REDUCING FOOD WASTE: Sharing the Wealth

I started another Facebook group called More With Less a few days ago and invited about 25 of my friends. We now have over 100 people, many I don’t know personally, who have joined us in the effort to offer tips of all kinds and funny things to help us all get through these unusual times. Join us.

My husband posted an easy recipe to make glazed donuts and opined he wished I would make some. So, anyone who knows me appreciates that I like to bake. I have a sweet tooth. This is an ongoing issue and my weight exhibits my hobby. Over the past few years, I made a decision to stop baking so often and started only baking when we were planning to go somewhere for dinner or having guests here. (I dropped 50 pounds but that was not the only change I made.)

Homemade Glazed Doughnuts (Krispy Kreme glazed donuts) Best Donuts ...

So the ONLY way I will attempt to make those donuts is if I will share output…because heaven knows I have no off button and would eat more than a reasonable person without this addiction would.

So that got me thinking about all food preservation end results. The recipe ALWAYS gives you more than you need to eat at one time. I’ve collected a lot of recipes to consider for Can-Do Real Food and they might produce 2-12 jars. Super! Two jars are perfect for immediate use and shelf storage, but once you get above that, you just don’t need that much jam. Pasta sauce is another story.

My point is, plan that once you get into preservation, you will have a partner to trade with. Neither of you needs to prepare 100% of your own food need. In fact, I would love to pair up with someone who has skills I have not perfected, like fermenting. I could make pickles but I just don’t. So, it would be fun to trade. And perhaps your food partner could be the grower of the garden and you preserve for that family and YOURS.

Each winter a group of people has gathered in the Carnegie Room at the McMinnville Public Library for a swap session. Over the years I have enjoyed other people’s apple cider, jam with fruit I never have been able to access and a few other vegetable concoctions. I even scored a small container of homemade deodorant! My point is that while a swap session is out of bounds right now, an arrangement with one of two other friends can lighten the load and allow for sharing the surplus above the amount you prepare that you can reasonably expect to eat.

Long Beach Food Swap: A Place to Trade the Handmade, Homegrown ...

I’ve read with a bit of discomfort that some people eat home-canned items that might be 5 or 6 years old. There are ways to be mostly certain that the food is safe to eat, but if you preserve the amount you do eat and only preserve those items in high quantity that you know you will consume, you can keep your home pantry to a reasonable amount. Over producing leads to storage space issues AND increases your risk of food decaying in QUALITY over a long time before you might eat it.

I’ll talk more tomorrow about those “expiration” dates on commercially packaged foods and how to think about them safely.

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.