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!

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.

 

Tackling a Standard

When we moved to Oregon almost 3 years ago I realized I was surrounded by orchards of hazelnuts. I decided I would make nutella for my kids for the holidays and so I did. The recipe called for refrigeration and the next year I called the Food Safety hotline at Oregon State University to find out if I could keep canned nutella in the cupboard. They took a few days and called me back with a simple answer: no. So I once again made nutella for the holidays but in small jars, promising to make more midway through the year. I didn’t.

The next year, last year, I had become a professional commerical food processor and still had no answer, but in January of this year at several trade shows I saw lots of nut butters and I spoke with the processors. I learned the “secret”.

By roasting the nuts until they are held above 185 degrees for 30 minutes, any bacteria of concern is killed. The nuts can then be ground and voila! your home processed hazelnut butter is shelf safe. Finding a European recipe for the chocolate version sealed the deal and then I faced a hurdle that was even harder. Finding the nuts at a discounted price proved to be difficult.

Here in Oregon most orchards have contracts to deliver their crop to the distributor and few producers hold out any for their own use or sale. I chatted with a few but was told it was not possible.

Then last week Graham and I headed over to the optician we have learned can do amazing things with difficult prescriptions and there, in the shop, were signs about hazelnuts for sale.IMG_1260

So we quickly got to work and prepared the nuts by soaking and then roasting and then we got to work grinding them. IMG_1291

Last week we were able to produced about a dozen jars of plain hazelnut butter we called Nutty Hazel’s Spread in time for the farmers’ market.  We teased customers with the coming attraction of Filbert’s Chocolate Revenge and heard squeals of delight in anticipation.

So today we once again soaked and roasted and went through the grinding but this time we added creo’s 73% chocolate. Creo is a small producer of chocolate working closely with the farmers. They receive the beans, roast and then produce chocolate in Portland.IMG_1290

Adding a small amount of coconut oil to help the spreadability, we were able to jar up 2.5 dozen. Yeah!!!

Now, it is important to note that it does not taste like the commerical Nutella you may know and enjoy. Here is their label.IMG_1264Here is our label. You will notice the list of ingredients is considerably different. label

I would hope it would taste different.