Beth Rankin, President and Processor of Can-Do Real Food, typically froze freshly harvested food but never had enough freezer space. She decided she would learn to can after her move to Oregon and serendipity led to meeting with Jana Brown who taught how to water bath can tomatillo salsa and Tina Schneider who instructed how to pressure can fresh tuna. When Beth took the part time job at Bethel Springs Farm she earned minimum wage but enjoyed taking home any of the produce that was below the farmer’s high standards for sale to customers. It was that summer of 2014 when the pantry shelves started filling with canned goods. Beth finally understood the pride of a farmer she had met in West Virginia who displayed her shelves of preserves.
Comfortable with canning, albeit in no way an expert, Beth tackled the task of starting a commercially licensed food processing business. First, certification with the Better Processing School. Then inspection of a commercial kitchen and approval of recipes by the State of Oregon. All the boxes were checked and the processing began in July 2015.
Developing recipes for production involves research through cookbooks, online as well as proffered by numerous friends and family. Food safety considerations are always the key factor: can any recipe of something exquisitely delicious be safely preserved?
Coping with a jam recipe that did not jell enabled us to get creative and we used that to season our apple pie filling. Taking the milled seeds and skins from our hot sauce enabled us to develop a grilling and roasting rub. This kind of creativity is part of who this team is and the epitome of what Can-Do Real Food is about: we will minimize food waste.
Graham Rankin, Vice President of Research and Development uses his amazing knife skills to prep most of our recipes. His background in chemistry is also invaluable when identifying alternative ways to solve some issues, like a cloudy grape juice prior to processing it into what became a clear jelly. His comfort with math helps us convert recipes from household yield to commercial yield. And he’s also a good sport by helping with some picking and the Farmers Markets and is in charge of sweeping and mopping the floors in the kitchen.
Graham says his mom taught him some basics but his real learning happened in front of the television watching Julia Child. He has enjoyed numerous culinary school classes and being on several competitive cooking teams. His knowledge about using herbs when cooking to enhance flavor helped him develop another use for the abundant yellow plums one of the farms produced, the Herbed Plum Grilling and Basting Sauce, which became a bestseller and one that will be produced again.
Jana Brown serves as the Vice President of Production. As the person who kicked off Beth’s canning learning curve in 2012, Jana is a Master Canner and easily assumes responsibility at the stove. Since her skill set was so well developed, the largest challenge has been to learn commerical techniques where they differ from home canning. As a farmer, Jana has a widespread circle of farming friends and is wonderful at sourcing additional produce not grown on our member farms.
As Can-Do Real Food moves into its second production season, Jana will become more responsible handling the expanded hours of operation. Her ability is sure. Her technique is without compromise. Get ready for fantastic eating!