In The Test Kitchen

Last summer, in the mad dash of learning how to function smoothly when accepting produce from the participating farms for production into preserved goods, my brain still kept on spinning with new ideas.  Canning is great. Canning is appreciated by many. But canning is not the only way we can preserve the surplus from the farms.

In fact, some of the veggies just can not be canned safely. Squash and pumpkin, for example, can be canned in cubes, but not in puree. Sure, you can buy a metal can of puree that is processed in a huge factory, but we’re not at that scale, so we have limitations that are rightfully imposed by our desire not to let any nasty bacteria into your potential gastro-intestinal tract. So no pureed pumpkin coming out of the Can-Do kitchen.  2014-10-19 09.28.10

As a cook, I know if I turn to a canned product it is because I want a shortcut, saving me time from cooking the whole food from scratch. A jar of chunked pumpkin or squash is nice, but not good enough. I would still have to smush it into a puree to use it. So, I knew, as the processor, I needed to look for another way to save the squashes that my farmers grew.

Dehydrating offers a way to preserve food also in a shelf-safe setting. So last summer, as the fruits and veggies ripened in our farmer’s fields and on their trees, we asked for items we normally did not can so we could dry them.

We now have a considerable stash of dried fruits and veggies and it is time to get to work to develop those recipes that will work. We’re considering a line of dehydrated soup mixes that will take 30-60 minutes to simmer at home. We’re also planning on a line of cup-a-soup mixes that will only take a few minutes of sitting in boiling hot water. Both of those would be packaged for single serving as well as 4-6 serving sizesdried produce

In addition, the dehydrated line will include snack mixes. One type will be seasoned veggies. Another will be fruit snacks. That one will be popular, I think. Many people ask for jams without sugar, but the texture changes so I am not going to go there, even with using stevia. Instead, we will be able to offer no sugar added dried fruit snack mixes.

Finally, I’m thinking about dip mixes. Think about that classic Lipton onion soup mixed with sour cream to become a potato chip dip. So we will have veggie dips you can mix with sour cream or yogurt or tofu.

Right now…..all still in the planning phase. Recipes are selected…..time to enter the kitchen to play with our food!

 

The Story Behind Can-Do Real Food

Beth grew up in the New York metropolitan area in Central Jersey. She jokes it is not the epitome of the Garden State, more like the Paved State.  She earned a degree in Urban Planning and started her working life. Using an expression she picked up living in Tennessee for 17 years, Beth is very “tickled” that her past six years have been involved with farms and farmers.

After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Beth and her husband Graham decided they would try to change their eating habits to source food as locally as possible and to try to eat foods when available in season.  A few months into providing blogging about West Virginia small farms for The Collaborative for 21st Century Appalachia, Beth heard of the desire to open a year-round indoor local food market in Huntington. Helping first by providing a list of local farmers, then making farm visits and blogging, then more and more as The Wild Ramp opened and thrived, Beth felt the power of individuals with good ideas.DSCF6590

After Graham and Beth moved to McMinnville, Oregon in 2012, she got in touch with numerous farm organizations but it was a summer job helping a farmer when it all clicked into place. Knowing that food waste is part of the problem about feeding America, Beth had felt guilty of her own fuzzy left-overs in the back of the refrigerator. And she was well aware of how much food gets tossed into dumpsters at grocery stores and restaurants. But it was not until that summer on the farm that she became aware of how much perfectly good food was not reaching consumers. Getting the brainstorm while weeding 6 hours in the sun, Beth approached the farmer offering to take care of the legalities if they could go into a partnership of sorts to reduce the amount of wasted food. 2014-10-15 07.39.11

And so,  with naivety similar to the group which started the year round indoor local food in West Virginia, the concept of a food processing enterprise servicing very small farms was born.  Officially licensed in July 2015 with four regular farm partners and many other individuals with surplus produce, Can-Do Real Foods got to work!  IMG_5034

Marketing began officially in September at the McMinnville downtown farmers’ market and has continued after the harvest season ended at other markets as well.  The off-season also provides time for education at numerous conferences and development of new recipes and products lines for the 2016 harvest.