In my weekly market reports recently I’ve been mentioning that we seem to be at the peak of the harvest. How can I tell? Simply, when I walk down Cowls Street as the farmers’ market is setting up I am amazed at the overflowing bins of produce the farmers haul there. Tomatoes of all kinds, peppers both sweet and hot, potatoes large and small, sweet corn, summer squash glowing green white and yellow, winter squash in acorn and spaghetti models, strawberries from everbearing varieties, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, apples, and on and on and on.
In the past week in the Can-Do kitchen we handled 50 pounds of blueberries, 40 pounds of Asian pears, 30 pounds of tomatoes, 30 pounds of prune plums, and still have about 100 pound of onions to deal with. Today we were gifted about 20 pounds of peaches and the day is only half over.
I keep our dehydrators running almost all the time now. The Asian pears are in there as I write this (plain and cinnamon) and the peaches will go in next. (Onions after that probably)
Mike, the guy who owns Cream ice cream and I have a good time chatting flavor combinations each week at the market. When I told him I was getting this gift of peaches (more coming this next week that are already planned for 2 types of jams) he suggested something which fed a need of his: powdered peaches he could add to ice cream in the winter. So we will chop the peaches and then dehydrate it, powdering some, leaving some small chunks. Mike can get some for his ice cream and you can get some for your yogurt or baking or other yumminess you like to do.
The onions……oh my. We add onions to our Loaded Pasta Sauce, so some will be used on Monday when we prepare that. But I’ve made a few very small batches of caramelized onions for our home kitchen and one friend’s and I suppose you might be able to enjoy after I get some of these 100 pounds cooked up and then dehydrated.
So, you might ask, why was that “one friend” so lucky as to gain some caramelized onions? Well, she presented me with some extra onions she had. That’s pretty much all it takes and now she tells people she has her own “food processor.” One person responded, “oh yeah, I have one of those chopping machines too,” but you know it’s a tad more involved than that.
Anyway, lots to share with you. If you want to know if I can make something, shoot me an email at BethRankinOR@gmail.com. If there’s a safe way to preserve it, I’ll let you know.
Also, if you want Loaded Pasta Sauce, let me know how many and in pints or quarts. This has been a funny tomato season. It started late (really only about 3 weeks ago) and looks to be ending early. So I probably will not be getting a lot of tomatoes. Right now I have orders for 40 quarts so they will be fulfilled first. If you want some, tell me now. In a few weeks it will be too late.
So, a couple of weeks ago I realized since I was busy with all the fruit this time of the harvest, I needed to get more pectin before I ran out. And so, I headed over to one of my favorite websites, Nuts.com. (No, I’m not hawking for them…..I just thought you’d know why I was attracted to shop there….and THEN I saw their quality and their pricing…ladedah)
I found my pectin and into the shopping cart it went….and then I remembered we needed some dried apricots because I never got any fresh a month ago. Okay, that done.
But then I noticed “dehydrated ingredients” and decided to “window shop.”
Okay, so the punchline to all this is that we have CHEESE-A-LISCIOUS Popcorn Topping Mix” at the farmers’ market this week. Ingredients: white or yellow cheddar cheese, butter, garlic, thyme, rosemary. $6 for 2-4 uses.
The first and last time we made it before was three years ago near the end of the September. We knew we only had a few more weeks left in the farmers’ market run, so we went through all our odds and ends of dehydrated veggies, fruits, nuts, and herbs. We also had obtained some sample containers from various vendors at the Portland Ingredient Expo held that prior winter. Voila, we found a recipe that included what we had and made up about 10 packets. They sold out in the first public exposure.
This will be the second time…..we have 19 packets. Does one have your name on it?
You can now order delicious dehydrated products from Can-Do Real Food by going to the website and clicking on the link to Store Offerings! There you will read about the products that are available to purchase.
The software I used to help with the online purchasing offered a way for local people to opt to arrange for local pick-up instead of needing to pay for shipping. I only entered the zip code for McMinnville. If you live in the Valley and are willing to come to Mac, just process the shipping option but leave a note for me that you want to arrange local pick-up and I will refund the shipping fees.
When I got the shopping system installed, Graham and I ran some testing and I determined that the software’s effort to combine the items into the least expensive shipping option did not always work right. I will gather your purchases and put them into the smallest envelope or box possible, refunding any difference in shipping rates as well. (One very positive aspect of the PayPal system allows for easy reimbursement.)
So now, you need no longer wait until I am at a market to enjoy Can-Do Real Food!!!
Do you love to eat? Whether you consider yourself a foodie or merely know what you like, whether you enjoy home cooking or prefer to have someone else do the work, Can-Do Real Food has something for you!
Great news! Can-Do Real Food is building inventory as fast as humanly possible as the harvest is happening. The only news that would be better would be that we are open for business but I want to hold back for another few weeks before we start offering items for sale. This will hopefully serve to whet your appetite and help you be patient.
Personally, one fun thing I experienced as part of the travel I was lucky to enjoy was the amazing foods and dishes I had never tasted growing up. Some of these international experiences show up in our easy to prepare meal kits. For example, our Mole Sauce provides all you need except for the protein to fix a delicious quick chicken mole dinner. We make it with a hint of heat, just enough to remind you that this is a Mexican recipe, but not enough to get the sinuses flowing. Even hot-pepper-phobes find it tasty. And if you like heat, you can add more with your own favorite pepper or hot sauce. Today we prepared a lot of these meal mixes for you and now we need to head to Creo Chocolate in Portland to buy more of their 73% for our recipes!
We offer other “international” flavors, including our Moroccan Tangine, which basically is a stew with wonderful spices and fruit. Not spicy hot but again with a small hint, because we want everyone to enjoy it. Again, we do not include the protein. (Why do we skip that? The government oversees food processing work in two categories. I am inspected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a representative of the USDA. Food processors who provide meat in their products must also have a license issued by the FDA. The requirements for the inspector to have their own office and bathroom just makes this license unreachable in the commercial kitchen I use at the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries. So, no protein in our food products. )
This past winter in the test kitchen we explored how to present a dehydrated version of our popular Loaded Pasta Sauce. That sauce was originally developed to incorporate the surplus zucchini and carrots that the farmers had. The dehydrated version does the same. We first macerate the tomatoes in red wine and then roast them for several hours. Then they are dehydrated hard so we can powder them. The carrots also need a bit of pre-cooking before drying; we found in the test kitchen phase that merely using shredded carrots left them with a crunch that just is a bit unusual for pasta sauce. Precooking before drying takes care of that. The rest of the recipe is similar but the end product is a bit different than the canned version. You may be amused to learn that when the people around the Tasting Supper table blind taste tested four versions of the recipe, they preferred the wine version, even over the canned recipe! Right now we are dehydrating the tomatoes but it will be a while yet before we have the other local produce to assemble the recipe for you.
We will be drying slices from zucchinis that grew too large for the farmers to sell. Since we know many people spiralize zucchinis for use in the summer, this will allow a shelf-safe product for use during the winter when zucchinis are imported and a lot more expensive. It helps people who want to have pasta but avoid the carbs and is delicious with our dehydrated pasta sauce. Additionally, if you are a backpacker, rehydration of the zoodles takes only a few minutes.
Last fall we obtained 150 pounds of pumpkins and butternut squash and have prepared a lot of single serving packages as well as 2-4 serving packages of our award winning Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup. All you need to do to enjoy this soup is boil the right amount of water , mix in the power and 3 minutes later the soup is ready!
Then we have a lot of fruit products include fruit leathers, chunks of fruit, and even a fruit dust. That one needs an explanation I think. Late each year, after the first frost, Ranee Solmonsson of Sunshower Hill Farm harvests her garden huckleberries. These differ a bit from wild huckleberries because they are actually a different genus. The berry is large and not sweet at all. But when sugar is added, the flavor is that deep rich blueberry flavor we love. Can-Do Real Food prepares a culinary syrup for Ranee to be used on pancakes but especially wonderful in a beverage. Well, when we prepare it, we put the berries through a mill that separates the solids from the juice. The juice of course goes into the preparation of the syrup. The solids are “waste”. But this past December I tried to dry it as a fruit leather. It was too lumpy to roll up, so I ended up grinding it finely and it is absolutely amazing added to oatmeal or yogurt!
Another item we make that I would guess you might never see anywhere else is membrillo buttons. I first learned about membrillo when I moved to Oregon but apparently quince trees grow in many places around the world. In Spain, membrillo is made by preparing quince paste and then air drying it in deep containers. Before I became a commercial food processor I used a cookie sheet with sides and left the membrillo to air dry for a couple of months. Well, food safety regulations will not permit me to prepare it that way for you, so I put small dollops of the quince paste on a dryer sheet and voila! buttons. They are sweet and tangy and are shelf-safe, something you can carry in your bag or car and have for a easy snack.
I try to make other unusual things. For example, it is now July and I can see we are going to have a bumper crop of apples from my Gravenstein tree. Besides dried apples, I plan on making a mixture that is a recipe we use for the Passover Seder in the spring. Charoset is a sweet mix that symbolizes the mortar used by the slaves in Egypt. The recipe I grew up with included grated apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine. I will be making a dehydrated version that can be used as a simple snack or rehydrated with a little water to have a soft condiment that would be superb with chicken any time of the year.
We will have herb mixes as we did before and also another batch of umami dust that can be used to enhance your stews and soups and other savory dishes.
It is our pleasure to play with food and present delicious items from local farms with no artificial anything.
And, since we are in the middle of harvest, if there is something you would like us to consider making, now is a great time to share the concept!
Seeing the writing on the wall……and it is time to make a decision and then issue an appeal to you.
If you follow me on my personal blog or you actually stop and chat with me at the farmers’ market, you are probably aware that this has been a difficult year for me with my health. First breathing issues had me at 30% of my lung capacity…that finally has improved to about 70%. Then a second opinion on my bad knee agreed with the first guy that my issue was “only” arthritis, even tho I was in a new world of pain since I twisted my knee in June 2016. Then my opposite hip started complaining loudly. Then I needed a cornea transplant.
Still, I kept on with lots of help from alternative medicine but I am concerned that all the needed activity is not helping me heal nor is this boding well for my husband who has admirably stepped up with no (audible) complaints. I do not want the extra workload to get him ill.
So, it is with a rational mind but a disturbed heart that I have to end Can-Do Real Food after this harvest season.
It has been an amazing journey and I hope someone out there wants to take over the activity.
The concept of helping small local farms gain a new income stream with the sales of preserved foods from their farms is important. Reducing food waste is something we each recognize needs to be done. And yes, local consumers have been learning they can eat this year’s harvest even during the winter using the canned and dehydrated foods Can-Do has prepared.
You need not have vast canning experience to do this job, just enjoyment of the task. Some of you may know, but most probably do not, is that I learned to can four years ago. I started the business the next July 1 with my certification achieved over the winter. Did I make mistakes…..oh yes, but that’s what life is. If you never make mistakes, you probably are playing it too safe.
You do need to be a planner personality. You need to know what will be needed before it is needed. Today, for example, I will pick up one ingredient for a new dehydrated meal mix we hope to make tomorrow. Since it needs to be dehydrated itself, I will get that going so it is ready for the morning Kitchen time. For every hour in the Kitchen I spend an hour doing planning or wrap-up.
You need to be a people person, too. Selling products at the farmers’ market is a lot of fun when you enjoy chatting with strangers and turning them into friends. You also need to be able to communicate effectively with the farm partners.
One benefit to whoever might want to take on this endeavor: you will have a mentor and not have to learn by the seat of your pants, as I did. I can provide a certain amount of information as you gear up before the harvest and market seasons begin, and while the kitchen time gets busy.
Please email me at BethRankinOR@gmail.com if you are interested, even if only a bit. I can help you determine if your skill set will make this feasible!