Juggle Juggle, but don’t drop the Tomatoes

In my weekly market reports recently I’ve been mentioning that we seem to be at the peak of the harvest. How can I tell? Simply, when I walk down Cowls Street as the farmers’ market is setting up I am amazed at the overflowing bins of produce the farmers haul there. Tomatoes of all kinds, peppers both sweet and hot, potatoes large and small, sweet corn, summer squash glowing green white and yellow, winter squash in acorn and spaghetti models, strawberries from everbearing varieties, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, apples, and on and on and on.

In the past week in the Can-Do kitchen we handled 50 pounds of blueberries, 40 pounds of Asian pears, 30 pounds of tomatoes, 30 pounds of prune plums, and still have about 100 pound of onions to deal with. Today we were gifted about 20 pounds of peaches and the day is only half over.

asian pears in dyrerI keep our dehydrators running almost all the time now. The Asian pears are in there as I write this (plain and cinnamon) and the peaches will go in next. (Onions after that probably)

Mike, the guy who owns Cream ice cream and I have a good time chatting flavor combinations each week at the market. When I told him I was getting this gift of peaches (more coming this next week that are already planned for 2 types of jams) he suggested something which fed a need of his: powdered peaches he could add to ice cream in the winter.  So we will chop the peaches and then dehydrate it, powdering some, leaving some small chunks.  Mike can get some for his ice cream and you can get some for your yogurt or baking or other yumminess you like to do.

carmelized onionsThe onions……oh my. We add onions to our Loaded Pasta Sauce, so some will be used on Monday when we prepare that.  But I’ve made a few very small batches of caramelized onions for our home kitchen and one friend’s and I suppose you might be able to enjoy after I get some of these 100 pounds cooked up and then dehydrated.

 

So, you might ask, why was that “one friend” so lucky as to gain some caramelized onions?  Well, she presented me with some extra onions she had.  That’s pretty much all it takes and now she tells people she has her own “food processor.” One person responded, “oh yeah, I have one of those chopping machines too,” but you know it’s a tad more involved than that.

Anyway, lots to share with you. If you want to know if I can make something, shoot me an email at BethRankinOR@gmail.com. If there’s a safe way to preserve it, I’ll let you know.

tomatoes

Also, if you want Loaded Pasta Sauce, let me know how many and in pints or quarts. This has been a funny tomato season. It started late (really only about 3 weeks ago) and looks to be ending early. So I probably will not be getting a lot of tomatoes. Right now I have orders for 40 quarts so they will be fulfilled first. If you want some, tell me now. In a few weeks it will be too late.

 

 

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!

I Couldn’t Quit

So about a second after I announced Can-Do Real Food unfortunately had to stop because of health issues I began to feel like that was NOT the best solution.

In 2017 I canned lots of fruit and veggie recipes but I also expanded what we were doing with dehydration. I became fascinated how we could develop meal mixes, not just dried fruit or leathers. No automatic alt text available.

We asked shoppers at the downtown farmers’ market to taste and comment on some new concepts, like dried tomatoes. People responded well by offering suggestions like putting herbs on some, salt on others. One guy said, “Yup, it tastes like tomatoes and I hate tomatoes.” He was a good sport!

We had some disappointments. For example, a recipe we first prepared fresh and thought  a winner did not work the same when dried, so we had to let that one alone.

But others were winners. Our Mole Mix, for example, always sold out each time we prepared a batch. Image may contain: food

And always, we stayed with our mission and obtained surplus produce from farms, helping reduce food waste. We will continue to purchase produce from our farm partners.

Meanwhile, in my private life I was watching my daughter Lisa and her dude go on their back country adventures. They backpack, mountain bike and ski, often in places few people go. They carry their food, their water, and their fuel as no wood fires are permitted any longer because of the threat of wildfires.

I listened to their comments about the dehydrated foods available on the market. There were some they loved and others that were never going to be repeated. Lisa also combined some things together herself to supplement the prepared mixes because there were things they liked and could not purchase.

They already had told us how they enjoyed the Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup mix and challenged me to develop more foods that could be edible with a short fuel usage to bring water to boil.  Our Mole Mix will do that, too!

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Herb mixes

We will be in the test kitchen in the next few months to see if we can develop a powdered version of the canned Loaded Pasta Sauce.   We believe we can come up with something definitely different in texture and  a bit different in taste but still really good. The sauce can be used with the dried zucchini noodles we make from those squashes that get away from the farmer and become watermelon size.

2017gSo, in 2018 Can-Do Real Food will be preparing canned products ONLY for contracts with our farmers or others and about 3 or 4 savory dehydrated offerings and a number of fruit based dried foods.  For example, when we processed one of our farm partners’ garden huckleberries into a syrup, we milled to separate the berry skin from the juice. We then took the solids, added a bit of sugar (in this case only because garden huckleberries are NOT sweet) and dried the mix. Because of the lumpiness of the skins, we could not make a fruit leather, but we grinded it to offer as an add-in to oatmeal or yogurt.

The backpacking community will enjoy this, as well as other campers who want a break from preparing a meal from whole foods. In addition, a supply of some of our foods would make sense to anyone who loses power at home several times a year. If you have a grill, you can heat up water and then you can prepare the mix into a good meal.

We will NOT be at the farmers’ market as we have been the last two summers. Instead we may have a table one week in September when we have built up an inventory during the harvest season. Generally, we will market online and be able to mail these lighter weight foods easily.

Please let me know if you’d like to be on a special email list to announce when we will be at the market or when foods are available online.Image may contain: text

Name That Food!

My husband has told me that in Texas there is a store where there are a kazillion kind of peppers and the employees must be fluent in two languages and neither need not to be English.  Houston, for example, is a major city with many many immigrants, and a wise business understands that many non-English speakers who live there love those peppers. He said he often brought visitors there because it was fun to play “Name The Vegetable” since the produce department had global selections.

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Today, the regular supermarket has selections that sometimes even a new cash register clerk does not recognize. This is a sad but perfect example of how many people no longer cook from scratch and so they do not know the appearance of “whole food” .

Recognizing a plant that is growing is the next step for many. For example, I am not a farmer. No green thumbs. I do everything I can to support them by buying locally from farmers I know to working with them to use surplus in our recipes so they can have another income stream with shelf-stable foods to offer to their customers. Farmers work hard, long days, no time off in season or if they have animals, all year. The LEAST any of us can do is support American farmers! But I grew up in suburbia and can recognize those few plants my dad grew in our garden.

Several years ago I wrote a blog for Huntingon, West Virginia’s Wild Ramp Market. Visiting a farm I snapped photos of plants in the garden and posted the pictures  asking people to Name That Veggie. Many people were able to guess just about all of them. 

Today I saw something online that provided photos of some common things we eat (and some I personally have never seen let alone had a chance to taste) like coffee and capers. Check it out! See how many you can identify.

And after that, if you can try to eat one you’ve never tasted, let me know!

 

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.

 

Hip Deep but the Flood May be Slowing

We had a day of rain on Saturday. The rain here in Oregon is very different from every other place I’ve lived, mostly east of the Mississippi. Except for summer late afternoon or evening thundershowers, east coast rain usually is settled in for hours and hours, maybe days. It comes down hard and there is no way to go out without an umbrella.rainbow-nov-7a

Here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon most rain is a gentle misty event. It’s the kind of rain that requires the “sweep” setting on the windshield wiper and a hat and waterproof jacket is all that is typically needed. During the winter the clouds overhead scuttle east, blown by high ocean breezes. In the winter, our rainy season, there are breaks in the clouds and we get to see lots of rainbows.

Sunday was partly cloudy, with some clouds pretty dark with moisture but no new rain fell. Today was more grey but no rain. Tomorrow it is expected to be about the same with some more sun, daytime temps in the low 70s.

Why the weather report?  Well, tomatoes. img_1719

When the fall rains really begin, the tomatoes absorb the moisture and split…and so, that season will be done.

On Sunday when I did my farm pick-ups only one farm had tomatoes. We are still processing somewhere about 150 pounds, trying to make our wonderful Loaded Pasta Sauce as fast and furious as we can. Because, well, when the tomatoes stop….so does the pasta sauce processing.loaded-pasta-sauce

Choosing to eat locally with the seasonal garden production is a wonderful way to get connected to the earth and its cycles, even if you live in the city or suburbia. With our food processing business tied to the farms, we feel this ebb and flow all the time.

The Flood in Oregon

2014-10-03 11.21.47By this time last year we were hip deep in tomatoes but then again, we had a 10-day spell of 100 degree days the end of July and that zipped up the ripening process.

This year we had a warm spring and for a while crop ripening was about three weeks ahead of normal but then, we cooled down.

Oh, it was delightful to be in the low 70s but that meant that the temperature dipped to the low 40s at Bethel Springs Farm, my largest farm partner. So, for several weeks the farmer has been telling me “three more weeks” and she is still telling me that.

However, this past Saturday I got a call from Sarah at Wood Mallet Farm located in Yamhill. She and her husband Elliot are in their first year of farming the land they bought and so had no idea of how marketing would go. They attend the farmers’ market in McMinnville every other Thursday and one in Sherwood on Saturdays, but found themselves with about 60 pounds of surplus tomatoes that afternoon.

I had met Sarah one of the first market days and had explained the mission of Can-Do Real Food, so she found my card and made the call and now we are perhaps ankle deep in tomatoes.

We have tried to streamline the prep process, but if anyone has any suggestions, feel free to toss them out! We wash and trim spots and stem ends and then chop in the food processor. IMG_1626

The recipe calls for first cooking the onion and added carrots and zucchini and garlic. IMG_1627

Then we add the tomatoes and let it simmer for about an hour. IMG_1628

Finally we add the herbs, continue the simmer for a bit. Check the pH and adjust for food safety and then can can can.IMG_1632

We will repeat tomorrow with the rest of the produce and both Wooden Mallet and Can-Do Real Food will be able to offer our very popular Loaded Pasta Sauce this week!

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We also made some mild tomatillo salsa today and will make another batch tomorrow with significantly hotter peppers for those consumers who enjoy something that makes them reach for a beverage as well.

 

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.