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!!

 

 

 

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, Take Two

So we went to pick figs last Sunday and came home with about 20 pounds and plans to return for more. These are green figs, maybe Spanish King and we picked the ones that were slightly to mostly squishy, letting the rest ripen a bit more. IMG_1573

The choices for processing are endless but right now we have narrowed it down to three ways. We will dehydrate for snacking, make a fig paste for eating with cheese or baking into fig newtons, and try to replicate an amazing fig orange marmalade I tasted at the Fancy Food Show.IMG_1577

Yesterday we started cooking the figs down into a paste and since it was taking FOREVER, we stopped after four hours and refrigerated it. Today we continued and a couple of hours later were able to can it.

I brought a pint home and prepared the dough which needed to chill in the frig for about four hours. This gave the fig paste a chance to cool itself.

So, after supper this evening, I tackled one of the fig newton recipes I pulled from the internet. IMG_1584

Excuse me, that is fig paste!!!
Excuse me, that is fig paste!!!

I am not a superb baker, but boy oh boy, if you like figs, you need to stop at out table at the farmers’ market this Thursday to taste and to buy!IMG_1586

Almost done baking

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And about to be eaten!!!

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.

 

 

Rare Fruit to Share

This area of Oregon has massive landscaping plant nurseries and many grow specifically for other areas of the country. Together, with the grass seed that is raised here, you probably have a bit of Oregon in your yard.

A few of the nurseries specialize in plants that are not native to this region but can grow here without being invasive. We were introduced to one last year when we arranged with a farmer in the nearby town of Amity to get pears. She took us over to this bush, already harvested, but a few desiccated berries still clung to the branches. They were sweet and reminded me of raisins. IMG_1332

That was my introduction to the goumi berry,  eleagnus multiflora, a little-known berry that is a nutritional power house. Goumis are a great source of vitamins A and E, and have the highest lycopene content of any food – even higher than the widely touted tomato.  They are found naturally in Central Asia and have no parasites or insects that affect them. They fruit out annually and the bush is loaded. However, there is an issue: they are small and the pit is large. You can see the shadow of the put in the berries above.IMG_1338

Today we harvested about 8 quarts and will use them, with another fruit, to make a jelly. Not sure yet if we will use apple or plum. If anyone has any experience with these berries, let me know.

Meanwhile, we will enjoy sharing something new with the local consumers. I will be surprised if anyone knows this fruit, but any who want a taste will get one. We enjoy playing with our food and we want you to enjoy it too!

 

Buying Club Now Open

We have had two very exciting weeks at the McMinnville Farmers’ Market and have an interesting problem. We are concerned we will run out of products before our member farms start sharing surplus with us.

We’ve been working diligently to prepare for this week’s market and I think we will have a full table:

Fruit Preserves of Various Types:

Pinot Noir wine jelly – rich and deep. Great with cheese but surprisingly perfect with peanut butter also.

Pinot Gris jelly – a lighter touch.  Great on crackers, ideal with a super creamy cheese.

Lemon Peppered Pinot Gris Jelly – zipped up with lemon peel and black pepper. Not hot but full of flavor and can stand up to a stronger cheese.

Naughty Zuc marmalade – got you scratching your head on this one?  Well, you know how zucchinis just take over a garden? We tried to offer a lemon zucchini marmalade last season to a limited success but we have zipped this up with double the lemon and a touch of limoncello…hence the naughtiness.

Berry Naughty – a freezer raid netted blackberries, golden raspberries and strawberries. The naughty touch is an orange liquor.  Adults only.

Asian Plum Sauce – wonderful sweet and sour sauce that you are used to when you dip your eggroll at a Chinese restaurant. Also called Duck Sauce, it is excellent as a basting sauce for poultry. You can use it on the grill, in the oven, or even on the cooktop.

Rhubarb chutney – chunky relish like mixture that also has sweet and sour flavor notes with raisins and vinegar. Perfect on salmon. Also excellent on pork.

 

Flavored Salts:

Pinot Noir salt – a finishing salt perfect on your steaks or burgers

Pinot Gris salt – a finishing salt great for chicken, pork or fish but absolutely superb on vegetables

 

Herb Blends:

Scarborough Fair blend – sing along now…are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Amazing mixed with softened butter and tucked under the skin of chicken. We introduced this last fall and sold out prior to Thanksgiving. Now the herbs are growing again so you can enjoy this blend this summer.

Italian herb blend – superb to use in any and all cooking, but it shines with tomatoes and cheese and the yumminess of pasta. Great on meats as well.

 

Craftsy Things:

Breadboard – Graham made me a breadboard to knead my dough. Works for rolling out pie crusts also. Treated to minimize sticking. Beautiful as well.

Cutting boards – Several sizes and wood types and designs, some with a “show” side and a “cutting” side so you can hang it on the wall when not in use. Can be custom ordered with a design of your choice.

Anniversary trivet – This is a custom order item that is perfect for a wedding, graduation, or other very special event. Design it with Graham and receive it in about 2 weeks.

Rice bags – With headaches and muscle aches, I keep one in the freezer for a cold compress and store another in a cupboard to pop into the microwave for a warm touch. Ahhhhhh Just a hint of lavender in some to provide additional soothing aromatherapy.

Being a member of the buying club will offer you several benefits.

  1. Once you receive your email you can request to reserve an item. You will need to indicate about what time you will make it to the market so we can offer it for sale if you don’t show up.  We know this system can work especially well for people who can’t get to the market when it opens at 1:00.
  2. Once in a while we will produce a very small batch. Buying club members will have first dibs.
  3. A volume discount is offered. If you want to purchase a mixed half case (6 products) you will get a 10% discount. If you want to purchase a mixed full case (12 items) you will get a 15% discount.

Anyone can come and taste whatever we are offering and purchase all they desire!!!  If you want to join teh Buying Club, just provide your email address.