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

How to: Garden Huckleberry Syrup

Can-Do Real Foods works with a number of small family farms in the area. One, located high on the ridge above Newberg, is Sunshower Hill Farm, owned by Ranee and Jody Solmonsson. They raise a number of organic crops and Ranee produces amazing teas.

A couple of years ago she had a small crop of garden huckleberries and wanted a culinary syrup which might be used for pancakes and desserts, but was planned to make spectacular beverages from a simple Italian soda with carbonated water to your most alluring adult beverage of choice.

Whenever we mention this product most people assume we are talking about wild huckleberries, the kind you enjoy on summer hikes usually at higher altitudes. Garden huckleberries, however, are a whole different genus and belong in the nightshade family. They grow on cultivated bushes and are ready to harvest after the nights start getting significantly cold. Image may contain: plant, fruit and food

The berries are pretty large and not sweet at all. The skin is tough and the berry, when ripe, is hard. 2017a

2017b

This presents a bit of a challenge in the processing. We need to extract juice from this hard berry, so the first step, after washing,  is to heat it up to help soften it.

Then the berries get milled and having the right tool is an important trick. Using a typical food mill or a chinois is long and laborious, with the container needing to be cleaned out and muscle fatigue in the shoulder usually occurring before the job is finished.

2017g

However, thanks to a friend, we were able to borrow another kind of mill that spit the juice one way, the “must” (seeds, any stems and skins) another direction and it all worked easier on the arm.

Even better, when we ordered one we were able to get one with a motor as well as other screens to help us with other foods we process this way, such as pumpkin, grapes, and quince.

Once we have enough juice, sugar is added and then a bit of lemon juice to add a sparkle. Filling the jars is the final step and then, as in any canned food, letting it process and sit to make sure the seal is tight.2017d

Sunshower Hill Farm will have this item for sale starting late in November.  Contact them directly for obtain this wonderful syrup. Image may contain: drink

 

 

Change, the only Constant

Seeing the writing on the wall……and it is time to make a decision and then issue an appeal to you.

writing on the wall

 

If you follow me on my personal blog or you actually stop and chat with me at the farmers’ market, you are probably aware that this has been a difficult year for me with my health.  First breathing issues had me at 30% of my lung capacity…that finally has improved to about 70%.  Then a second opinion on my bad knee agreed with the first guy that my issue was “only” arthritis, even tho I was in a new world of pain since I twisted my knee in June 2016. Then my opposite hip started complaining loudly. Then I needed a cornea transplant.

Still, I kept on with lots of help from alternative medicine but I am concerned that all the needed activity is not helping me heal nor is this boding well for my husband who has admirably stepped up with no (audible) complaints. I do not want the extra workload to get him ill.

So, it is with a rational mind but a disturbed heart that I have to end Can-Do Real Food after this harvest season.

It has been an amazing journey and I hope someone out there wants to take over the activity. dv1636041

The concept of helping small local farms gain a new income stream with the sales of preserved foods from their farms is important. Reducing food waste is something we each recognize needs to be done. And yes, local consumers have been learning they can eat this year’s harvest even during the winter using the canned and dehydrated foods Can-Do has prepared. mission

You need not have vast canning experience to do this job, just enjoyment of the task. Some of you may know, but most probably do not, is that I learned to can four years ago. I started the business the next July 1 with my certification achieved over the winter.  Did I make mistakes…..oh yes, but that’s what life is. If you never make mistakes, you probably are playing it too safe.

You do need to be a planner personality. You need to know what will be needed before it is needed. Today, for example, I will pick up one ingredient for a new dehydrated meal mix we hope to make tomorrow. Since it needs to be dehydrated itself, I will get that going so it is ready for the morning Kitchen time.  For every hour in the Kitchen I spend an hour doing planning or wrap-up.

You need to be a people person, too. Selling products at the farmers’ market is a lot of fun when you enjoy chatting with strangers and turning them into friends. You also need to be able to communicate effectively with the farm partners.

One benefit to whoever might want to take on this endeavor: you will have a mentor and not have to learn by the seat of your pants, as I did. I can provide a certain amount of information as you gear up before the harvest and market seasons begin, and while the kitchen time gets busy.

mentor

Please email me at BethRankinOR@gmail.com if you are interested, even if only a bit. I can help you determine if your skill set will make this feasible!

I’m Fed Up and it’s NOT Because I Ate Too Much

About ten years ago something happened. I woke up.

I became aware that a lot of people were writing about the changes to our foods that had been going on since the mid 1990s and also about how some illnesses had also had a surge in diagnosis since that time.

The skeptic in me says coincidence does not necessarily show a cause. The cautious part of me decided I needed to prove it to myself.

Having read about how some of the genetically engineered foods kills insects that typically infiltrate plants like corn by causing their stomachs to rupture, I began to think how my daughter, born in 1994, started developing something like irritable bowel syndrome before she was 20 years old.  The doctor at the college health center recommended she have a colonoscopy which I wanted to schedule with my doctor when she spent the summer with me. He said, no, 19-year-olds should not need colonoscopies, and we made an appointment to talk with him. After hearing her symptoms and the history, he urged her to repopulate her stomach with probiotics and her symptoms eased. Smart man.

As I read more and more I decided we would switch to organic foods where we did not know a farmer who grew a specific food item. We decided to have a 6 month trial and surprise surprise, we have continued this practice for at least 4 years now.  When we follow our own rules, we feel better. But we generally do not recognize that until we travel and end up eating “regular” food. And then the uncomfortable issues start again.

A few months ago the Federal government approved chickens being sent to China to be butchered and then sent back to American markets. What with past issues with pet food and baby food, I am not comfortable with any of the food grown in the US going overseas for processing. Especially since the USDA eliminated the “country of origin” labeling also. Image result for chickens shipped to china for processing

Today I read that the milk industry has petitioned the FDA to CHANGE THE DEFINITION OF MILK to include aspartame. Their point is that it would not need to be on the label and sweet things would be “healthier” without sugar. (Oh, and since so many people are now aware of the ill effects of that artificial sweetener, the FDA has approved changing its name to “Amino Sweet”, so watch for that on your labels!)Image result for just label it

For those of us who prefer to know what is in our food, this is unacceptable. Personally, I really can not, nor do I want to, have a cow. (Pun intended) But it is getting to the point where the ONLY way to control what you are putting into your body is to source all your food from farmers you know.  Farmers who tell you their growing methods. Farmers who are more interested in health than becoming rich.

I really am impressed by ALL the farmers I know, whether they grow with organic practice or even if they grow conventionally. Farming is hard work. Yields are highly dependent on a huge unknown: the weather. And generally, farmers do not make much income. Long hours, low pay.

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And yet, most of the farmers I have met are passionate about what they do. They may be exhausted, but they have the drive to keep on growing food for us.

We are extremely fortunate in Oregon’s Willamette Valley to have almost all our food needs met by local farmers. We need to go a bit farther for citrus and for sugar, but for the foods we personally eat and the foods prepared in the Kitchen of Can-Do Real Food, we support our local farmers as much as possible.

There are tons of diets that claim to offer a healthier body.   No one size fits all, but many can lead to better health.  But above all, start cooking from whole foods and leave the frozen foods with their high sodium and loads of preservatives at the store.  Not only will you discover what foods really tastes like, but you will feel proud that you can nourish yourself so deliciously.Image result for cook from scratch

Can-Do Real Food provides you preserved foods that have been made from local food raised on farms that are certified organic, bio-dynamic, or naturally grown or farms that grow in the organic style. Our only products that come from trees that have been sprayed are the hazelnut butters. Although new trees planted in the past year or so are a strain that is resistant to insect infestation, the mature trees must be treated or there would be no crop of nuts at all. All other produce used to prepare the recipes in the Can-Do Real Food kitchen are raised without any chemical treatment for insects or weeds.  You may opt not to buy our products, but it won’t be because of added chemicals.

Can-Do Real Food                                                                                                                                                                                      Preserving the Local Harvest                                                                                                                                                                                           No Artificial Anything!

 

Marketing the Market

Last year something funneled down into my thinking mode and I realized I could ask shoppers at the Farmers’ Market booth if they would like to receive an email early, maybe Tuesday night, maybe Wednesday (leaving myself wiggle room) that would tell them just what we were planning to bring to the Thursday market.   And guess, what? People signed up! About 150 of them.

Since we often make small batches, maybe only a dozen of some yummy, I like to give the Buying Club a chance for first dibs. People are reminded if anything intrigues them to let me know to set one aside for them. It does not mean they need to purchase; just that they have that opportunity. This has been particularly friendly for those people who can not get to the market until late in the day.  (And because there is nothing lost if they do not show up or do not buy the reserved item, I don’t mind. I can always market it another day. The joy of preserved foods.)

I thought you might enjoy the Market Newsletter I emailed out Tuesday evening to the Buying Club for this week. Just to see the kind of communication it is.  If you have any ideas how to make it sparkle and drive more sales, PLEASE let me know.

JAM SESSION!!

Let’s make beautiful music for our taste buds this week! I’m bringing ONLY jellies because we have the new harvests beginning to pop and it is time to remind you that fruit spreads shine in ways more than breakfast toast or peanut butter sandwiches.

 

Our gravenstein apple tree was loaded last year (does not look good for this season, though) and when we heard one of our farm partners, Gratefull Gardens had a wooden cider press, we went over there to make a lot of cider. We took some of that juice and produced a beautiful clear MULLED APPLE CIDER JELLY.  Fall flavors, sure, but you know you enjoy them. This jelly can also be used to cook with sausage, potatoes, peppers and apples. Or as a glaze for chicken.

Two of our farm partners, Bethel Springs Farm and Keeler Estate Vineyard, both grow plums. Those deep purple orbs lend themselves to so many uses. Cara Lagunas of Third Street Oil and Vinegar suggested we splash a bit of pomegranate balsamic vinegar into that mellow plumminess. If you have not even tasted POM PLUM JELLY you might not understand how this deep rich flavor can translate very easily into a magnificent salad dressing.

Okay, the ever-present QUINCE PASTE will not be around much longer (at least until the fall). We have introduced this little known fruit to many people who now fully understand how matching this mellow full flavored paste with cheese is the bomb! Over goat cheese, in a baked brie, or simply with cream cheese, it’s superb. It’s also great with peanut butter.

“I don’t like rhubarb!” You know how often I hear that? When asked, it turns out the introduction was very tart. Well, I like my rhubarb sweet so here ya go…give it a try. Mixed with ginger because, as I’ve said it before, I just do not do with other people do. I love it with strawberries, don’t get me wrong. I just want to excite you with new options. Come taste the  RHUBARB GINGER JAM.  Great on ice cream and can be a filling for a cake also.

From Keeler Estate Vineyards we bring you two forms of their pinot noir wine. The PINOT NOIR WINE WOW! is a deep rich jelled spread that will help you introduce this to nonwine drinkers. (Did you know we must boil off the alcohol in order to get to set point for the jelly, so sad or not, there is no “booze” in this.)  We also introduced mulling spices to the mix and so, MULLED PINOT NOIR WINE WOW! is also available with cinnamon and other lovely flavors.

However, there IS booze in the NAUGHTY BUNNY MARMALADE, orange liquor to be exact. This marmalade is full of oranges and that is the flavor that comes through. Excellent as a glaze for chicken or fish. And to explain simply why we developed this marmalade, all you need to do is think of all those slightly pornographic carrots, you will understand that Bethel Springs Farm has more carrots than they can sell to their customers. More excitement in our canning kitchen and your home kitchen thanks to them!

We went to a nearby farm to obtain some pears a couple of years ago and the farmer showed us a bush that, after harvest, had only a few desiccated berries hanging. With the chickens underfoot wanting what little remained, we tasted them and eagerly agreed to harvest the next season. That was last summer and we only have a few jars left of GET YOUR GOUMI JELLY. A Siberian native plant, it has no predators here nor does it spread. It has a huge pit in the small berry, hence its lack of commercial viability here. So, we have this one small batch, almost all gone with a unique sparkling taste.

I love figs. I know many of you do too. We tasted an amazing FIG ORANGE JAM when we were in Croatia several years ago and have been trying to replicate it ever since. This one not only is great as is, but if you take the time to reduce it a bit, it can make a great filling for homemade fig newtons.

BERRRY NAUUGHTY was made for the first time last year when the market was about to open and Can-Do Real Food had next to no inventory until the 2016 harvests could be processed. We raided the freezer and had a few of this and a little of that and a bit more of this other berry. Not enough of any to make a straight jam. So we combined them, added some orange liquor and we sold out! So, now, we gathered our berries from the freezer, this time blackberries from a wild patch on a farm well off the road so no fumes, some raspberries from my canes, and some blueberries from our partner farm Beach Family Farm. It is with great pleasure we offer you a deep rich jam and I suppose you could use if in another way, but only if you can tear it out of the hands of your family members who are putting it on their toast.

See you Thursday noon to 6pm!!

 

 

 

Center of My World

I felt it when I first started visiting this area to consider it as a place for us to move upon retirement. I feel it again each time someone from elsewhere in the world stops to chat at the Can-Do Real Food booth at the McMinnville downtown farmers’ market. McMinnville is a world class destination.

No, there are not world class art museums, but we have a pretty amazing air and space museum that includes the Spruce Goose and stealth bombers. Image result for evergreen air and space

No, we are not on a major hiking trail system but the town has glorious parks and we are close to the Coastal Range with its national forests offering outdoor recreational opportunities including trail running and mushroom hunting. Image may contain: 1 person, plant, tree, outdoor and nature

No, we don’t have restaurants with prices that match your monthly housing cost, but we have an amazing cross section of restaurants in all price ranges, many of which use local food for their menu. Photo of Community Plate - McMinnville, OR, United States. Kale chopped salad (refreshing lemon vinaigrette) $8, scoop of tuna salad

And why would they use local food? Because they can!!! Withing 15 miles of McMinnville we have food producers that not only offer produce and protein, but also wheat and  milled flour, olive oil, cheese, honey, and so much more.

And should we mention the beer, the cider, the mead, the saki. Mashing in on the new system

And finally, truly world class, the wine. 

Each week at the farmers’ market I meet people who are not only from other places in Oregon, but people who have travelled here from all over the United Sates and foreign visitors from Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.

People who care about the amazing things the earth can produce come to McMinnville.

Can-Do Real Food is very proud to be part of this community, offering amazing canned and dehydrated foods from local farms. We CAN eat locally for almost all we need. Lucky us. The pioneers who traveled the Oregon Trail knew this is a special area.

Hazelnuts versus Filberts: Same Nut

I grew up in New Jersey, lived in a bunch of places mostly east of the Mississippi until almost four years ago when we moved to Oregon. I call them hazelnuts.  Born and raised Oregonians call them filberts.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has about 650 Oregon farm families growing hazelnuts on 28,400 acres.  This provides about 90% of all the nut use in the nation and accounts for the third largest crop worldwide after those grown in Turkey and Italy.

As I wrote before in this blog, Tackling a Standard,  my kids love Nutella so my task even before I became a commercial food processor was to make a hazelnut spread with chocolate for them.  Last year we made a few small batches and they sold out at the McMinnville Farmers’ Market.

Today, we tackled the task again and there is no doubt in my mind we have turned a wonderful corner on production. Both the plain and chocolate versions are amazing……you have to come taste!!

Filbert’s Chocolate Revenge – Known everywhere else as a filbert, the local hazelnuts are offered in a chocolate spread. Perfect on toast but also can be used to make an amazingly decorative breakfast bread. Portland’s Creo 73% chocolate once again is the star. This is not going to taste the same as the one you know because the ingredient list is shorter, with no artificial anything. 9 ounce jar $10. Ingredients: hazelnuts, chocolate (with cane sugar), vanilla. See the Recipe Page for a cookie that uses this as a filling.

Nutty Hazel’s Spread – No, this is not about how my wacky cousin is losing her waistline. This is about one of Oregon’s world famous agricultural crops, the filbert!  This delicious nut spread will be available only in small batches and maybe, just maybe, we will make it to the next harvest in the fall. 9 ounce jar $10. Ingredients: hazelnuts, that’s all!

Chocoholics Unite!

Okay, I admit it. You don’t even need to twist my arm or apply any pressure. I am a chocoholic.  If there were membership cards to a group that does not want self-help, I would carry one for this. 

So, Can-Do Real Food works with local farmers but I managed to soothe my chocolate need by making chocolate ice cream sauces with fruit. Last year I made small batches of ice cream sauce with raspberries, strawberries and cherries. This coming season I will be making, upon request from my Farm Partner Beach Family Farm, a blueberry chocolate ice cream sauce.

Last year’s  challenge was to find a quality chocolatier in the area. The Willamette Valley is pretty spectacular with its vast array of crops, but chocolate is not grown here. The best I can do is to find a local producer. Last year I found Creo Chocolate. in Portland.  They have a direct Free Trade relationship with cacao growers in Ecuador.  Creo roasts the beans and prepares chocolate in a variety of flavors. We like to use the 73% chocolate in our recipes because it is dark but has a bit of sugar added, which means we don’t add any other sugar to those recipes. 

When the Straub family at Creo challenged us to develop a mole sauce we were intrigued. Mole, which means sauce, is used throughout Mexico and it seems like every grandmother has her own recipe.  I had my first taste of chicken mole on a visit to Texas about 21 years ago. While I was disappointed a bit that it does not scream “CHOCOLATE!!” I think it might have been weird to eat a chocolately piece of chicken. The chocolate, however, does an amazing job mixing with the peppers and tomatoes and other ingredients and making my taste buds very happy.

When we got this request we of course had to do some field work and ordered a lot of chicken mole over the next few weeks at a number of Mexican restaurants in the area. Every single one was different!  They all were yummy, with variations of sugar and heat. We made our first batch in the Test Kitchen with 100% chocolate but decided the little bit of sugar in the 73% seemed to offer more enjoyment. For the heat we aimed for something on the light side of medium; people who like more heat can always add it.

The new challenge was to prepare a mole sauce that would be food safe. Our commercial kitchen is set up for small batch processing and does not have the kind of canning equipment that would provide a safe canned product. (We’ve also tasted the large national brand for mole sauce and prefer a fresher taste.) While it would be easy to open a jar and pour it all out, if someone is going to prepare chicken mole, they are planning to cook, so we realized a dehydrated mix would work fine!

So, Can-Do Real Food is pleased to announce the first of several new dehydrated recipes that will tempt your palate this season. Mole Sauce!

The mix will prepare enough to feed 4 people.  You will need to have 2 pounds of boneless chicken (breasts and/or thighs) and 1.5 cups of chicken broth. We provide a simple recipe on the package. It is also feasible to use other proteins besides chicken. The mix can be hydrated with vegetable broth also. Have fun and let us know how you enjoy it!

And watch for other new dehydrated mixes this season as the harvest progresses. We have some amazing things we cooked up in the Test Kitchen that our Partner Farms tasted this past January and approved. Now we just need to wait for the main ingredients to grow!

What’s On a Label?

Remember how Oregon had a referendum about requiring food makers who use ingredients which are from genetically engineered plants to have to specify them on the label?  Remember the desire to “know”?

Even though that referendum did not pass, you CAN know certain things from labels.  I wrote about the newest label requirements by the government for a year-round local food market in West Virginia a few years ago.  There are may rules, but Can-Do Real Food is exempt from a few because of our small size.

Some people have asked me for nutritional information; most of the time I’m asked for the total sugar grams. I don’t know. I can tell you how many grams of sugar goes into the recipe, and I suppose a mathematical extrapolation could be done by someone who has the time, but I personally have no idea if that is how the number is figured out for the serving size.

I’m not required to include that (and a few other things) on my labels because we are tiny. The government does not make many exemptions from the regulations for small companies but this is one, so basically I save money and time because I need not provide samples at some lab (no where near McMinnville) and pay a fee so a food lab technician can run a test that provides the nutritional breakdown.

So, sorry, I don’t know. If you need to avoid sugar the best I can tell you is not to eat my jams.  I usually have some dehydrated fruit available if you want fruit without added sugar.

However, I can tell you this:

  • Food produced by Can-Do Real Food is made almost completely from local ingredients. Our exceptions are spices, vinegar, oil, sugar, citrus, chocolate, and coffee. The last two are obtained from local processors who procure the raw ingredients from Fair Trade farms and roast and do what they do in their shops in Portland and Newberg. All other raw ingredients are grown nearby.
  • Our partner farms are either certified Organic and/or Biodynamic or are in the lengthy process. They grow with organic methods. The ONLY exception to this are the hazelnuts. There are some organic hazelnut farms in the area but the cost, already high, restricts the consideration. I have talked to commercial hazelnut farmers as well as one of our partner farms which has a long neglected hazelnut orchard. Those neglected trees, untreated by my partner, had almost no edible nuts. The commercial farmer explained the various parasites that can destroy a crop. We make several products with the local hazelnuts: butter (plain and chocolate) as well as adding them to one canned yummy (plum conserve).
  • We also obtain produce from what I call “backyard gardeners.” These are our neighbors who have a fruit tree or bush or a garden that is just being way more productive than they can personally use. We ask if there is any chemical application to their produce and only accept those that have not been treated.
  • We chose to not use any additional preservatives. The sugar in the jams is the primary factor to keep away botulism. The recipes that have added lemon juice or vinegar have been rigorously tested at the food lab and then approved by a food scientist at Oregon State University who is the Processing Authority for the state. He indicates specific instructions of how the recipe is to be produced and no deviation is ever acceptable.  The level of acid is what helps preserve the food to be safe for eating once canned.  We typically do not add salt to our recipes. We had one comment that the Loaded Pasta Sauce was not as good the second year as it was the first. The major difference, besides our sneaky addition of zucchini, was that we got the recipe approved without added sugar or salt. This permits people who have restricted sodium to enjoy our sauce, and everyone else can add a little if they prefer. So salt, also a natural preservative, is not used in any way for food safety. We do, however, have a line of gourmet salts, and of course these are salt, so the food safety issue is a sure thing.
  • We do not use emulsifiers besides the pectin as called for in some recipes. So, our culinary syrups are not as thick as others you can buy at the supermarket.
  • We started using nutritional yeast in some of our dehydrated products. On commercial food labels this may be one of the ingredients that can be listed “natural flavorings”.  When we were developing our dried soup mixes in the Test Kitchen over a year ago we felt something was missing. Normally, if we were cooking at home we would start with a broth, either homemade or commercially produced. The long slow simmering of the bones or the vegetables is what helps give a homemade soup that deep rich flavor. But we wanted to provide a soup mix that would be ready in a short time (3 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on which soup mix) and we do not have a license to include meat in our products. Immediately we realized there is something we used at home, made from nonmeat sources that boosts flavor. Developed in Great Britain during World War II because of the shortage of meat at home, Marmite is a high protein paste made from nutritional yeast.  We were able to identify (one of the fun conventions and expos I visit during the off-season) several producers of powdered nutritional yeast that can boost the flavor of our recipes. I use the term “nutritional yeast” on the label because I personally dislike the all encompassing “natural flavors” that is the suggested listing.

We are proud to say “No artificial anything.”

What else can you tell from my label?

Well, the photo will either be a picture of what the stuff inside looked like while it was cooking or the raw ingredients in the mix. 

The side panel has all the legal requirements taken care of. First, my name and location so you can find me. Then, the ingredient list. I will never be able to call any of my products “organic” as the kitchen is not a certified organic kitchen, but when my ingredients are certified organic, they will be noted in the list.

Also, a reminder to store the opened but not emptied jar in the frig. By the way, how long something will last in the refrigerator is is also a common question. For something like the pasta sauce, I say to use it within 2 weeks. Something high in sugar like the jams, will last longer. I open a lot of jars to offer tastings at the farmers’ market and keep them on ice while there. They get put in the frig as soon as we get home. I just tossed a half empty jar of one we offered for tasting back in early December, so that lasted over 4 months.

The weight or volume of the product is next…..jars are in volume. The dried yummies are by weight. The next item is a batch number. It helps me know immediately when I made it and where the main ingredients came from.  If I need to have a recall, I will issue it with a batch number like that.

The last item is the “best by” date. Here the government gets fuzzy in their logic, not that they do that anywhere else, eh?  They require food processors to put something in there like a “use by” or “expired by” or a “best by” date. But they have no standards for canned and dehydrated foods. Personally, I do not like “use by” or “expired by” dates because they may result in perfectly good food being thrown out. How many times has that milk been okay for a week after the date on the carton or bottle?  Preserved foods typically last a long long time. How many people have a grandmother who cans? Ask her when to throw away unopened jars and she will probably look at you with “that” look you try to avoid.  However, there are some foods, even when safe to eat, that lose their appeal. I canned some carrots and opened the jar about 18 months later…..they were kind of mushy, not at all the quality a similar jar had been at 12 months. I typically put 13 months in my “best by” but would much more prefer you to eat it up and come back the next week to buy more!

If you have a question about the products that are not now currently on the labels, let me know. Also, our slow season is now over. The Downtown Farmers’ market starts this coming week so we are in prep mode and will be in the Kitchen one day each week for a while. When that changes to our normal three-day Kitchen week depends on Mother Nature.

 

 

 

Turning Two Oops into a Pantry Feast

A funny thing happened last week on the way to preparing the matza ball soup for the Seder. I used the wrong chicken.

I’ve talked about “Know Your Farmer” so it probably won’t surprise you to know I have a farm where I get my eggs. They used to raise meat chickens but have gotten out of that last year. However, as their older birds no longer produce eggs, they are processed and frozen as “stewing” chickens. Perfect for making soup! I ordered some from her and we had three in the freezer.

The first oops happened when I asked my husband to grab a chicken and I didn’t notice until it was already defrosted that it was not one of the stewing hens. It was a large roaster so it served my immediate need but the next oops occurred Sunday when my husband used one of the stewing hens for supper…..and he did not stew it. It was, to put it mildly, hard to chew.  We ate vegetables that night. LOL

That chicken and one more from the freezer then went into the soup pot yesterday and I made a boatload of broth. It simmered all day to develop a deep flavor.

This morning I got out my canning supplies. First I used my hot water canner to sanitize the jars I would use. Then, filling a bunch of pints, I then pressure canned broth so we could have it on the shelf to grab for meal preparation.

While that was processing, I then stripped the meat off the bones and made up a chicken pot pie mixture with onions, carrots, celery, green beans, and a whole bunch of herbs and seasoning. Then I sanitized quarts in the hot water canner and got 3 quarts of pot pie mix, 1 quart of soup (the remainder of the pot pie mix with more broth) and 3 more quarts of chicken broth. I STILL had some broth left over so it went into the freezer.

We prefer to can broth instead of freezing it for a couple of reasons. First, it takes up freezer space which is needed for the meats we buy from local farmers and other items in the freezer, like my ice cream maker bowl…all necessary for happy living here. Secondly, when the broth is frozen you have to plan ahead in order to defrost it to use it. Sometimes our meal planning is more ad hoc and frozen broth ends up forgotten.

From left to right: pot pie mix, soup, broth

Knowing how to can food safely was something I learned three years ago. Hot water bath canning was enough of a challenge but pressure canning had that horrible “explosion possibility mystique” that I needed to overcome. Now, no big deal. And it becomes a joy when I look at my home pantry and see that I have a ready supply of food that I have preserved. This is food that I know the contents and there are no preservatives or additives we don’t want in our diet.

Do you want to learn how to can safely at home?  Let me know. I will be planning a canning lesson in May and will be interested if there is interest.