Onward!!

YOUR INSIGHT OF THE DAY
You must have long-range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short-term failures.
Charles C. Noble – 1916-2003, Engineer

I promised you an update and I have been slow to write this because I just have not be 100% sure I can pull it off. My optimism is strong but I have this nagging issue: my health.

Last summer I was a physical mess. Two summers ago I had twisted my arthritic knee and the orthopedic doctor I saw early said it was no big deal and I would never need surgery. I wasn’t asking for surgery, I was asking for help……and got none from him. I started physical therapy but there was no gain. About six months later I went to another orthopedic doc after having an MRI done. He said the same thing. Simply, I was miserable.

Last summer, a year after the incident where I twisted my knee, my opposite hip started complaining. Loudly. Perhaps, if you came by the farmers’ market, you noticed I was sitting on a high stool which kept me from moving up and down. I  usually was well medicated…after all I was at the market for about 8 hours so using an edible helped some. So did being wired with my tens unit. But the pain…increased.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

I really believed I would have to close Can-Do Real Food but my heart rebelled. I developed a plan with a new direction, still keeping the mission.

We had started developing more dehydrated products.  Our Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup which won “Best in Division” at the 2016 Oregon State Fair, sold out quickly.  A mole meal mix also flew off the shelves. We sold dried fruit easily. The dried tomatoes did not sell well, but that was fine since dried tomatoes are in a lot of our products, including our Garden Goodies (my answer to Lipton onion soup mix). So we knew we could make products people enjoy.Image may contain: food

Meanwhile, my daughter and her dude are back backcountry enthusiasts. They back pack, mountain climb, raft, ski, bike and more,  carrying their food, water and fuel on their backs.  No automatic alt text available.Listening to them explain how they pack their food lead me to an idea:

Can-Do Real Food can make delicious dehydrated items that do not contain any artificial anything!  While the backpacking world will be our primary market, anyone who wants food that requires very little fuel and water to prepare will appreciate having some in their pantry.

Preparing the produce we get from our Farm Partners means cleaning and chopping or slicing or pureeing, similar to the prep work needed for cooking for canning. But then we place those items in the dehydrator, set the time and temperature and go home.  Image may contain: foodWhen we  return to the kitchen we bag up the dried items, put more in to dry, and go home.  When we get all the ingredients to a recipe prepared, then we mix and bag. Done. About half the time in the kitchen compared to canning which means less wear and tear on my aching body. Also, the products are lightweight and can be marketed over the internet and mailed at a reasonable cost.No automatic alt text available.

We will be canning a little. Over time we have developed contracts for a few clients. Our blueberry farm partner wants jams and sauces for their pick-your-own farm. A wine tour operator wants wine jelly made with wine from one of our farm partners. R Stuart Winery wants an onion “marmalade” to sell that they have been making inhouse to serve with their cheese plate. One of my farm partners wants Loaded Pasta Sauce to sell to her customers. And finally, one farm partner asked me to make a delightful huckleberry culinary syrup.

I will no longer be canning anything for public sale. So I will no longer be at the McMinnville farmers market every week, but I am hoping to have a booth in September when we have built up inventory of the dehydrated products. Image may contain: food

We will be making the mole meal mix, garden goodies, the winter squash coconut curry instant soup, the Moroccan tangine meal mix, zucchini noodles (to use instead of pasta), and we have worked on a dehydrated pasta sauce inspired by our loaded pasta sauce recipe. It is a bit different but tastes fine!  We will also have dried fruit in pieces or roll-ups or even powder. I even worked on how to make a gingered pear snack because one of my favorites was the Gingered Pear Preserves, and it tastes great!

As for me? I had a knee replacement in December that is healing beautifully and I am scheduled for hip surgery the end of June. I have had a cornea transplant and anticipate a cataract surgery (maybe two) before the end of the year. Bionic parts aside, I am doing okay, but I am recognizing I can’t run at high speed at this point.

So, I will be better at keeping you informed. Next task is to update the website to list all the new products.  See you in September!!!Image may contain: text

And the Beat Goes On!

The weather changed into its winter wet cycle here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon a bit over a month ago but, believe it or not, we are still busy in the kitchen processing our farm partners’ harvests!

This week we processed over 200 pounds of garden huckleberries, making a deep rich culinary syrup. Sure, you could use it on pancakes, but it shines in making beverages. One of the Can-Do kitchen staff started dreaming of a kind of mojito….we’ll have to get her recipe.  We expect another 500 pounds of the berries after this weekend so there will be plenty of syrup for everyone!

Thanksgiving last week was a time to pause and think of all we have accomplished this year. Tied to the harvest, we very much feel blessed with living here in this fertile area. Here is a list of all we prepared this season:

 

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And even now, as we enter the slower time of year, we are busy in the Test Kitchen developing some new concepts.  We have seen that many of the people who purchase our products really enjoy cooking, so with them in mind we are developing some specialized recipes that will cut down cooking prep time. Just to tease you a bit, we have been asked by Creo Chocolate, the Portland chocolatier who supplies the 73% chocolate for our dessert sauces, to develop a mole sauce.  This will enable you to have all the ingredients you need to add to your broth and your protein. Very affordable and our focus group thought it was just the right mix of heat and sweet.

Until then, enjoy the treats you have purchased…..come see us at the McMinnville Grange Farmers’ Market Saturday, December 10 from 10-2 to stock up your pantry, find some wonderful items to enhance the holiday meals and festivities, and perhaps even pick up something to gift to someone special.

 

ANTICIPATION

Michelle Burger is the owner of the organic Bethel Springs Farm and sends out a weekly newsletter to her customers so they can place orders that she delivers to them weekly. I received my newsletter this morning and was very excited to see that she is beginning to harvest carrots and zucchinis.

We have lots of uses for both of those:

  • Carrots and zucchini both go into the Loaded Pasta Sauce. We have to wait for the tomatoes to process that yumminess, so the veggies will be shredded and frozen to bide their time until the tomatoes start flowing.????????????????????????????????????
  • The carrot marmalade Naughty Bunny is only so-so popular, so we won’t make another batch for a while but the Naughty Zuc flew off the table at the Farmers’ Market. You’ll be seeing more of that soon.zucchini marmalade
  • Both carrots and veggies will be making numerous appearances in our new dehydrated line. In soups, in dips, and in snack mixes, be prepared for new taste sensations!

Summer is here!

First Annual Tasting Supper

A brainstorm hit me last summer. Possibly it was a comment made by a shopper at the Farmers’ Market. Possibly it was simply a way to try to find a use for the abundance of zucchini that just seems to never end in the summer. The concept of dehydrating produce and developing dried products started me thinking.

As the harvest progressed I dried all kinds of things: carrots (sliced and shredded), potatoes (shredded, sliced and also cooked and mashed), tomatoes (in slices and also the skins which are a byproduct of making the pasta sauce), greens of all kinds, onions (and scallion and leeks and chives), zucchini (sliced and shredded), winter squash (roasted and pureed) and more. Fruit includes apples, pear, plums, peaches, berries, and of course fruit leathers.IMG_0644

We ran special tests on apples and carrots, drying them to the recommended instructions, less, and more. The concept with the shorter drying time was a consideration for the speed of rehydration; if there is still some moisture left in a piece, it will need less time in the soup pot or will have a soft chewy texture in the mouth. The idea behind the longer drying time is to aid in the reduction to a powder.  We found the shorter drying time on the carrots ended up with mold after a month in storage, so that idea was nixed.  We found the longer drying time was instrumental in achieving a really fine powder.

One test bag was eaten by mistake
One test bag was eaten by mistake

And we had fun days in the Test Kitchen making up batches of soup from whole ingredients and then trying to replicate with the dried equivalents. We made up 7 soups, two chip dip mixes, and 3 snack mixes.

2016 Tasting Supper Menutasting gridThe time came to have a Tasting Supper. I invited farm partners, Michelle and Steve from Bethel Springs Farm, Gabrielle from Keeler Estates Vineyard and Ranee from Sunshower Hill Farm. I prepared a menu and tasting sheets asking for a rating and comments.

We started with the chip dips and the comments were great. They checked with me that I was handling the critique and of course I told them that was the purpose. We do not want to offer new products that are just “so-so” to the consumers; we want to WOW them and have them clamoring for more.

Gabrielle Keeler and Steven Berger
Gabrielle Keeler and Steven Burger

With that in mind, they proceeded. Graham provided terrific help by heating up the soups and serving them while I could stay at the table to continue the conversation.

Ranee Solmonsson and Michelle Berger
Ranee Solmonsson and Michelle Burger

We continued through the soups, tasting over nine. The servings were quite small but people were very full, so we took a break for show and tell. I shared some of what I had brought back from the Fancy Food Show in January, especially those items that might be of special interest to our growth but also just fun items.

Fancy Food show boxThen, back to work, tasting the snack mixes. I had also prepared (not on the tasting menu) a berry blend that I had prepared from store-bought items since I did not have dried strawberries or raspberries.

And then, just to end on a sweet note, I served ice cream I had prepared from a recipe book purchased at the Fancy Food show. LOL

We made several decisions:

  1. We will make fewer kinds of products but more of those because they were highly popular in our first season. So, instead of offering an “instant” tomato soup this season (since it needed work to improve texture anyway), we will just use up the tomatoes to make lots and lots of Loaded Pasta Sauce, our best seller.
  2. We will make small batches of products that had limited popularity, like the salsa. Part of the problem there is that the growing season here in Oregon tends to produce less hot versions of hot peppers. We will probably not call any of our potential hot products “hot”, as people who prefer heat found that rating disappointing last season. Keeler Estates has a hotter pepper, though, so we may be able to use her peppers to supplement and bring the heat up.
  3. We are moving from home canning jars to smooth sided commercial jars with a standard commerical lid. This will permit our labels (redesigned now) to fit smoothly on the surface.
  4. The labels will be printed on waterproof paper with laser jet printing, so we will no longer have ink runs in the refrigerator caused by condensation. We’re working for a more commercial appearance and these two steps will help.
  5. We will stay with sugar as our sweetening agent for jams and jellies but we will test a different pectin that is marketed as requiring less sugar for gelling. We will offer two dehydrated fruit snacks as a way for people to enjoy fruit without any added sugar
  6. The Second Annual Tasting Supper is planned. The farmers really liked meeting each other and also being part of the business decision making.

Can-Do Real Food is continually striving to help the farmers use their surplus to gain another income stream and entice the consumers to year-round foods made from locally grown produce.  We are always interested in comments and suggestions. In addition, we are able to add a few more partner farms and are actively seeking one that produces hazelnuts and walnuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Test Kitchen

Last summer, in the mad dash of learning how to function smoothly when accepting produce from the participating farms for production into preserved goods, my brain still kept on spinning with new ideas.  Canning is great. Canning is appreciated by many. But canning is not the only way we can preserve the surplus from the farms.

In fact, some of the veggies just can not be canned safely. Squash and pumpkin, for example, can be canned in cubes, but not in puree. Sure, you can buy a metal can of puree that is processed in a huge factory, but we’re not at that scale, so we have limitations that are rightfully imposed by our desire not to let any nasty bacteria into your potential gastro-intestinal tract. So no pureed pumpkin coming out of the Can-Do kitchen.  2014-10-19 09.28.10

As a cook, I know if I turn to a canned product it is because I want a shortcut, saving me time from cooking the whole food from scratch. A jar of chunked pumpkin or squash is nice, but not good enough. I would still have to smush it into a puree to use it. So, I knew, as the processor, I needed to look for another way to save the squashes that my farmers grew.

Dehydrating offers a way to preserve food also in a shelf-safe setting. So last summer, as the fruits and veggies ripened in our farmer’s fields and on their trees, we asked for items we normally did not can so we could dry them.

We now have a considerable stash of dried fruits and veggies and it is time to get to work to develop those recipes that will work. We’re considering a line of dehydrated soup mixes that will take 30-60 minutes to simmer at home. We’re also planning on a line of cup-a-soup mixes that will only take a few minutes of sitting in boiling hot water. Both of those would be packaged for single serving as well as 4-6 serving sizesdried produce

In addition, the dehydrated line will include snack mixes. One type will be seasoned veggies. Another will be fruit snacks. That one will be popular, I think. Many people ask for jams without sugar, but the texture changes so I am not going to go there, even with using stevia. Instead, we will be able to offer no sugar added dried fruit snack mixes.

Finally, I’m thinking about dip mixes. Think about that classic Lipton onion soup mixed with sour cream to become a potato chip dip. So we will have veggie dips you can mix with sour cream or yogurt or tofu.

Right now…..all still in the planning phase. Recipes are selected…..time to enter the kitchen to play with our food!