REDUCING FOOD WASTE: Choosing how to start preserving food

We got our first puppy when I was three-years-old and quickly discovered I was allergic, but that’s another story. (I ALWAYS had a dog until worsening asthma made me….not have any pets again. ) A few months after losing my boxer who had been my wonderful companion during my single years, even tho her status reduced as I married and then had 2 kids…..she moved from riding shotgun to the back back of the station wagon with love in her heart and an eagerness to always be the best she could be……we decided it was time for another dog. My husband admitted to me that he really did not like boxers. What???? Okay…..so I found a book at the library how to pick a dog to fit your family. What a concept!!! It rated 50 breeds by 15 characteristics, so we looked to see how boxers were rated and we looked for that or better…and ended up with a delightful Australian Slehpard, the easiest dog I ever trained!!

My point? Dogs are not one size fits all and neither is food preservation methods. They require different techniques and skillsets and if you have never done any, you might as well start with the one that will be EASIER to learn, right?

Food preservation.

This article discusses the pros and cons of each preservation technique. After you read through it, ask questions and we can guide you further.

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.

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

 

My Daughter: My Muse

From the time Lisa was pretty small she made her opinion known about…well, everything.  In regards to food and flavor, her earliest wonderful contribution was to suggest a change in the banana bread recipe I had gotten from a co-worker in 1976. “Remove those raisins!”, she demanded at age 3. “And definitely add chocolate chips!”  We renamed the new recipe “Banana Bread a la Lisa” and enjoy it that way to this day.

age 4 ribs on trip to Vermont
A good eater, even at age 4!

Always willing to try new foods, she encouraged her younger brother on a trip to France when he was 11-years-old that trying escargot was worth it. My budget on the trip became strained as he decided that yes, garlic butter sauce makes everything worth trying and those snails just are not anything like the imagination tried to fool him.

Lisa has become quite an outdoor enthusiast. In the past 10 years she has trekked through New Zealand, Australia and parts of Indonesia. Over to Southeast Asia on another journey she and Josh traveled throughout Myanmar and Cambodia. She’s been to parts of Europe and I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the wonderful places she has seen. Closer to home, she has trekked the John Muir Trail in California, throughout Utah and the Canyonlands and they are planning the Washington leg of the Pacific Coast trail this summer.

Canyonlands
Canyonlands

As I began to explore dehydrating food for Can-Do I kept in mind the way Lisa and Josh need to cook. Most of their food is dehydrated because it is lightweight and condensed. They have to carry their water for drinking and cooking and washing, so I try to keep in mind recipes that do not need too much water. They also must carry fuel because wood fires are not permitted. The risk of wildfire is just too great. So, recipes need to be able to be prepared with minimal fuel usage also.

Once, visiting me with her sibs, we served the Can-Do Real Food Loaded Pasta Sauce and the discussion evolved into the quality of commercially prepared hiking foods. Most have considerable additives and of course, the flavor may be a disappointment.  So, Lisa often prepares the food they bring but the gauntlet was thrown down: I needed to prepare a dehydrated pasta sauce.

Gabrielle and Steven
Gabrielle Keeler and Steven Berger

My Can-Do farm partners have come to my house for a Tasting Supper several years. The last one was the tasting for 3 versions of the dehydrated sauce.

  1. We sliced and dehydrated the tomatoes hard, the better to grind them to powder.
  2. We roasted the sliced tomatoes and then dehydrated them hard for grinding, and
  3. We cut up the tomatoes, macerated them overnight in red wine, then oven roasted them etc etc.
  4. And for fun, we also served our canned Loaded Pasta Sauce.

Each recipe was essentially similar, using the same herbs and surplus carrots and zucchini as the canned version.  The only difference was how the tomatoes were prepared.

We did not tell our taste testers about the difference in the 4 recipes. And we are pretty formal with these efforts, with no talking allowed until after everyone writes down their thoughtful critique and overall rating for the recipe. tasting grid

Perhaps it is no surprise to you that the version that was most enjoyed was the one with the wine. It provided the most complex, deep and enjoyable flavor.

So, there we had the test and next was to wait for the tomatoes. Last summer we prepared what we thought was a significant amount but it still surprises me how condensed dehydrated food becomes when processed.closeup

I have set aside plenty for Lisa and Josh to enjoy on their trek next month, but we now have eight packages of Oven Roasted Double Loaded Pasta Sauce available for you. Each container has one cup of powder which, when mixed with 4 cups of water, makes 5 cups of sauce. Add more or less water depending on how dry or wet you prefer your sauce.  This is enough to feed 3-5 people, depending on serving sizes. double loaded pasta sauce

Excellent with our Forksize Zoodles which take next to no time nor water when mixed into the sauce to rehydrate!  Or enjoy with your favorite pasta.

 

 

 

The Joy of Having a Personal Food Processor

Here I am toiling away in the commercial kitchen when I get a message from a friend: How about a case of peaches?peaches

Hmmm, more peaches. I have made the Hogan’s Hot Stuff and the Naughty Peach Jam and brought both to the farmers’ market last week. There are more available and local people can contact me to arrange purchase. But as good as those are, both in taste and popularity, these new peaches offer a bit of fun in a different way.

They belong to my friend and I am her personal food processor. She hands over fruits and vegetables to me from time to time and I preserve them for her. This time she requested peach with ginger fruit leather. I love when people want to explore taste combinations and I think she’s right;  I can’t wait to see how that turns out.

My friend loves to cook and she recognizes a good deal on raw produce when she sees one. That’s how she ends up with a box here and large sack there of this and that. And after I work my magic, her pantry is a bit fuller and she’s looking for the next item for stocking up.

I’m doing the same thing in a way for one of my farm partners. They actually have no plans for selling any of the yummies I preserve for them from their garden. All items are for their home consumption. They have gotten to the point where they know they personally do not have the time (or energy) to put up tomato sauce or other things. They call me and I can take care of it for them. Right now we are exploring and agreeing that dehydrated Asian pears are the bomb!

asian pears
Dehydrated pears with 5-spice powder

And I’m doing the exact same thing for one other friend who really hates to cook. But she ‘ll be the first to declare that she likes to eat. She asked me if I could provide her some simple meals in a jar. I had talked to her how I pressure can left over turkey after Thanksgiving into turkey pot pie. Then, if we come home and are too tired to even think about cooking, we can open the jar and heat it up. This friend and I are exploring what family favorites of hers can be canned up so she can have it easier in her kitchen while her family eats delicious and nutritious meals without the cost of eating out.

personal pantry
Bottom 2 shelves of our personal pantry with dehydrated mixes and canned items 

I can do the same thing for you. I can cook it here or there, either way. In fact, if you want to learn to can or dehydrate, working in your kitchen makes a lot more sense so we can do the job together and you learn as we go.

You can eat local food year round!!

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.

 

 

 

And the Beat Goes On!

The weather changed into its winter wet cycle here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon a bit over a month ago but, believe it or not, we are still busy in the kitchen processing our farm partners’ harvests!

This week we processed over 200 pounds of garden huckleberries, making a deep rich culinary syrup. Sure, you could use it on pancakes, but it shines in making beverages. One of the Can-Do kitchen staff started dreaming of a kind of mojito….we’ll have to get her recipe.  We expect another 500 pounds of the berries after this weekend so there will be plenty of syrup for everyone!

Thanksgiving last week was a time to pause and think of all we have accomplished this year. Tied to the harvest, we very much feel blessed with living here in this fertile area. Here is a list of all we prepared this season:

 

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And even now, as we enter the slower time of year, we are busy in the Test Kitchen developing some new concepts.  We have seen that many of the people who purchase our products really enjoy cooking, so with them in mind we are developing some specialized recipes that will cut down cooking prep time. Just to tease you a bit, we have been asked by Creo Chocolate, the Portland chocolatier who supplies the 73% chocolate for our dessert sauces, to develop a mole sauce.  This will enable you to have all the ingredients you need to add to your broth and your protein. Very affordable and our focus group thought it was just the right mix of heat and sweet.

Until then, enjoy the treats you have purchased…..come see us at the McMinnville Grange Farmers’ Market Saturday, December 10 from 10-2 to stock up your pantry, find some wonderful items to enhance the holiday meals and festivities, and perhaps even pick up something to gift to someone special.

 

FIGS!!!

My introduction to figs was Fig Newtons and boy oh boy I could eat a package by myself. Love them.  I was introduced to fresh figs the summer of 1972 when walking across a field in Israel with one of my cousins. We came upon a large tree and he said , “I don’t know the name in English but it is very good to eat.” It reminded me of something but I could not place it. After all, dried/fresh  tastes differ slightly and it was not wrapped in a cookie. We got back to his house, pulled out the Hebrew-English dictionary and my gastronomic education had been enhanced.fig tree

Here in Oregon we have a lot of figs and I have been trying for several years to get some. This year I have connected with three different people who have fig trees and it appears that the first is ready to be gathered this weekend. I am so excited!!!

Assorted milk & plain chocolate in blue bowl
Assorted milk & plain chocolate in blue bowl

So I have two ideas of what I would like to do with them…..I tasted an amazing fig-orange preserves at the Fancy Food Show in January and hope to replicate that. I also would like to prepare a fig paste that people can use many ways, and with a recipe I will provide, bake their own version of fig newtons.homemade fig newtonsfig-orange-jam-5

I wondered if any of you have made any fig preserves of any kind and had a recipe to recommend. I’m also interested in savory recipes, as I will dry a bunch and hope to develop a dehydrated recipe for the 2017 season.

 

 

Test Kitchen Continues

Gabrielle Keeler and Steven Berger
Gabrielle Keeler and Steven Berger

Because our food processing endeavor is so closely tied to the local harvest, we enjoyed November through May with very little time spent in the commerical kitchen. We were not slacking, however. Not only did we attend multiple conferences and seminars, we also worked pretty intensely in the “test kitchen” prior to the First Annual Tasting Supper the end of March.

Ranee Solmonsson and Michelle Berger
Ranee Solmonsson and Michelle Berger

At that time we also asked our farm partners to give us an idea of what they would be planting so we could begin to think about new recipes to develop during the harvest of 2016.

We are in that harvest already. Fruits have been ripening for the past few weeks and we have begun processing some vegetables as well. Greens are dried for use in dehydrated products like soups and carrots and zucchini have roles both in the canned as well as dried product line.

Of course, tomatoes are coming. I feel like John Snow warning everyone “Winter Is Coming” in the Game of Thrones. When the tomatoes start, they don’t stop until the beginning of November! So, while we are excited to be in ramp-up production phase, we know the days in the kitchen will be getting longer.

Meanwhile, we have veggies coming in a volume we did not fully anticipate. One is beets.beetsbWe currently have a recipe for pickled beets in the approval process. This is a 3-step government regulated process required for all recipes that use the addition of an acid, vinegar or lemon juice for example, as part of the food safety requirements. Pickled beets uses vinegar and so, a small sample of the finished recipe was brought in to the lab that tests for brix, water activity and pH.  After that determination is made, if all is well (and we expect it will be) the recipe and the lab information then is reviewed by the Oregon Processing Authority, a professor of Food Science at OSU.  Finally, after he gives his approval, we submit each recipe once again to the federal government for their review.  This process can take 3 to 5 weeks so balancing the anticipated harvest and the production in the kitchen is important.

We have beets available now, however, and we can not start making pickled beets yet.  While they can be stored for a while, Tomatoes Are Coming, and we do not want to build a stockpile of “MUST DO” tasks. So, back into the Test Kitchen to play with beets and see how they can be prepared in a dehydrated format that will be enjoyed by people.

closeup

We played with two recipes and believe we have some winners. With good friends willing to come be guinea pigs for a tasting supper, we managed to feed them and keep their friendship, too. Next comes production which involves the dehydration process of each ingredient, and then the assembly of each product with cooking instructions.

I’m holding this one close for another week or so but will soon disclose the new products. I think we have something people can really enjoy AND we may be edging into the “gourmet” area with one.

Playing with food is FUN!