also prepared and tested an uncooked   raspberry freezer jam recipe   from the University of Georgia . The raspberry freezer jam had a pH of 3.0 and water activity level of 0.87. While the water activity is too high, the pH of 3.0 meets the requirement of 4.6 or less, making this a non-potentially hazardous food. Fruit based freezer jams are not frozen for food safety, but rather for quality and freshnessIn fact, Alexis left a portion of the freezer jam in a covered container at room temperature. It took four weeks before there was sign of spoilage..
However, pumpkin pie, cheesecake and banana bread need refrigeration to control pathogen growth because their final pH is greater than 4.6 or water activity is greater than 0.85. Therefore, these products are considered a potentially hazardous food requiring both refrigeration for food safety and a food license to produce and sell these items.
If you make and sell freezer jams, keep these food safety tips in mind:
  • Use a standardized tested recipe from a reliable source.
  • Label the jam, "Keep frozen or refrigerated for quality."
  • Keep the product frozen during storage, delivery and point of sale.

Wheatless Wonders 

Seven years ago, a medical condition forced Mychal Waldorf to make dietary changes and become gluten free (GF). Having a love for baking and not finding many tasty gluten free options in Bemidji, she turned her passion for baking into making GF baked goods. She didn't stop until she mastered a tasty and tastes like "normal" product. In her celiac friendly home kitchen, Mychal and Dan Moe make gluten free cupcakes, scones, cookies, bread, jar mixes, muffins and pies. Dairy-free, vegan, and some sugar-free options are also created in the Wheatless Wonders kitchen. All ingredients are organic or Non-GMO.

Wheatless Wonder sells 300+ baked goods and pre-orders at the Bemidji Natural Choice Farmer's Market every Saturday during the summer and fall. Families with children with sensitivities to dairy, gluten, eggs or Celiac Disease seek them out. Mychal explains, "Kids with Celiac Disease know they do not have a lot of options when it comes to baked goods. Kids' faces light up when they come to our stand and see a wide variety of options safe for them to eat". To meet their customers' needs in the off-season, they do bi-weekly meetups. Top selling items are blueberry and white chocolate scones-they sell out at every market.

Wheatless Wonders products are made fresh and never frozen. Besides freshness, food safety is paramount in their 100% gluten free home kitchen. Mychal and Dan converted an extra bedroom into a bake-room. A place to keep all baking supplies and finished product in a clean and sanitary area.

As a Senior Graphic Designer for an agency in Bemidji, Mychal used her design and marketing skills to build a brand that is well recognized. Social media is her main channel to advertise. Text and messenger campaigns help advertise flash sales and reminders. Nevertheless, nothing beats word of mouth. See Mychal's creative website design and product line at .   

Expert video 
University of Minnesota Extension Food Safety Educator Kathy Brandt interviews Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Carrie Ridgon, Food and Feed Assistant Director. Watch this video to learn why Cottage Food Producers have to register and how to transition from a registration to a food license.
Beyond cottage food acidified food course
University of Minnesota
October 1-2, 2019
Ready to sell your canned salsa to grocery stores? BBQ sauce is selling like hot cakes and you're reaching the $18,000 sales limit? Canning salsa, pickles and other acidified foods for retail or wholesale in Minnesota requires specific certification. This two-day workshop is intended for supervisors of thermally processed acidified food facilities and licensed food entrepreneurs who produce acidified foods. It provides the certification required by the Acidified Foods Regulation. More information here

University of Minnesota Extension Food Entrepreneurs Website
The University of Minnesota Extension Food Entrepreneurs website  is your one stop shop to find a list of handy resources, how to safely offer food product samples, register for classes and link to the cottage food Q & A blog.

Interested in being featured in the Producer Spotlight? Have a favorite resource to share? Curious about something? Let me know at  or

Written by Suzanne, Extension Food Safety Educator; reviewed by Kathy Brandt, Extension Food Safety Educator; designed and edited by Lisa Haro, Executive Office and Administrative Specialist, University of Minnesota Extension.

© 2019 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this material is available in alternative formats upon request. Direct requests to 612-624-0772.