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.
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. Can 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.
And 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.
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.
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!
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.
We just made an amazing batch of Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream Sauce. Maybe the word “amazing” is unnecessary. Redundant. Superfluous.
The Stellas are a deep purple, almost black sweet-tart cherries, grown overlooking Newberg at Sunshower Hill Farm. We add just a touch of sugar and then a bit of lemon to punch up the flavor. Then the 73% Creo chocolate. By leaving it a bit tart, the contrast with the sweet ice cream is phenomenal. But then again, you have to be the kind of person who allows yourself a treat like that. And if you do, it should be something excellent, like this!
Enough said. We have 24 9-ounce jars. They will be priced at $8. If you want one, let me know. They will be popular.
We moved to McMinnville the beginning of September seven years ago. Our rental house has an amazing backyard with a huge herb garden, a lot of raspberry canes, two blueberry bushes, some rhubarb and two apple trees.
When we finished unpacking we could pay attention to the apples that littered the ground under one tree. I gleaned what I could and made some pretty darn good apple sauce and an apple pie. The rest of the ground fall was too far gone but I was eager for the next harvest. We brought an apple and some leaves to the farmers’ market where the master gardeners identified it as a Gravenstein.
That was a new apple to me. I grew up in the Northeast and my favorite was a sweet-tart Stayman Winesap. It made great sauce and pies and each apple was so large, you really only needed three or maybe four for a pie. In those days I was bothering to peel the apples before cooking, so the fewer, the better.
It was when I moved to Tennessee in the 1970s that I learned that apples generally have preferred growing zones, and regional varieties are not common elsewhere. So, the Gravenstein easily became my go-to and as Can-Do Real Food began, it was the apple found in the applesauce, the apple pie filling mix and later, dried.
But there was another apple tree in the backyard. Each year it would bloom but produce no apples. The master gardeners could not identify it from the leaves. All we knew was it was not a Gravenstein.
Both trees had not been properly maintained so we had them trimmed back. That next year we had about 6 apples on the mystery tree but I found them too late…..they were early summer apples and I had not checked early enough.
Last year we had a “bumper” crop—about 50 apples, all growing on the northeast section of the tree. (I have no idea why THAT was the growth pattern.) We brought the apple down to the farmers’ market and the master gardeners were stumped and suggested I take the apple to some apple agency office in the Portland metro area. We were not that concerned, especially after I took a bite….and was not impressed.
I made up some applesauce. It was flat…..so I added some sugar and cinnamon and lemon juice. It was edible, but nothing I wanted to use for Can-Do. So I canned the applesauce for home consumption.
But I got a brainstorm to thin the applesauce and make fruit-roll-ups that would become tasty with the addition of…..something.
I had some blueberries in the freezer and made a puree which I swirled into the applesauce mix on the dehydrator sheet. When I ran out of berries, I then sprinkled the rest of the applesauce trays with candied ginger.
Come taste the fruit roll-up concoctions this Thursday at the farmers’ market and see if I turned an early summer apple into something worth repeating.
It may be a moot point…both trees had abundant flowers and the Gravenstein is forming small apple buds now, but all the early apple tree shows is the remains of the flower. So, appears it was not pollinated and you know what, that is just okay with me. We get PLENTY from the Gravenstein!
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.
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.
Plum 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!
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!!!
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!
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.
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.
Last 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 provides
Living in the Willamette Valley is a food lover’s paradise. We have just about everything but tropical plants here, so lots to enjoy. Each summer’s harvests seem to start with strawberries and then on to other fruits before the veggies start producing. So I’ve been dehydrating yummies since the end of May all for your potential future enjoyment.
Strawberriesfrom this year’s crop. Sweet and yummy.
Bananasfrom the grocery store…they LOOKED too far gone by the outer peel but were about 98% usable to dry. So remember that when next time you see “old” bananas marked down!
Figsfrom last season soft and chewy.
Cherries Most are sweet but one or two pie cherries might have snuck in.
Concord grape fruit leather– okay, I’ll come clean…. I tried to make fruit roll-ups but they didn’t turn out to be rollable…so they were cut into pieces.
Pearsfrom the start of this year’s harvest.
Applesdehydrated last fall.
Cantaloupe is pure candy. Unbelievable how this experience convinced me!
Raisinsfrom last fall’s Thompson grapes.
Raspberry fruit leatherfrom this season that also was a fail as a fruit leather but provides that zingy sweetness perfectly.
My husband Graham (Vice President of Research and Development) loves wine. He jokes that the reason we moved to McMinnville was because he heard there was a winery nearby. Now that we’ve been here six years he easily admits how much he has enjoyed visiting and sampling the amazing depth and breadth of the wines offered locally. (I’m the designated driver!)
Graham is also quite devoted to Facebook and has friended many of the local wineries to stay aware of special events. We’ve recently attended free performances and concerts at several near McMinnville.
A few years ago he told me that the owner of EIEIO Winery (a man named McDonald, of course) had posted that his property had a lot of plum trees that had not been cared for and the trees were loaded loaded loaded with ripe fruit. He had purchased the property where his house is located several years before and perhaps for 10 years prior to that the plum trees surrounding the inside of a paddock had been neglected. The plums were very small but very sweet. Anyone who wanted them was invited to contact him and arrange a time to glean.
There were yellow plums. There were red ones. And purple ones. It was an amazing rainbow. We tasted and discovered two things. 1: Yes, they were deliciously sweet. 2: They were cling, not freestone. (We are masters of handling fruits that cling to stones now!)
We got them to the commercial kitchen and into the huge walk-in cooler for the processing the next day. I then went to the post office to send a package and met the owner of Third Street Oil and Vinegar. She presents olive oil and balsamic vinegar infused with flavors and has an amazing talent for taste combinations that work. She tasted the plums and suggested a balsamic vinegar infused with pomegranate.
The next day I made the most perfect jelly. It was my first year in business so I was very proud how it set up and looked so pretty with its deep reddish purple tone. And the taste was great! Sweet and tangy.
Well, we have not been back to EIEIO since then but a friend has been bringing me the wild plums off a tree on her property these past few weeks and I decided to see if we could present the same wonderful tangy sweetness as a fruit leather. And voila! It has been done!
Ingredients are wild plums, a tiny bit of cane sugar and a splash of pomegranate balsamic vinegar. Packaged 4 roll-ups to a bag, selling for $5. No artificial anything and I bet you will not find anything like this anywhere else.
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!
So about a second after I announced Can-Do Real Food unfortunately had to stop because of health issues I began to feel like that was NOT the best solution.
In 2017 I canned lots of fruit and veggie recipes but I also expanded what we were doing with dehydration. I became fascinated how we could develop meal mixes, not just dried fruit or leathers.
We asked shoppers at the downtown farmers’ market to taste and comment on some new concepts, like dried tomatoes. People responded well by offering suggestions like putting herbs on some, salt on others. One guy said, “Yup, it tastes like tomatoes and I hate tomatoes.” He was a good sport!
We had some disappointments. For example, a recipe we first prepared fresh and thought a winner did not work the same when dried, so we had to let that one alone.
But others were winners. Our Mole Mix, for example, always sold out each time we prepared a batch.
And always, we stayed with our mission and obtained surplus produce from farms, helping reduce food waste. We will continue to purchase produce from our farm partners.
Meanwhile, in my private life I was watching my daughter Lisa and her dude go on their back country adventures. They backpack, mountain bike and ski, often in places few people go. They carry their food, their water, and their fuel as no wood fires are permitted any longer because of the threat of wildfires.
I listened to their comments about the dehydrated foods available on the market. There were some they loved and others that were never going to be repeated. Lisa also combined some things together herself to supplement the prepared mixes because there were things they liked and could not purchase.
They already had told us how they enjoyed the Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup mix and challenged me to develop more foods that could be edible with a short fuel usage to bring water to boil. Our Mole Mix will do that, too!
We will be in the test kitchen in the next few months to see if we can develop a powdered version of the canned Loaded Pasta Sauce. We believe we can come up with something definitely different in texture and a bit different in taste but still really good. The sauce can be used with the dried zucchini noodles we make from those squashes that get away from the farmer and become watermelon size.
So, in 2018 Can-Do Real Food will be preparing canned products ONLY for contracts with our farmers or others and about 3 or 4 savory dehydrated offerings and a number of fruit based dried foods. For example, when we processed one of our farm partners’ garden huckleberries into a syrup, we milled to separate the berry skin from the juice. We then took the solids, added a bit of sugar (in this case only because garden huckleberries are NOT sweet) and dried the mix. Because of the lumpiness of the skins, we could not make a fruit leather, but we grinded it to offer as an add-in to oatmeal or yogurt.
The backpacking community will enjoy this, as well as other campers who want a break from preparing a meal from whole foods. In addition, a supply of some of our foods would make sense to anyone who loses power at home several times a year. If you have a grill, you can heat up water and then you can prepare the mix into a good meal.
We will NOT be at the farmers’ market as we have been the last two summers. Instead we may have a table one week in September when we have built up an inventory during the harvest season. Generally, we will market online and be able to mail these lighter weight foods easily.
Please let me know if you’d like to be on a special email list to announce when we will be at the market or when foods are available online.