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.

REDUCING FOOD WASTE: The joy offered by the supermarket roasted chicken

Oh roast chicken: how many ways can we use you? Whether you buy it already roasted at the supermarket or grab a whole chicken there and roast it yourself at home, the zero waste person can get MULTIPLE meals out of one 3-pound bird.

Roast chickens at a Paris marche (open-air market)

First, roast chicken with roasted veggies. Set the oven for 350 degrees. If you have an uncooked chicken, clean it (yes, you really need to wash it) and then season it. That can be done simply with some dry herb mixture your family enjoys or even a liquid cooking sauce. Veggies should be cut into fairly similar sized pieces and also sprinkled with some seasoning. Roast for 45-60 minutes. There are many many many recipes online if you need more specific info to get started.

Second, trim all meat off the bones. Place meat in a sealed storage container in the frig (to use within 2 days) and prepare to make broth. You need a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add the bones to the pot. Cut up an onion. Wash and peel a couple of carrots and slice them in. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a slow simmer, covered, for two to five hours (YES! The longer the deeper the flavor!) Add washed and peeled small diced potatoes or pasta or rice, salt and pepper and other seasonings. Veggies will be cooked in another half hour and you have some soup to enjoy!

Third, those meat trimmings. Adding chopped onions for tang, green or red peppers for crunch, maybe walnuts if you are leaning towards something different, and then mayo or your favorite salad dressing for a salad or sandwich filling.

Does anyone have more suggestions???? Add them below in the comments.

Shopping Gets Fun

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)Image result for nuts.com logo

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.popcorn

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?

 

I Couldn’t Quit

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. No automatic alt text available.

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. Image may contain: food

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!

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Herb mixes

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.

2017gSo, 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.Image may contain: text

Fantastic Feeling

This week was amazing. Not only did we have plenty to do thanks to our farm partners, but we had a full crew in the Kitchen. Generally, it is just me, Graham, and Jana.

Graham is not only my husband but the Vice President of Research and Development. He jokes it is a better title than chief prep cook and floor mopper. Truthfully, Graham is a really good cook and while he is rarely at the stove in the Can-Do Kitchen, he can analyze what a recipe needs to enhance flavor and he has also developed several recipes that are now part of our offerings including the Plum Basting and Grilling Sauce and the Scarborough Fair herb mix.

Jana was the first new friend I made right after I moved to Oregon a bit over three years ago. She taught me how to can and she has forgotten more than I will ever know. So she is the Vice President of Production and if I need to leave the stove, Jana is on it! She is great at finding fresh herbs in a number of gardens in the area that are accessible and spray-free. She’s a super problem solver and enjoys the achievement of getting a “wow” flavor prepared when we’re cooking.

Mary, a friend from church, asked if she could come help about three months ago and except for a couple of trips to visit family (I can not nor will I even try to compete with a beloved grandson!) Mary has been coming to help daily.  She became our tomato prep person extraordinaire and celebrated when I announced no more fresh tomatoes until next summer. She tackles each day with a smile and says being part of Can-Do is better than watching television and she enjoys being a part of such a great activity.

Recently, another friend messaged me asking if she could come help. Since then she has come daily and even dragged her husband in one day.  Vanessa has a good amount of experience in the kitchen as she likes to cook from scratch and she was a super quick study in the commercial kitchen, coming up with a solution to a situation that we had not considered because she had fresh eyes.

Periodically other friends have come to help and an extra pair of hands is always appreciated!fig-paste-keeler

With all that help we got a lot done this week:

  • two kinds of fig jam and paste…one with oranges and the other with lemon and thyme
  • plum basting and grilling sauce
  • jazzy grape jam
  • apple pie filling
  • apple sauce
  • quince paste
  • vegetarian tortilla soup mix, and
  • strawberry syrup for the Coop’s Saturday Breakfast

The inventory in the storage area is great and we will be bringing quite a lot to the Grange Farmers’ Market on November 12th. Our goal at that market will be to help you with your holiday meal prep and presentation.  We have a great number of items which will enhance your meal and party enjoyment.

Our goal in the next few weeks is to work through items that have been stored in the freezer while we were dealing with more fragile produce like the tomatoes, and to also prepare more wine wow (jelly spread) as well as salts.  Let me know if there is something you are hoping we will have again in the November and December markets.  Just leave a message here or email me at BethRankinOR@gmail.com

 

Buying Club Now Open

We have had two very exciting weeks at the McMinnville Farmers’ Market and have an interesting problem. We are concerned we will run out of products before our member farms start sharing surplus with us.

We’ve been working diligently to prepare for this week’s market and I think we will have a full table:

Fruit Preserves of Various Types:

Pinot Noir wine jelly – rich and deep. Great with cheese but surprisingly perfect with peanut butter also.

Pinot Gris jelly – a lighter touch.  Great on crackers, ideal with a super creamy cheese.

Lemon Peppered Pinot Gris Jelly – zipped up with lemon peel and black pepper. Not hot but full of flavor and can stand up to a stronger cheese.

Naughty Zuc marmalade – got you scratching your head on this one?  Well, you know how zucchinis just take over a garden? We tried to offer a lemon zucchini marmalade last season to a limited success but we have zipped this up with double the lemon and a touch of limoncello…hence the naughtiness.

Berry Naughty – a freezer raid netted blackberries, golden raspberries and strawberries. The naughty touch is an orange liquor.  Adults only.

Asian Plum Sauce – wonderful sweet and sour sauce that you are used to when you dip your eggroll at a Chinese restaurant. Also called Duck Sauce, it is excellent as a basting sauce for poultry. You can use it on the grill, in the oven, or even on the cooktop.

Rhubarb chutney – chunky relish like mixture that also has sweet and sour flavor notes with raisins and vinegar. Perfect on salmon. Also excellent on pork.

 

Flavored Salts:

Pinot Noir salt – a finishing salt perfect on your steaks or burgers

Pinot Gris salt – a finishing salt great for chicken, pork or fish but absolutely superb on vegetables

 

Herb Blends:

Scarborough Fair blend – sing along now…are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Amazing mixed with softened butter and tucked under the skin of chicken. We introduced this last fall and sold out prior to Thanksgiving. Now the herbs are growing again so you can enjoy this blend this summer.

Italian herb blend – superb to use in any and all cooking, but it shines with tomatoes and cheese and the yumminess of pasta. Great on meats as well.

 

Craftsy Things:

Breadboard – Graham made me a breadboard to knead my dough. Works for rolling out pie crusts also. Treated to minimize sticking. Beautiful as well.

Cutting boards – Several sizes and wood types and designs, some with a “show” side and a “cutting” side so you can hang it on the wall when not in use. Can be custom ordered with a design of your choice.

Anniversary trivet – This is a custom order item that is perfect for a wedding, graduation, or other very special event. Design it with Graham and receive it in about 2 weeks.

Rice bags – With headaches and muscle aches, I keep one in the freezer for a cold compress and store another in a cupboard to pop into the microwave for a warm touch. Ahhhhhh Just a hint of lavender in some to provide additional soothing aromatherapy.

Being a member of the buying club will offer you several benefits.

  1. Once you receive your email you can request to reserve an item. You will need to indicate about what time you will make it to the market so we can offer it for sale if you don’t show up.  We know this system can work especially well for people who can’t get to the market when it opens at 1:00.
  2. Once in a while we will produce a very small batch. Buying club members will have first dibs.
  3. A volume discount is offered. If you want to purchase a mixed half case (6 products) you will get a 10% discount. If you want to purchase a mixed full case (12 items) you will get a 15% discount.

Anyone can come and taste whatever we are offering and purchase all they desire!!!  If you want to join teh Buying Club, just provide your email address.

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

How many of us have considered Campbell’s tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich to be one of our favorite comfort foods?

I was excited to find a possible runner-up or winner when I saw Cabot Cheese (one of the nation’s well known cheese makers) offered a recipe for tomato soup using their cheese.

So, back to the test kitchen, first making the recipe from whole foods. We thought it needed about 1 teaspoon of salt and also needed to increase the thyme to 1 teaspoon.

IMG_0584Then, calculations complete, we had the amounts needed for each ingredient in a dry form and put it together. Cooking took 3 minutes.  We adjusted the water added from 3.5 cups to 4 cups and voila! much better!

We have another instant soup offering in our dehydrated line!!IMG_0586

Playing With The Food

Yes, we play with our food. This is the test kitchen and that is what we need to do so in the summer we can use our time to produce all the new yummies and the crops get harvested.

Imagine, if you will, 50 baggies of various dried fruits and vegetables from the 2015 harvest. They need to be analyzed for various recipes to be processed for your epicurean delight this summer and beyond.

Today, Jana, Graham and I played worked diligently combining dehydrated fruits to make a snack mix. We decided we will offer two different mixes. One will include all those luscious berries that ripen early in the season: strawberries, raspberries, marionberries, and then the blueberries and the blackberries. We’ll call that mix Berry Local. The other mix will include apples, pears, peaches, hunks of fruit leather made from our raspberry-lemongrass syrup fruits after they are pressed and others made from grapes after they are pressed. Also added some roasted pumpkin seeds to that one. That medley will be the Taste of Sunshine, a way you can enjoy summer all year long.

Jana tastes the fruit to determine its sweetness level.
Jana tastes the fruit to determine its sweetness level.

Those combos were easy and needed nothing much more than careful mixing in a ratio that enhances the sweet while providing a snack without added sugar that can also be used for baking muffins or in breakfast cereal or smoothies or even on ice cream.

Taste of Sunshine will remind you of summer during the winter when you can enjoy this snack.
Taste of Sunshine will remind you of summer during the winter when you can enjoy this snack.

 

Then we turned to the vegetables. I dried quite a bit last summer for this test kitchen phase: carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, beets and celery. (We decided not to include the celery but that will make it into the soup mixes, so more on that later.)  Carefully weighing each veggie we tried to balance the mixture not only for the wonderful colors but the strength of flavor.  Zucchini, for example, is a mild veggie, so it can be added in more bulk to provide more mouth chewiness. Beets, on the other hand, are very sweet and need to be added in a small quantity.

Weighing the various veggies helped us balance the flavors.
Weighing the various veggies helped us balance the flavors.

We then decide to enhance the veggie blends with spice and herb mixes. I had been given samples of about 10 different kinds of spice mixes when I attended the Fancy Food show in San Francisco in January.  We narrowed it down to two: one with citrus notes of lemon and the other with a bit more tangy spice that hints at a bit of warmth without being hot. We think you’ll like it.

The hardest part, narrowing down the spicy/herby mixes. I think we found two winners.
The hardest part, narrowing down the spicy/herby mixes. I think we found two winners.

Now you just have to wait until the summer harvest for these mixes to start being offered.  They will be great for snacking at home, at work, or on a hike or camping.

 

Excitement is Building!!

So many things are coming together!!!

A friend in a nearby town let me know there was a specialty food store going to open there soon. I contacted the owner and as we chatted, not only did I explain about Can-Do Real Food and we found our missions to be compatible, but I was also able to provide her some information about local farms to contact based on the people I have met and work I have done since I got to Oregon two and a half years ago. Today she called and placed an order for some of our products to be in the shop!! This is my first “in a store” situation and also, being in another town, will extend the marketing zone of my products!  More information later as that shop gets closer to opening in a few weeks.

This past Monday evening we drove into Portland to attend FIX, the Food Ingredient eXpo.  Since then we have been receiving samples of items we believed might enhance our products. These, for example, are frozen herbs.  frozen herbs

While we use fresh herbs as much as possible, even our organic farmer at Bethel Springs Farm does not have enough basil for our most popular item, the Loaded Pasta Sauce. Last summer we supplemented with dried herbs but we know fresh still has volatile oils that dry up in the dehydration process. This option to use frozen herbs just may be a great way to keep the quality up up up.