A New Season Begins

Can-Do Real Food will be back in the McMinnville Downtown Farmers’ Market after a year’s hiatus to permit three joint surgeries to heal. I feel great; completely out of pain, so we are back to share shelf-safe local food with you!

We will be bringing the following canned items for your consideration:

Applesauce – Chunky texture, made with Gravenstein apples and a touch of cinnamon. No added sugar.

Berry Naughty Yumminess Sauce – Perfect for ice cream or an easy topping on a cake or pancakes or French toast or……it is naughty because it has orange liquor in it. OLCC requires us to tell you about that but even kids can eat this. blueberries-blackberries-and-raspberries

Hogan’s Hot Stuff – This is the last of the peach-jalapeno jam until new peaches in a couple of months. Grab it while the grabbing is good. (Message me if you want me to hold one for you.)

Quince Paste – I am sure this will move quickly. Perfect with cheese. If you have never tasted quince, stop by for a fun experience. It has a similar texture as pears but the taste is unique. 

Odds and Ends – Just 2-3 jars left of a few favorites. 

We have been dehydrating thinking of you as well as backpackers so there are some new items:

Mole Meal Mix – You can get supper on the table in less than 30 minutes following the simple recipe on the package. The recipe can feed 8 so way less expensive than fast food! This is a gentle- not hot- take on the Mexican dish……people who like heat will need to add more!

Huckleberry Dust – a powder to add to oatmeal or smoothies or yogurt that is high in anti-oxidants.Huckleberry Dust.pub

yello plum with hazelnut leatherPlum Roll-ups – 3 different takes….”Plain”, “Yellow Plum with Hazelnuts,” and “Pom Plum” which has the tanginess of pomegranate balsamic vinegar added in.

Rhubarb Lace -Just enough sugar to take away the pucker, these will be easy to enjoy!

Apple a Day – cinnamon and “naked” versions for a healthy snack

Fruit Feast – a mixture of dried fruits for healthy snacking

Mushroom Quinoa – Developed for backpacking, this can be enjoyed at home as a side dish or stuffing. Rehydrates in about 20 minutes.  We did all the cooking!

Our raw produce is predominantly sourced from local farms as well as backyard gardeners. No artificial anything added. Small batches, so grab when you see something!thankafarmer

The market starts at noon and runs until 6pm on Thursday. Located on Cowls and in the parking lot behind Town Hall. Plenty of parking within 2 blocks.  Hope to see you there!!!

 

 

 

 

The Harvest is Happening and the Kitchen is BUSY!!!

Do you love to eat? Whether you consider yourself a foodie or merely know what you like, whether you enjoy home cooking or prefer to have someone else do the work, Can-Do Real Food has something for you!

Great news! Can-Do Real Food is building inventory as fast as humanly possible as the harvest is happening.  The only news that would be better would be that we are open for business but I want to hold back for another few weeks before we start offering items for sale.  This will hopefully serve to whet your appetite and help you be patient.

Personally, one fun thing I experienced as part of the travel I was lucky to enjoy was the amazing foods and dishes I had never tasted growing up.   Some of these international experiences show up in our easy to prepare meal kits. For example, our Mole Sauce provides all you need except for the protein to fix a delicious quick chicken mole dinner. We make it with a hint of heat, just enough to remind you that this is a Mexican recipe, but not enough to get the sinuses flowing. Even hot-pepper-phobes find it tasty. And if you like heat, you can add more with your own favorite pepper or hot sauce.  Today we prepared a lot of these meal mixes for you and now we need to head to Creo Chocolate in Portland to buy more of their 73% for our recipes!mole sauce

We offer other “international” flavors, including our Moroccan Tangine, which basically is a stew with wonderful spices and fruit. Not spicy hot but again with a small hint, because we want everyone to enjoy it. Again, we do not include the protein.  (Why do we skip that? The government oversees food processing work in two categories. I am inspected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a representative of the USDA. Food processors who provide meat in their products must also have a license issued by the FDA. The requirements for the inspector to have their own office and bathroom just makes this license unreachable in the commercial kitchen I use at the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries.  So, no protein in our food products. )

loaded pasta sauce
Like this……but different

This past winter in the test kitchen we explored how to present a dehydrated version of our popular Loaded Pasta Sauce. That sauce was originally developed to incorporate the surplus zucchini and carrots that the farmers had. The dehydrated version does the same. We first macerate the tomatoes in red wine and then roast them for several hours. Then they are dehydrated hard so we can powder them. The carrots also need a bit of pre-cooking before drying; we found in the test kitchen phase that merely using shredded carrots left them with a crunch that just is a bit unusual for pasta sauce. Precooking before drying takes care of that. The rest of the recipe is similar but the end product is a bit different than the canned version. You may be amused to learn that when the people around the Tasting Supper table blind taste tested four versions of the recipe, they preferred the wine version, even over the canned recipe!  Right now we are dehydrating the tomatoes but it will be a while yet before we have the other local produce to assemble the recipe for you.

zucchini noodle startWe will be drying slices from zucchinis that grew too large for the farmers to sell. Since we know many people spiralize zucchinis for use in the summer, this will allow a shelf-safe product for use during the winter when zucchinis are imported and a lot more expensive. It helps people who want to have pasta but avoid the carbs and is delicious with our dehydrated pasta sauce. Additionally, if you are a backpacker, rehydration of the zoodles takes only a few minutes.

Last fall we obtained 150 pounds of pumpkins and butternut squash and have prepared a lot of single serving packages as well as 2-4 serving packages of our award winning Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup. All you need to do to enjoy this soup is boil the right amount of water , mix in the power and 3 minutes later the soup is ready!

Then we have a lot of fruit products include fruit leathers, chunks of fruit, and even a fruit dust. That one needs an explanation I think.   Huckleberry DustLate each year, after the first frost, Ranee Solmonsson of Sunshower Hill Farm harvests her garden huckleberries. These differ a bit from wild huckleberries because they are actually a different genus. The berry is large and not sweet at all. But when sugar is added, the flavor is that deep rich blueberry flavor we love. Can-Do Real Food prepares a culinary syrup for Ranee to be used on pancakes but especially wonderful in a beverage. Well, when we prepare it, we put the berries through a mill that separates the solids from the juice. The juice of course goes into the preparation of the syrup. The solids are “waste”. But this past December I tried to dry it as a fruit leather. It was too lumpy to roll up, so I ended up grinding it finely and it is absolutely amazing added to oatmeal or yogurt!

quinceAnother item we make that I would guess you might never see anywhere else is membrillo buttons. I first learned about membrillo when I moved to Oregon but apparently quince trees grow in many places around the world. In Spain, membrillo is made by preparing quince paste and then air drying it in deep containers. Before I became a commercial food processor I used a cookie sheet with sides and left the membrillo to air dry for a couple of months. Well, food safety regulations will not permit me to prepare it that way for you, so I put small dollops of the quince paste on a dryer sheet and voila! buttons. They are sweet and tangy and are shelf-safe, something you can carry in your bag or car and have for a easy snack.

Image result for charosetI try to make other unusual things. For example, it is now July and I can see we are going to have a bumper crop of apples from my Gravenstein tree. Besides dried apples, I plan on making a mixture that is a recipe we use for the Passover Seder in the spring. Charoset is a sweet mix that symbolizes the mortar used by the slaves in Egypt. The recipe I grew up with included grated apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine. I will be making a dehydrated version that can be used as a simple snack or rehydrated with a little water to have a soft condiment that would be superb with chicken any time of the year.

We will have herb mixes as we did before and also another batch of umami dust that can be used to enhance your stews and soups and other savory dishes.

It is our pleasure to play with food and present delicious items from local farms with no artificial anything.

And, since we are in the middle of harvest, if there is something you would like us to consider making, now is a great time to share the concept!

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.

 

 

 

Turning Two Oops into a Pantry Feast

A funny thing happened last week on the way to preparing the matza ball soup for the Seder. I used the wrong chicken.

I’ve talked about “Know Your Farmer” so it probably won’t surprise you to know I have a farm where I get my eggs. They used to raise meat chickens but have gotten out of that last year. However, as their older birds no longer produce eggs, they are processed and frozen as “stewing” chickens. Perfect for making soup! I ordered some from her and we had three in the freezer.

The first oops happened when I asked my husband to grab a chicken and I didn’t notice until it was already defrosted that it was not one of the stewing hens. It was a large roaster so it served my immediate need but the next oops occurred Sunday when my husband used one of the stewing hens for supper…..and he did not stew it. It was, to put it mildly, hard to chew.  We ate vegetables that night. LOL

That chicken and one more from the freezer then went into the soup pot yesterday and I made a boatload of broth. It simmered all day to develop a deep flavor.

This morning I got out my canning supplies. First I used my hot water canner to sanitize the jars I would use. Then, filling a bunch of pints, I then pressure canned broth so we could have it on the shelf to grab for meal preparation.

While that was processing, I then stripped the meat off the bones and made up a chicken pot pie mixture with onions, carrots, celery, green beans, and a whole bunch of herbs and seasoning. Then I sanitized quarts in the hot water canner and got 3 quarts of pot pie mix, 1 quart of soup (the remainder of the pot pie mix with more broth) and 3 more quarts of chicken broth. I STILL had some broth left over so it went into the freezer.

We prefer to can broth instead of freezing it for a couple of reasons. First, it takes up freezer space which is needed for the meats we buy from local farmers and other items in the freezer, like my ice cream maker bowl…all necessary for happy living here. Secondly, when the broth is frozen you have to plan ahead in order to defrost it to use it. Sometimes our meal planning is more ad hoc and frozen broth ends up forgotten.

From left to right: pot pie mix, soup, broth

Knowing how to can food safely was something I learned three years ago. Hot water bath canning was enough of a challenge but pressure canning had that horrible “explosion possibility mystique” that I needed to overcome. Now, no big deal. And it becomes a joy when I look at my home pantry and see that I have a ready supply of food that I have preserved. This is food that I know the contents and there are no preservatives or additives we don’t want in our diet.

Do you want to learn how to can safely at home?  Let me know. I will be planning a canning lesson in May and will be interested if there is interest.

 

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.

 

ANTICIPATION

Michelle Burger is the owner of the organic Bethel Springs Farm and sends out a weekly newsletter to her customers so they can place orders that she delivers to them weekly. I received my newsletter this morning and was very excited to see that she is beginning to harvest carrots and zucchinis.

We have lots of uses for both of those:

  • Carrots and zucchini both go into the Loaded Pasta Sauce. We have to wait for the tomatoes to process that yumminess, so the veggies will be shredded and frozen to bide their time until the tomatoes start flowing.????????????????????????????????????
  • The carrot marmalade Naughty Bunny is only so-so popular, so we won’t make another batch for a while but the Naughty Zuc flew off the table at the Farmers’ Market. You’ll be seeing more of that soon.zucchini marmalade
  • Both carrots and veggies will be making numerous appearances in our new dehydrated line. In soups, in dips, and in snack mixes, be prepared for new taste sensations!

Summer is here!

First Annual Tasting Supper

A brainstorm hit me last summer. Possibly it was a comment made by a shopper at the Farmers’ Market. Possibly it was simply a way to try to find a use for the abundance of zucchini that just seems to never end in the summer. The concept of dehydrating produce and developing dried products started me thinking.

As the harvest progressed I dried all kinds of things: carrots (sliced and shredded), potatoes (shredded, sliced and also cooked and mashed), tomatoes (in slices and also the skins which are a byproduct of making the pasta sauce), greens of all kinds, onions (and scallion and leeks and chives), zucchini (sliced and shredded), winter squash (roasted and pureed) and more. Fruit includes apples, pear, plums, peaches, berries, and of course fruit leathers.IMG_0644

We ran special tests on apples and carrots, drying them to the recommended instructions, less, and more. The concept with the shorter drying time was a consideration for the speed of rehydration; if there is still some moisture left in a piece, it will need less time in the soup pot or will have a soft chewy texture in the mouth. The idea behind the longer drying time is to aid in the reduction to a powder.  We found the shorter drying time on the carrots ended up with mold after a month in storage, so that idea was nixed.  We found the longer drying time was instrumental in achieving a really fine powder.

One test bag was eaten by mistake
One test bag was eaten by mistake

And we had fun days in the Test Kitchen making up batches of soup from whole ingredients and then trying to replicate with the dried equivalents. We made up 7 soups, two chip dip mixes, and 3 snack mixes.

2016 Tasting Supper Menutasting gridThe time came to have a Tasting Supper. I invited farm partners, Michelle and Steve from Bethel Springs Farm, Gabrielle from Keeler Estates Vineyard and Ranee from Sunshower Hill Farm. I prepared a menu and tasting sheets asking for a rating and comments.

We started with the chip dips and the comments were great. They checked with me that I was handling the critique and of course I told them that was the purpose. We do not want to offer new products that are just “so-so” to the consumers; we want to WOW them and have them clamoring for more.

Gabrielle Keeler and Steven Berger
Gabrielle Keeler and Steven Burger

With that in mind, they proceeded. Graham provided terrific help by heating up the soups and serving them while I could stay at the table to continue the conversation.

Ranee Solmonsson and Michelle Berger
Ranee Solmonsson and Michelle Burger

We continued through the soups, tasting over nine. The servings were quite small but people were very full, so we took a break for show and tell. I shared some of what I had brought back from the Fancy Food Show in January, especially those items that might be of special interest to our growth but also just fun items.

Fancy Food show boxThen, back to work, tasting the snack mixes. I had also prepared (not on the tasting menu) a berry blend that I had prepared from store-bought items since I did not have dried strawberries or raspberries.

And then, just to end on a sweet note, I served ice cream I had prepared from a recipe book purchased at the Fancy Food show. LOL

We made several decisions:

  1. We will make fewer kinds of products but more of those because they were highly popular in our first season. So, instead of offering an “instant” tomato soup this season (since it needed work to improve texture anyway), we will just use up the tomatoes to make lots and lots of Loaded Pasta Sauce, our best seller.
  2. We will make small batches of products that had limited popularity, like the salsa. Part of the problem there is that the growing season here in Oregon tends to produce less hot versions of hot peppers. We will probably not call any of our potential hot products “hot”, as people who prefer heat found that rating disappointing last season. Keeler Estates has a hotter pepper, though, so we may be able to use her peppers to supplement and bring the heat up.
  3. We are moving from home canning jars to smooth sided commercial jars with a standard commerical lid. This will permit our labels (redesigned now) to fit smoothly on the surface.
  4. The labels will be printed on waterproof paper with laser jet printing, so we will no longer have ink runs in the refrigerator caused by condensation. We’re working for a more commercial appearance and these two steps will help.
  5. We will stay with sugar as our sweetening agent for jams and jellies but we will test a different pectin that is marketed as requiring less sugar for gelling. We will offer two dehydrated fruit snacks as a way for people to enjoy fruit without any added sugar
  6. The Second Annual Tasting Supper is planned. The farmers really liked meeting each other and also being part of the business decision making.

Can-Do Real Food is continually striving to help the farmers use their surplus to gain another income stream and entice the consumers to year-round foods made from locally grown produce.  We are always interested in comments and suggestions. In addition, we are able to add a few more partner farms and are actively seeking one that produces hazelnuts and walnuts.