Conversion Options in Preserving: Dehydrating Favorite Recipes

Now that I am “officially” retired I have joined several groups on Facebook that discuss various ways to preserve food. I started following two groups on freeze drying after working on a recipe to convert our popular canned Loaded Pasta Sauce into a dry version for the backcountry enthusiasts in my family. The stories in the Facebook group were somewhat amusing (many people purchase a freeze dryer because the concept of freeze-dried candy is exciting) to cautionary (issues with the seal and the oil and…..). I decided the expense, considerably north of my budget, was not worth the issues I read.

However, each time I make the dehydrated Loaded Paste Sauce, I reconsider, because converting a whole foods recipe to a dehydrated one takes time.

There seem to be two basic ways to achieve a dehydrated recipe for a prepared dish, not just an individual ingredient: ONE: Dry each ingredient and assemble or TWO: Mix the ingredients and then dehydrate.

Since so many people have jumped on to the home grown/home preserved bandwagon this year, I want to welcome you and offer a few tips I have picked up along the way. I want to say that there are tons of people who have been preserving years longer than me with a long heritage guided in the kitchen by their family. Listen to them, too. They have answers to problems I have not yet experienced. LOL

My first best advice is to develop dry meal recipes you enjoy as whole foods. I see a lot of questions on the dehydration Facebook groups asking what meal they should prepare. Knowing someone has a recipe that turns out successfully is a good start, but a meal you know you enjoy is a better start!

I am very proud that one journey into a recipe conversion ended with a BEST in Dehydrated Division at the Oregon State Fair, so while you may not like the ingredients, consider the technique for your favorite recipe.

Before moving to Oregon I helped establish a year-round local food market, The Wild Ramp in Huntington, West Virginia. As part of a crowd-sourced fundraiser, we offered a prize for a significant gift: a Wild Ramp cookbook. It took a couple of months, but I edited an amazing cookbook with whole food recipes submitted by about 50 people in that community as well as chefs I knew elsewhere, including several here in Oregon.

One woman submitted a recipe for a Pumpkin Coconut Curry Soup. When I made the recipe up for the family, I was blown away by its ease of prep and complex flavor mingling. It became a family favorite.

Preserving The Local Harvest

Flash forward and here I am in Oregon, Can-Doing instead of Wild-Ramping, and I am given a ton (seemed like) of surplus winter squash and various pumpkins by my partner farms. Pumpkin puree can not be safely canned, and I sincerely doubted that people would buy canned cubed pumpkin to blend themselves, so knew I could not use a canning technique to reduce that food “waste”.

Anyone who has cut open a pumpkin or squash for roasting knows that some are stringy and some are creamy. For a smooth pie….and a smooth instant soup….the creamier varieties of squash and pumpkin are needed.

I found butternut squash was the one I chose first. Acorn squash works well but is just a tad harder to clear out of the shells, and that little amount of work decided it for me. If you have a surplus of acorn squash and more than no patience, it is a good option.

I’ve used all kinds of pumpkin, including the pie pumpkins in the huge boxes in front of the supermarket for 45-15 cents a pound (the closer to Halloween you can wait……..) but do not recommend the humongous ones sold for jack-o-lanterns. Those are mostly open cavity with a thin layer of stringy meat. Like any other recipe, buy what you can afford because quality can make a difference to the mouthfeel. This year I was deeply pleased with two heirlooms from a couple of my local farmers. When I roasted them, they slid off the skins very easily using a soup spoon to scrape the meat like a pudding.

Galeux D'eysines Squash Seeds
Galeux D’eysines reaches weights between 10-20 pounds and looked like it was kissed by a frog, but it makes the most velvety smooth sauces.
Black Futsu squash
The Black Futsu squash starts very dark and then matures with a bloom that almost looks like a gray mold also cooked creamy and cleaned so easily from the skin with a soup spoon.

Okay, now the rest of the ingredients. Obviously, the curry powder can be purchased hot or sweet (your preference). The onion and garlic are readily available dried as powder. Since the recipe ends up being powdered, this is personal preference. You can dehydrate your own garlic and onions and powder them, or use commercially prepared ingredients.

There are many coconut milk powders available online.

While cans of coconut milk are readily available in most supermarkets with Asian sections, this is not the way to go if you plan to dehydrate this recipe. This is the expensive ingredient in this recipe, so I decided not to try to modify this myself and found dried coconut milk products online. The first time I purchased the product, it had tiny flecks of coconut in it. The second time I purchased it, they had removed the coconut flakes. I liked it and so I added coconut to the recipe……that is an optional item. If you want 100% smooth texture, skip adding the coconut itself and just use the milk.

Finally, the broth. You have two options. ONE: When making up a family-size soup, you can prepare the soup mix with personally canned or store purchased broth. TWO: Use powdered bouillion in the dry mix and then add water in the final preparation prior to eating. (I have salt restrictions in my diet so I have to watch that kind of commercial product. I found adding a culinary yeast with flavor notes I desired provided the ease to final prep I wanted. )

I opted for the dry flavoring (culinary yeast for me instead of dry bouillion) so I could package my soup mix for single-serving use to be very easy. It literally takes only the time to boil some water and then 3 minutes to rehydrate before you can eat this soup!!

CONVERSION time. You have to figure recipe ingredient quantities. Obviously, a cup of milk you pour out of the bottle is not the same volume as a cup of milk powder. You know this without thinking, but to make the recipe work, the math HAS to be done. Yeah for calculators!!! Bigger YEAH for a book that already did the calculation!! This book, Rehydration Calculations Made Easy has sections in both US measurements and metric measurements and provides comparable measurements for whole foods, dehydrated and freeze-dried.

And then the magic happens and on page 18, there is exactly what we need!!

We’re not completely done, though. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of roasted squash…..and all that recipe tells you to do to prepare the squash is to cut it open and roast it. Not all recipes give complete instructions and this is an example of how you, as the experienced cook, figure it out. The whole recipe talks about using a belnder or immersion blender to make the soup smooth. Let’s start with that concept and assume 2 cups of puree.

The instructions and our calculator helps us help us here. The recipe calls for 2 cups of puree for the soup. Basic elementary math leads us to 0.33 cup of powder.

Working the math helps us do the complete recipe conversion.

If you want help with a recipe conversion, holler. I mastered it, you can!!!

Get Ready for 2021 Planting and Harvesting

I’m a planner personality. When the pandemic began, I saw the effort for people to grow their own food this year. I anticipated that preserving all that garden produce might prove challenging for newbies. Now I am reading through comments on various Facebook pages and think it will be amazing if there is not a lot of foodborne illness in the next few months. There are SOME safety rules that need to be considered, people, really.

As there are many people who would love love love to preserve their own food but do not have the time nor inclination to do the work, I would like to offer a very limited opportunity for the coming year.

I can help you plan what you would like to eat in late 2021 and in 2022. Do you want canned goods or dehydrated foods or a mixture? Do you want meals that need minimal heating or raw basic ingredients you can mix and match to produce your kind of cooking? Do you want instant meal prep for camping or those days when cooking is just too much?

For our household, we start by thinking about the foods we like to eat. Once we can account for all the pasta, pizza, soups, and more that requires an ingredient, say, tomatoes, we understand the ways to process the garden offerings. We can clearly see what supplemental ingredients we need, such as garlic, and can make decisions NOW about planting our own or making arrangements to purchase from local farmers.

Plan your pantry-what foods do you want to eat? Tomatillos make amazing salsa, but so do tomatoes. Which does your family prefer? Both? How much do you eat? This is the kind of planning that makes an amazing pantry!!

FOUR slots are available to have Can-Do fill your pantry.

IF you live within driving distance to me, you can consider an option where you provide all the raw ingredients and pay me for only those items I supply and my time and expertise.

IF you live more than an hour from me, I can obtain ingredients and all items needed and you will pay a higher fee, of course.

The early bird may not get the worm in this case, but cherry chocolate ice cream sauce is doable.

REDUCING FOOD WASTE: The easy way to preserve: dehydration

I learned to can shortly after I moved to Oregon. Yup. I’ve only known how to can for about 6 years. There are people who live among us who have FORGOTTEN more about canning than I will ever learn. As wonderful as canning is as a method to preserve foods we enjoy eating, I quickly learned how much easier it is to dry food for safe storage and later use.

The point is to remove moisture, thereby eliminating mold as a destroyer of food. This can be done using the sun (yeah for our Oregon sunny summers), the oven (at its lowest setting) or an electric dehydrator.

I picked up my first dehydrator at a yard sale for $10. By the time I opened Can-Do Real Food the next summer I had learned some basics and was ready to plop more money down for the higher volume I would need to produce for the business. My family went in together and bought my first one as a Christmas present. Over the years the Excalibur machines have come down in price considerably and by watching sales, you can get one for under $300. The type of machine makes a difference for larger volume drying….the fan and temperature selection options can make a significant difference in the time needed. I found a timer was nice and I actually found the analog dial easier to use than the electronic models.

I purchased several books about dehydration but stopped needing to look for any more after I read the introduction to Dried and True by Sarah Dickerman. Not only did the intro provide a tip that would make my life easier, but the book also provides something I have not seen elsewhere: a chart that explains how to prep each kind of fruit or veggie or meat and how long it can take to dry and what it should feel like at that point to be safe. For someone who is self-learning without a mentor, a chart like that is SO much more helpful than the typical “dry until finished” in most other books.

So, what can you dry for later enjoyment??

Image result for fresh and dehydrated apples compared

Fruit: Not only can you dry cut pieces of fruit for simple snacking, but you can also puree fruit and dry as leather for a fruit roll-up. You can season the fruit or leather with spices like cinnamon, or even add other fruits for a combined flavor, as I did when I made applesauce roll-ups with blueberries. Commercially prepared dried fruit usually has added sugar which is not needed. Like anything else you prepare at home, you can control the ingredients.

Image result for equivalent dried herbs to fresh
Basil

Herbs and Greens: These have to be the fastest things to dry!! In a couple of hours, you can take fresh herbs from your garden and dry them for later use in the year when fresh herbs are no longer available. I have dried greens like kale for use in soups, spinach to add to a veggie or chip dip.

Image result for dried zoodles

Zucchini: okay…..you grew it and it has now overrun the garden. You heard about how prolifically squash plants produce but come on already!! Well, you can make zoodles for year-round gluten-free pasta substitute enjoyment. Shredded zucchini can be stored on shelves in the equivalent of the 2-cup measures you have been saving in your freezer for year-round zucchini bread. Free up that freezer space! I also developed several soup recipes with zucchini (and a canned marmalade….and that was a pleasant surprise).

Pumpkin Powder (FRX1178)
Pumpkin powder

Winter Squash: Pumpkin or squash puree can NOT be safely canned but it can be dehydrated so you can add liquid when you want to use it. Can-Do Real Food has a fantastic instant soup recipe with butternut squash and pumpkin that won best in Dehydrated Division at the State Fair in 2016. That recipe was developed from one submitted for inclusion in a community cookbook The Wild Ramp (Huntington, West Virginia) produced. So, while ingredient quantities have to be figured out carefully, whole-food recipes CAN be converted into dehydrated mixes.

Being Prepared

Here in Oregon we are not concerned about what Hurricane Dorian will do to us.  Our weather may be doing its seasonal shifting with more clouds and some rain expected over the next week, but nothing a slow sweep on the windshield can’t handle.Image result for weather oregon rainfall

I’m reading my Facebook feed and seeing friends along the east coast are in a state of readiness. One guy in the Virginia Beach area had been planning a week’s vacation on the Outer Banks and believe it or not, he is complaining his vacation was ruined. He also mentioned he has his house prepared for whatever would have come his way including making sure his generator has fuel.  He knows he got off lucky this storm.

source: The Washington Post

Another friend in Nova Scotia made a simple observation which I want to repeat: “Whether the experts are right about this storm or not, there’s one thing I do know. The time you spend being preparing for it is nothing compared to what you might have to spend if you don’t.”

Let’s look at that for a second. 

Image result for rail and I-84 closure in columbia gorgeHere in Oregon’s Willamette  Valley we have seen the effect of snow and of wildfire in the Columbia Gorge close the railroad line and I-84. With no transportation moving in that corridor, store inventories decreased a bit, but not badly because we are not isolated. We still could get shipments from the south, from California and beyond.

Imagine just for a moment if those lines are also restricted. Whether it is caused by some trade war or some earthquake.

Now, consider what you have in your house right now that you can eat.

Next consider what you have in your house right now to eat if you have no power for your refrigerator or your cooking.

Now, start preparing a bit. We’re heading into winter. We’re heading possibly into a recession.

I can’t teach you prepper tricks, but there are plenty of websites and youtube videos that can. What I can do is remind you that an alternative cooking source (your grill, perhaps) and a 2-3 week supply of shelf-safe food will go a long way to making sure you and your family will stay fed. Shelf safe food is found in cans, bottles, and plastic bags. Canned and dehydrated foods like Can-Do Real Food makes can provide easy meals and snacks.

Image result for stock your pantry From now until the downtown farmers’ market closes in October,   Can-Do Real Food will be preparing our Loaded Pasta Sauce and dehydrated meal mixes and soup including our Moroccan Tangine Meal Mix, Vegetarian Tortilla Soup, Kale and White Bean soup and more. We currently have jams, cooking sauces, salsas, and snacks, as well as some Mole Meal Mix.

Stock your pantry. And, if we have a normal year with no devastating emergencies, GREAT!!!

 

Juggle Juggle, but don’t drop the Tomatoes

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.

asian pears in dyrerI 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.

carmelized onionsThe 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.

tomatoes

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.

 

 

Stock Your Pantry

We seem to be in the height of the harvest now and it is a great opportunity for people to grab what they can to enjoy the tastes of summer through the winter. 2014-10-03 11.21.47Can you imagine tasting a summer peach in February?  The ones available in the supermarket are currently in flower in  South America. They will be harvested a bit green to make the 1500+mile journey to us without spoiling. They will be presented in the grocery store a bit hard and you will ripen them on the counter. When you taste it, it will be very pale in flavor compared to the tree ripened, freshly harvested fruit you can pick up in the market.

So what can you do?

You COULD consider eating in season. We used to do that when I was little because fruits and veggies grown overseas and brought in were very expensive. Then shipping prices dropped and here we are, expecting to eat watermelon in January. Consumer demand drives corporate decisions. If we the people who love our food to taste good decide we will not buy unripe produce during the winter three things can happen:

  • The stores will reduce what they bring in.
  • Local farmers probably will pick up the slack as much as the climate permit.
  • We learn that eating in season brings a lot of joy as we welcome a favorite flavor once again for the first time.

Image result for canning equipment canning toolsAnd there is a fourth, but it’s all on you: preserve the food available in season. You can freeze (easy), dehydrate (also easy and you can pick up a dehydrator that will work well for you for as little as $50), canning (a bit of a learning curve and you need a huge canning pot and attention to food safety issues), and freeze drying  (if you have a spare $3500 to purchase one, I want to use it for just 2 kinds of processing, please).

Of course, there is an easy way: shop Can-Do Real Food and stock your pantry.personal pantry

For example, right now we have a lot of dehydrated fruit offered as single types, combinations and fruit leather (roll-ups).  Can you imagine buying some watermelon strips now and holding them in your cupboard until January?  That will be a ripe full-flavored yumminess.

Image result for summer poeach winter peach comparison

The tomatoes began to show up in the market a few weeks ago and last week the farmers who provide surplus to Can-Do Real Food started sharing. I had enough to make salsa, some mild (golly gee, people, I ONLY used bell peppers…..and some mild Hatch chilis that barely stirred my palate, so be BRAVE) and some we loaded with jalpenos and more but Graham says it is “medium”. Heat lovers will have to taste to know if it provides enough pain/pleasure.  So, when you buy, buy TWO and put one in the back of your cupboard and forget about it……until the holiday gatherings. Then pull out the taste of August!tomatoes from BS

The next tomato project is the Loaded Pasta Sauce. Buy 6, get 10% off. Buy 8 and get your choice of a small (9 ounce) jar or a small dehydrated bag of your choice free. Buy 12 and get 15% off (and the freebie that you earn at 8).

Why do I suggest this? Because eating locally grown food supports our neighbors, the farmers who work from beyond sunrise to sundown in all kids of weather.  I want you to enjoy eating local food year-round and if you don’t preserve today’s harvest, take advantage of the fact that I do…with no artificial anything.cropped-mission.jpg

 

My Daughter: My Muse

From the time Lisa was pretty small she made her opinion known about…well, everything.  In regards to food and flavor, her earliest wonderful contribution was to suggest a change in the banana bread recipe I had gotten from a co-worker in 1976. “Remove those raisins!”, she demanded at age 3. “And definitely add chocolate chips!”  We renamed the new recipe “Banana Bread a la Lisa” and enjoy it that way to this day.

age 4 ribs on trip to Vermont
A good eater, even at age 4!

Always willing to try new foods, she encouraged her younger brother on a trip to France when he was 11-years-old that trying escargot was worth it. My budget on the trip became strained as he decided that yes, garlic butter sauce makes everything worth trying and those snails just are not anything like the imagination tried to fool him.

Lisa has become quite an outdoor enthusiast. In the past 10 years she has trekked through New Zealand, Australia and parts of Indonesia. Over to Southeast Asia on another journey she and Josh traveled throughout Myanmar and Cambodia. She’s been to parts of Europe and I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the wonderful places she has seen. Closer to home, she has trekked the John Muir Trail in California, throughout Utah and the Canyonlands and they are planning the Washington leg of the Pacific Coast trail this summer.

Canyonlands
Canyonlands

As I began to explore dehydrating food for Can-Do I kept in mind the way Lisa and Josh need to cook. Most of their food is dehydrated because it is lightweight and condensed. They have to carry their water for drinking and cooking and washing, so I try to keep in mind recipes that do not need too much water. They also must carry fuel because wood fires are not permitted. The risk of wildfire is just too great. So, recipes need to be able to be prepared with minimal fuel usage also.

Once, visiting me with her sibs, we served the Can-Do Real Food Loaded Pasta Sauce and the discussion evolved into the quality of commercially prepared hiking foods. Most have considerable additives and of course, the flavor may be a disappointment.  So, Lisa often prepares the food they bring but the gauntlet was thrown down: I needed to prepare a dehydrated pasta sauce.

Gabrielle and Steven
Gabrielle Keeler and Steven Berger

My Can-Do farm partners have come to my house for a Tasting Supper several years. The last one was the tasting for 3 versions of the dehydrated sauce.

  1. We sliced and dehydrated the tomatoes hard, the better to grind them to powder.
  2. We roasted the sliced tomatoes and then dehydrated them hard for grinding, and
  3. We cut up the tomatoes, macerated them overnight in red wine, then oven roasted them etc etc.
  4. And for fun, we also served our canned Loaded Pasta Sauce.

Each recipe was essentially similar, using the same herbs and surplus carrots and zucchini as the canned version.  The only difference was how the tomatoes were prepared.

We did not tell our taste testers about the difference in the 4 recipes. And we are pretty formal with these efforts, with no talking allowed until after everyone writes down their thoughtful critique and overall rating for the recipe. tasting grid

Perhaps it is no surprise to you that the version that was most enjoyed was the one with the wine. It provided the most complex, deep and enjoyable flavor.

So, there we had the test and next was to wait for the tomatoes. Last summer we prepared what we thought was a significant amount but it still surprises me how condensed dehydrated food becomes when processed.closeup

I have set aside plenty for Lisa and Josh to enjoy on their trek next month, but we now have eight packages of Oven Roasted Double Loaded Pasta Sauce available for you. Each container has one cup of powder which, when mixed with 4 cups of water, makes 5 cups of sauce. Add more or less water depending on how dry or wet you prefer your sauce.  This is enough to feed 3-5 people, depending on serving sizes. double loaded pasta sauce

Excellent with our Forksize Zoodles which take next to no time nor water when mixed into the sauce to rehydrate!  Or enjoy with your favorite pasta.

 

 

 

A New Season Begins

Can-Do Real Food will be back in the McMinnville Downtown Farmers’ Market after a year’s hiatus to permit three joint surgeries to heal. I feel great; completely out of pain, so we are back to share shelf-safe local food with you!

We will be bringing the following canned items for your consideration:

Applesauce – Chunky texture, made with Gravenstein apples and a touch of cinnamon. No added sugar.

Berry Naughty Yumminess Sauce – Perfect for ice cream or an easy topping on a cake or pancakes or French toast or……it is naughty because it has orange liquor in it. OLCC requires us to tell you about that but even kids can eat this. blueberries-blackberries-and-raspberries

Hogan’s Hot Stuff – This is the last of the peach-jalapeno jam until new peaches in a couple of months. Grab it while the grabbing is good. (Message me if you want me to hold one for you.)

Quince Paste – I am sure this will move quickly. Perfect with cheese. If you have never tasted quince, stop by for a fun experience. It has a similar texture as pears but the taste is unique. 

Odds and Ends – Just 2-3 jars left of a few favorites. 

We have been dehydrating thinking of you as well as backpackers so there are some new items:

Mole Meal Mix – You can get supper on the table in less than 30 minutes following the simple recipe on the package. The recipe can feed 8 so way less expensive than fast food! This is a gentle- not hot- take on the Mexican dish……people who like heat will need to add more!

Huckleberry Dust – a powder to add to oatmeal or smoothies or yogurt that is high in anti-oxidants.Huckleberry Dust.pub

yello plum with hazelnut leatherPlum Roll-ups – 3 different takes….”Plain”, “Yellow Plum with Hazelnuts,” and “Pom Plum” which has the tanginess of pomegranate balsamic vinegar added in.

Rhubarb Lace -Just enough sugar to take away the pucker, these will be easy to enjoy!

Apple a Day – cinnamon and “naked” versions for a healthy snack

Fruit Feast – a mixture of dried fruits for healthy snacking

Mushroom Quinoa – Developed for backpacking, this can be enjoyed at home as a side dish or stuffing. Rehydrates in about 20 minutes.  We did all the cooking!

Our raw produce is predominantly sourced from local farms as well as backyard gardeners. No artificial anything added. Small batches, so grab when you see something!thankafarmer

The market starts at noon and runs until 6pm on Thursday. Located on Cowls and in the parking lot behind Town Hall. Plenty of parking within 2 blocks.  Hope to see you there!!!

 

 

 

 

Mid March Madness

The weather is gorgeous today, reminding me in just 8 weeks I will be at full speed between picking up produce from the farms, spending time in the kitchen canning and dehydrating, and then at the weekly farmers’ market on Thursdays in McMinnville.  The market is expected to start the very beginning of May, but my first harvest usually falls to the end of June, so until then, it is time to clear what we have in the freezer and to mix up our dehydrated veggies and herbs.

A few years ago when I started getting into selling the dehydrated offerings I needed to  identify packaging that would keep the food safe and provide at least a year of tight seal for longer storage. The options were plastic…plastic….and plastic.G dried foods.JPG

I’m pretty involved in Zero Waste McMinnville; it was a natural extension of the food waste reduction we have as part of our mission of Can-Do Real Food. As I learn more about how plastic has taken over our lifestyle, I have been searching for a new alternative packaging for the dried foods.

And while there are some new options this spring, there still is nothing that is workable. I will keep looking, but we will need to keep using plastic.

The bags I use all have zip-lock closure, so after I heat-seal the top of the bag, it is still closable with the zip lock after you open it. As such, the bags can be re-used and since they are good heavy plastic, I hope you will rinse and save them for personal use.

Purple Power

The garden huckleberry (Solanum scabrum) is a member of the nightshade family. It grows on higher bushes and harvests late in the season, usually after the first frost. It is not sweet at all; in fact, eating it raw is not the enjoyable treat you find with wild huckleberries or other forms of cultivated blueberries.

This photo will give you the obvious clue that garden huckleberries are not the same as wild huckleberries!

This fruit is a powerhouse of nutritional value, providing anti-oxidants, inflammation reduction, and more!

I joined the purple hands club last week when we made up the Huckleberry Culinary Syrup for Ranee Solmonsson of Sunshower Hill Farm in Newberg. She sells that wonderful treat through several buying clubs in Sherwood and Dundee. It is fantastic mixed with carbonated water for an Italian soda, or in your adult beverage of choice. Yummmmmm. IMG_0004

Meanwhile, we did what we try to do on whatever recipes of ours that will permit it…..we used a “waste” product to turn into a new food to enjoy. Let me explain.

Ranee is a very considerate farm partner. She cleans the berries of all leaves before she brings them to us, permitting us to give them a wash and then into the pot quickly. Our first step is to soften the huckleberries, so maybe just short of a boil gets them soft enough to put them through the mill.

2017gLast year was the last time we used a hand mill. We then were purchased a new “toy” that is an electric mill. Not only does this save Graham’s shoulder from several hours of repetitive turning, but it takes the milling down to minutes instead.

The mill separates the juice, which gets back on to the stove with some sugar and lemon juice to prepare the syrup, and the “must”, the waste. This waste is essentially the skins of the berries as well as the teeny tiny seeds.

We dry the must, grind it, mix it with some cane sugar and voila! You have PURPLE POWER! Huckleberry dust can be used by you to add that wonderful blueberry flavor to oatmeal, yogurt, and to drinks or however else you might want to play with it. 

High in anti-oxidants, this is a star in our offerings. All are healthy, some more than others. This one, with only a little sugar (believe it or not, garden huckleberries are not sweet at all!) wins out because of all the healthy benefits it providesHuckleberry Dust.pub

You can order Purple Power! and other Can-Do Real Food Products by going to the store offerings page on the website