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 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.

Reducing Food Waste: Plan Your Garden

Please remember I am not a farmer. I am not a gardener. But I still have a piece of advice for other people going to try to grow food this year.

Start with a list of what you and your household likes to eat. No, sorry, you can’t grow chocolate here.

Seriously, if you refuse to eat zucchini, don’t bother growing it. If you can tolerate it, though, we already know it produces abundantly. In fact, I will risk pushing your tolerance and suggest it was NOT bread and fish, but zucchini that fed the masses. But if you and yours will not eat zucchini, do not waste your soil nor your energy. Otherwise, think of what foods that you DO eat that grow easily and produce prolifically because this is what you will enjoy all winter.

If you like tomatoes, think about how often you eat them raw (salads and sandwiches) and how often you used a cooked style (pasta sauce, pizza, soups, etc). Your selection of variety to plant should be balanced with what you expect to eat. If you don’t really eat salads much, 1 or two plants will take care of you probably. But you will want more of the meaty varieties if you like sauce.

During harvest, I will offer ways to keep things safe to preserve while you are gathering the volume you need for cooking a recipe. So, plan to plant a bit more than you think you will eat, but be ready for kitchen time. I will help you preserve that garden produce so you can eat from it all winter!!

So plan your garden now around the food you want to eat. Talk to the garden experts now. Get your soil prepped. Planting time is coming and it all will be great!

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

 

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?

 

Can You Manage Your Sweet Tooth?

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!choc cherry ice cream sauce

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.

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!!!