Our State’s Made in NC Awards celebrate the talent and creativity of North Carolinians. Check out all of this year’s winners! Winner Sweater Box Confections — Kitty Hawk Lavender Lemon
Chris Carroll swirls vanilla extract into a mixing bowl and reimagines her family’s sugar cookie recipe. Before she’s done, she will have combined the juice and zest of a lemon with dried lavender buds, which bring a subtle floral note to the traditional treats of her childhood. Before she moved to the Outer Banks in 1993, Carroll grew up in a cookie-loving household in Michigan. Her grandmother would bake sweets during the holidays and pack them in sweater boxes to take to family. The tradition inspired Carroll to start Sweater Box Confections in 2014. “We would gather as a family, consume the treats, retell old stories, and share new ones,” she says. “It connected us, and when I started my business, I wanted it to have that same purpose.” It’s that feeling of being with family, gathered in a kitchen full of smiles and conversation, that Carroll hopes to capture with each bite.
For Katie Cooper, the savory taste of pretzels coated with garlic, dill, and red pepper flakes brings childhood memories flooding back. Growing up, her mother, Judy, made them for family gatherings and events, and Cooper sometimes helped her bake. “The pretzels were always around,” she remembers. “She even made them to go in my wedding welcome bags.” After pandemic lockdowns began, Cooper, then a stay-at-home mom, had extra time on her hands and pulled out her mom’s recipe to keep busy. She started making the pretzels for friends and family, but it didn’t take long for just about the whole city of Charlotte to fall head over heels in love, too. Cooper officially launched Queen City Crunch from her home kitchen in 2021. Today, her best-selling “OG” uses her mother’s recipe, flavored with crushed red pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, and dill. “My favorite thing to do is dip them in pimento cheese,” Cooper says, “but using the crumbs as a garnish on avocado toast and eggs is a close second.”
Every weekend when she was little, Kristina Morando-Stewart visited her Italian grandmother, Noni, in Pennsylvania and watched her pick fresh basil from her garden for Sunday supper. Twice a year, Noni harvested herbs to make seasoning salt, which she distributed to the family in Mason jars. “It made an impression on me how this small act tied our family together,” she says. After her grandmother passed away in 1993, Morando-Stewart and her dad discovered a small handwritten page in Noni’s kitchen: the generations-old pinching salt recipe. Morando-Stewart used the recipe to make small batches of her own, and when she moved to Raleigh with her husband in 2015, she started a business selling her salts in Noni’s honor. Over the years, she experimented with the original recipe, creating new flavors that invigorate the senses with a burst of pepper or the calming aroma of thyme. Tenebroso, Italian for “dark and mysterious,” uses Carolina Reaper chili peppers for a powerful punch of flavor with each pinch. Morando-Stewart recommends sprinkling it on cream-based soups as a finishing salt — or, her favorite, rubbed on a pork chop.