CSAs, Double UP Food Bucks, and Extension…

Produce Display at the Oregon City Farmer’s Market. Photo by Elena Illescas.

During my first year as a fully trained OSU Extension Master Food Preserver (MFP) volunteer, I also interned at Zenger Farm as part of a CSA Partnership for Health (CSAP4H) pilot program. And none of my friends knew what the heck that meant.

Understanding acronyms is like knowing another language. Recently, I received feedback that when sharing a new topic or idea, it’s important to take a couple of (big) steps backwards. Sometimes I’m so close to a topic, I skip the basics.

Who is OSU Extension and what do they do? (And why should you care? Um…free science-based resources? Yes, please!) What do Master Food Preservers do, and how are they connected to the Family and Community Health (FCH) program? And what is the CSA Partnership for Health program? In fact, what is a CSA? Excellent questions.

So, Buckle Up Buttercup, let’s talk about this.

Oregon State University (OSU) Extension:

OSU Extension engages the people of Oregon with research-based knowledge and education. Extension programs include 4-H, Forestry, Horticulture (Master Gardeners), and Family and Community Health (FCH), to name a few. Master Food Preservers (MFP) and the SNAP Education program exist under the FCH umbrella. Volunteers participate in an intensive volunteer training program and pay back their training through volunteer service. They make food safety and food preservation recommendations to the public and provide education through classes and public events like farmer’s markets, emergency prep fairs, and other community events. Clackamas County MFP training also includes nutrition and food resource management, partnering with food banks, schools, and the community to deliver nutrition programming.

SNAP To It! tour w Brown Bottle Farm at OC farmer’s market 2019

More on that later.

A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), as mentioned in Meet Me In the Pawpaw Patch, is a trust relationship between a person and a farmer.

Photo from SimpleSeasonal.com

Investing in a farm at the beginning of the season (like now) helps pay for seeds, soil amendments, and infrastructure, like repairing a hoop house damaged by the recent ice storm. Farms don’t produce many crops to sell this time of year, so they repay the investment by providing a share of their crop later, during the growing season. Some folks find their farms through a friend, online, farmer’s markets, or through events like the PNW CSA Share Fair.

It used to be that you had to come up with at least half, if not all, of a CSA payment at the beginning of the season, but nowadays payment schedules are more flexible. Some farms are even set up to receive monthly payment with EBT. 

What is EBT?

Electronic Benefits Transfer, EBT is the debit-style card used as a form of payment for folks receiving SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps.

What is SNAP and what does it do in addition to paying for food?

Ingredients assembled and pre-measured are ready to start cooking the Cherry Puff pancake recipe. We share the recipe and invite people to cook with us through Facebook, Instagram, and our website.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition benefits for individuals and families in need. Did you know that if you receive SNAP benefits, you also qualify for other resources, such a Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB)? SNAP-Education is under the umbrella of OSU’s FCH program and through classes and programs like Kids in the Kitchen and MyPlate, teach students and adults about eating healthy. Food Hero is a resource of healthy, tasty, and easy to prepare recipes. Many of the recipes are simple enough for children to make.

So yeah…that’s cool. 🙂

 

CSA Partnership for Health Program

CSA Partnership for Health began as a pilot in 2015 with the nonprofit urban farm, Zenger Farm. The goal was to see if increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, paired with education on healthy eating, would have an impact on patient’s health.

Buffy and fellow intern at East County Health clinic CSA pick up. 2015

Patients arrive at their home clinic each week to pick up fresh vegetables, taste healthy recipes, learn new ways to prepare produce, and build support networks. The program supports individual health, the prosperity of our local food system, and works with insurers to one day provide coverage for fresh fruits and vegetables, just like prescription medication.  Patients pay a $5 weekly co-pay (in cash or SNAP) for a 22-week prescription of vegetables and whole grains. At the time I interned, we contributed to a series of skill sheets, highlighting some common cooking methods. The CSAP4H program is still operating, and helping folks connect fruits and vegetables with better health, while addressing the root causes of food access and disease. It’s a beautiful thing.

Farmers Market Fund’s Double Up Food Bucks program.

It matches up to $10 SNAP dollars spent weekly on fruits and vegetables at farmers markets across Oregon. $10+$10=$20! Double Up helps low-income folks bring home more fresh produce, small farmers get an economic boost, and local economies thrive.

 

How does this tie into OSU’s FCH program and Master Food Preservers?

In 2016, our fearless leader, OSU Extension’s Clackamas County Family and Community Health faculty and senior instructor, Kelly Streit, developed SNAP-To-It!, a farmer’s market tour followed by a Food Hero cooking demonstration featuring ingredients sourced at the farmer’s market. The SNAP-Ed Program is partnering with Double Up Food Bucks to deliver more SNAP-To-It! programming. The partnerships will be at select farmer’s markets, small grocery stores, and CSA farms in select regions across the state.

Created and shared with permission from Zenger Farm

Remember the Zenger farm skill sheets? MFP volunteers are working on creating skill sheets on additional topics, such as: Making a green sauce, how to store fresh herbs, unusual root vegetables, and other topics helpful to CSA and DUFB members.

So, stay tuned.

And as always my friends, keep up the good work. There’s light at the end of this tunnel. You can do it.

Stay curious and be excellent to each other.

Buffy Rhoades| mom. forager. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver

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Spring into Canning

Checking pectin expiration dates is one of many ways to prepare for canning season. Image courtesy of Buffy Rhoades

February 1st is the halfway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, and what I consider to be the beginning of Spring. It has all of the characteristics of a proper halfway point. Last week it snowed and there’s still snow in the coast range and lots of snow on the mountain, but we also see glimpses of Spring. Crocuses are popping up and daphne is ready to bloom. Farmers are advertising their CSAs. Seed catalogs are arriving in the mail and gardeners like myself are dreaming and planning the next growing season. It’s a beautiful thing.

Preparing for canning season includes taking inventory of full and empty jars and unused lids, scheduling an annual pressure canner gauge test, and checking the dates on pectin boxes. It’s also a great time to defrost and inventory the freezer. I know I’m not the only one guilty of forgetting what’s in the freezer. (I forgot about the golden Romano beans and ate some the other day. They tasted like Summer.)

What to do with overlooked frozen foods?

      • Fruit: make a pie or cobbler, use in smoothies, make jam or jelly, dehydrate into fruit snacks or fruit leather.
      • Vegetables: Use in a savory pie, dehydrate and make into powder for hiking/camping, make salsa, pasta sauce, or soup.

This is the perfect time of year for soup, isn’t it?

I was too embarrassed to share the "before" photo.
Freezer after defrosting, image courtesy of Buffy Rhoades

We had to move the freezer and let me tell ya folks, moving a full freezer is a good way to hurt your back. If you’re going to empty the freezer, you might as well defrost it. However, it takes a while and unfortunately, the afternoon we chose to defrost, I didn’t have anything planned for dindin. Burritos to the rescue!! They’re so versatile and easy. Pop some veg, beans, and rice into a tortilla, add salsa and bingo bango bongo! Dindin!

I usually make tomatillo salsa this way, but since we had tomatoes…

A happy mistake. How salsa became soup:

      • Toss half a coarsely chopped onion, 2 jalapeno, 4 smashed and peeled garlic cloves, and 6 Roma tomatoes in a small amount of cooking oil and place in an oven-proof skillet.
      • Put skillet under the broiler.
      • Meanwhile, coarsely chop half a bunch of cilantro. Small stems are okay.
      • Remove the skillet when contents are slightly charred, tender, and bubbly.
      • Let it cool down a bit, then blend in the blender.
      • *Caution* Do not put hot things in the blender! It will burn you and make a huge mess all over the kitchen. Ask me how I know this.
      • Squeeze some fresh lime juice and season with salt to taste.
      • Thin with water if desired. Garnish with cilantro.
Tomato salsa soup…a delicious accident!
Image courtesy of Buffy Rhoades

I was expecting a Salsa Verde consistency, but forgot that tomatillos have pectin and tomatoes don’t. It was warming and really satisfying. I ate some cold the next day and think it’ll make a tasty gazpacho in the Summer.

Kabocha squash, celery root, and leeks became the base for a pureed soup and a lentil soup.
Beginnings of two soups: Chunky Winter vegetables w lentils, and pureed Winter squash w celery root and leeks. Photo courtesy of Buffy Rhoades

Note: Do not can pureed soups or veggies. The dense texture of pureed vegetables prevents proper heat penetration and therefore cannot be relied upon to kill Botulism spores. Tip: Freeze purees. If preserving soup is on your meal prep/ food preservation checklist, the National Center for Home Food Preservation and OSU have excellent, safe resources to get you started.

These OSU Freezing publications share step-by-step instructions on pre-treating frozen fruits and veggies, how long things should be stored in the freezer, packaging and labeling, and foods that don’t freeze well.

List ingredients and date w waterproof marker on painters tape. Photo courtesy of Buffy Rhoades

Let’s just pause a moment and commit 2021 to avoiding “mystery” containers, shall we? 😉 A roll of painter’s tape, permanent marker, sturdy containers w tight-fitting lids, and zip-close freezer bags are basic and fairly inexpensive equipment to get started. Investing in a vacuum sealer is a smart move if you plan to do a lot of freezing because they protect your food from air and prevent freezer burn. I’ve tried freezing in canning jars and always end up with broken glass. Some folks don’t have trouble, but I have 100% of the time.

I don’t know when we’ll be back to in-person programming and classes, but our Master Food Preserver volunteers and myself are eager to answer questions, give tips, and encourage you on your path to preserving your harvest. Ask questions, please!

Take extra good care of yourselves. Tuck into a warm bowl of soup (or salsa?). Reach out to a friend. Take a walk. This too shall pass.

Keep up the good work. Stay curious. Be excellent to each other.

Buffy Rhoades| mom. forager. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver

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Meet me in the pawpaw patch

It’s been said that showing up is 80% of life. Showing up during a pandemic looks different than it did “before March 2020”, my term for pre-Covid life. One method the Clackamas FCH team chose to show up is through an increased social media presence. It was a “Hey, you two should meet,” Facebook introduction from my friend and fellow Master Food Preserver, Amanda, that led to Meagan McKenney, the communications director at the Home Orchard Education Center, (HOEC).

Apple Scions for sale at the Home Orchard Education Center.

The HOEC is a demonstration orchard, offering horticulture education, volunteer opportunities (Learning and free fruit in exchange for work? Heck yeah!), and has a CSA program, nestled in 1.6 acres of the Clackamas Community College campus. They offer CSA fruit share options and host regular workshops. They also sell a huge assortment of custom grafted heirloom apple and pear trees, as well as fruit scions

Back up though…let’s quickly talk about the term CSA. It stands for Community Supported Agriculture and, quoting the HOEC website: “Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a mutually beneficial harvest sharing model, based on a relationship between Farmer and Customer. Rather than simply purchasing fruit, customers become “Supporting Subscribers” of the farm, and in trade receive a portion of the harvest. Proceeds from this program help keep the gates to our well-loved arboretum open and support our mission to provide affordable, fruit-focused education to the community.” Beautiful, isn’t it? I could talk all day about CSAs, and maybe I will in the future, but let me just add that the payment method for CSAs has changed over time. It used to be that you paid one lump sum at the beginning of the season. Times have changed. Many farms offer the option to divide the share price into payments. Some farmer’s accept monthly EBT payments. Because everyone, in all income levels, deserve farm fresh food. I call it eating with dignity.

CSA image courtesy of Home Orchard Education Center website

Anyway…stepping off my soapbox…The Home Orchard Education Center offers three different CSA options, one of which is an Orchard Sampler Box. The subscriber gets 17 boxes throughout the year, containing different varieties of fruit. It’s a great way to learn about new fruit, like the pawpaw.

“Fayetteville” pawpaw. Photo from Blogs at Tallahassee.com by Robyn Metzger, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University.

In my previous career as a produce buyer, I’d heard of pawpaw, but until now had very little knowledge of them. When ripe, the fruit is custard-like and tastes tropical. It’s an indigenous East coast native that grows well in the PNW. It has soft flesh (when ripe) and a number of large seeds. Its leaves are the main food source for the zebra swallowtail butterfly, it’s pollinated by flies (the blossoms smell funky), and the bark is used as a natural insecticide. It may not be widely available commercially because it has a short season, bruises easily, and should be picked when ripe, because it doesn’t ripen well off the tree. It transitions from rock hard to mush and the flavor isn’t great. I also learned that cooking it really doesn’t do the flavor justice. It tastes more banana-like; you might as well use bananas.

Unripe pawpaw clustered on the tree

The HOEC grows pawpaw and includes it in their CSA. Meagan asked if OSU knew why some folks suffer gastric distress after eating unripe or dehydrated pawpaw, such as in fruit leather. It proved to be a challenging question without a clear food science answer, but led me down a very interesting rabbit hole: learning about pawpaw, its place as an indigenous food (perfectly timed, I just watched the film, Gather, last week), research programs across the country, a recently arrived magazine article shared by my buddy and Master Food Preserver volunteer, Don, and a final recommendation with hope of future research from the food science community. 

Folks are making ice cream, booze, pies, and custards with pawpaw. There are all sorts of creative ways to enjoy them but fruit leather isn’t recommended. Until we know more, and I’m really hoping someone does a research project on this, Joy Wait-Cusic, associate professor and food safety specialist at Oregon State University recommends freezing the ripe pulp, and avoiding making quick cooking breads, such as waffles with it.

I want to thank y’all for sticking around . I had a bit of a gap between posts, longer than planned. The holidays are behind us, although, a friend/former retail co-worker used to say that the “holidays” start in October and end in February, so I guess we have a couple of weeks left. Be kind to yourselves. There’s a lot going on, but chin up! The planting season is just around the corner. I plan to retire with a cup of peppermint tea and my seed catalogs tonight, dreaming of and planning for the future. If you have a favorite farm, think about supporting them by subscribing to their CSA. It helps pay for the seeds and equipment to start another glorious season.

Keep up the good work. Stay curious and be excellent to each other.

Buffy Rhoades| mom. forager. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver

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Eat Oregon Seafood

Astoria Bridge Marina, photo courtesy of Home Canning Tuna video.

This week has been a whirlwind attending Oregon State University’s Annual Extension Conference. This virtual event has included all the Zoom hiccups, like me forgetting to turn off video while using a hot cup of tea to warm my chilly nose…whoops! I wasn’t alone though, the highly-esteemed keynote speaker wasn’t able to share his screen and when he tried to fix it, ended up kicking all 450+ people off. We were able to easily get back in and I think it was the Best. Intro. Ever!

In addition to the excellent Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion sessions, such as Courageous Conversations about Race and Basic Rights Oregon‘s Transgender Inclusion 101 (So informative!) and topics related to virtual programming, there were also program-specific updates. These updates share Extension work happening across the state.

photo by Buffy Rhoades

I thought I’d share one near and dear to my heart. Grandma Violette used to can fish. Specifically, salmon. Andy was an excellent salmon fisherman and often brought home very large fish from the Deschutes River. (Eating salmon steaks with dire warnings of choking on a fish bone if I wasn’t careful still haunt me.)

I started canning tuna as soon as I inherited mom’s Maid-of-Honor pressure canner. Lin, one of my canning mentors, recommended buying tuna off the dock in Garibaldi. I purchased my first tuna directly off the boat from a fisherman named George Bernard Shaw. (No relation.) He was a hoot and I was immediately hooked, so to speak.

Garibaldi Marina, Tillamook County. Image from Beach Connection.

You might not know this, but coastal economies took a huge hit due to the pandemic. Apparently, restaurants account for the majority of seafood sales. The Eat Oregon Seafood initiative was developed to help the fishing industry recover from revenue lost due to Covid. The Oregon Department of Agriculture asked OSU Extension and Oregon Sea Grant to partner with them to create a resource for people who want to learn where they can source Oregon-caught seafood. 

Image from Positively Groundfish

Other #EatOregonSeafood partners include: Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, Oregon Albacore Commission, Oregon Trawl Commission, Oregon Salmon Commission, and Oregon’s Positively Groundfish. 

In addition, our fearless leader, Kelly Streit, RDN, Senior Instructor partnered with Amanda Gladics, Assistant Professor of Practice at Coastal Fisheries Extension and the Oregon Sea Grant to produce this excellent video teaching folks how to safely preserve tuna. They had such a good time. 🙂

Image from Eat Oregon Seafood website. Aka, tuna cooked in oil (canned works great) w white beans and pickled vegetables.

For more information about Eat Oregon Seafood, check out this article from the Corvallis Advocate. To find Oregon seafood vendors, recipes from local chefs , (like Kathy Whims’ recipe), and to learn about sustainability and fishing practices in Oregon, go to the Eat Oregon Seafood website. Feel free to share your favorite seafood recipes and pictures using the hashtag #EatOregonSeafood on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Until next time… keep exploring, stay curious, and be excellent to each other.

 

Buffy Rhoades| mom. forager. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver

Sometime soon I’ll figure out how to add icons for our YouTube channel, newsletter, Healthy Together, and our website. (Thanks for the comments!)

Making Memories in the Kitchen

Heartfelt gratitude

Grandma Violette was a one-of-a-kind, glamorous woman. Living in the small town of Molalla, Oregon, in the 1970’s, she wore long artificial nails, colored her hair w henna, and drove

This is just like Violette’s scooter. A reminder to embrace my adventurous side.

a motorcycle with baskets to carry her three little dogs. She loved to entertain and hosted the best holiday parties.

 

I recently took a pilgrimage to their house, prepared for the possibility it might have been destroyed by wildfire. They’ve both been gone for decades and the house is sold, but it holds so many memories. I went alone, prepared to mourn, with plenty of hankies in my pocket. Thankfully the tears shed were ones of relief. This house was the home of holiday celebrations, Shrinky Dinks, playing with cousins, watching Water Skippers on the creek, and is also where I first tasted oyster stuffing. (Don’t make a face, it’s delicious.)

If it’s been a good foraging year, I sometimes add chanterelles cooked and frozen for this occasion.

What made it memorable was that grandpa cooked, our first holiday after she passed away. It was a basic bread stuffing, but he omitted the eggs and added sautéed oysters and lemon juice; cooking it in an electric skillet until crusty. Let me tell ya something folks, this is my Must-Have holiday side dish. 


 
Speaking of making memories in the kitchen… my co-workers: Elena, Erin, and Stephanie have been teaching a remote Kids in the Kitchen class to middle school students in Clackamas County. This 8-week series is in partnership with Todos Juntos and a grant from Providence.

 

Student photo of Carrot Pancakes

Food Hero recipes are thoughtfully chosen to highlight the cooking skills taught in class. They purchase and distribute ingredients weekly so the kids can participate at home. Students learn knife safety and how to use the stove, oven, and microwave. They bake, griddle, boil, and blend, as well as learn about nutrition and the importance of cleaning as you go. (This is important to parents!)

Student photo of Cowboy Salad

They’re also learning about food photography. (You can see some of their work on our Instagram and Facebook pages.)

To celebrate, at the end of the series, students cook a balanced meal for their families. (Is this cool, or what?!) They gain confidence in their skills, and consequently, in themselves. It’s a beautiful thing and makes me wonder what memories will be created by them in the kitchen this season and for years to come. I’m so proud of our team and the work they do. 

How are you celebrating holidays this year? We’re staying home with

the amazing people in our household, or what I affectionately refer to as Our Germ Bubble. Instead of looking at what’s missing this year, I’m thankful for what we have. A home, our health, nutritious and tasty food, and hoping to continue to make memories with my loved ones.

As always, friends… keep exploring, stay curious, and be excellent to each other.

Buffy Rhoades| mom. forager. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver

Thank you for your comments! Please share, and visit the OSU Extension Clackamas County Family and Community Health (FCH) program’s Facebook and Instagram pages, learn new skills on our YouTube channel, read the latest installment of holiday topics in our newsletter, Healthy Together, and more about OSU Extension and the FCH program on our website.  

 

Tiny Bubbles

Photo by Buffy Rhoades

I harvested the last peppers from my garden two weeks ago. Earlier this Spring, the stellar staff at Naomi’s Organic Garden Supply recommended a yellow chili pepper varietal that I planned to use in ferments. Sarit Gat, a slim, yellow, hot chili from Kosovo and a steady producer, provided colorful heat to my spicy dill pickles and was intended to become a base for fermented hot sauce.

Coriander blossoms and seeds are aromatic and interesting. So much better than dried… Image from Buffy Rhoades.

I’d planned on pairing it with the seemingly ever present green coriander seeds in the garden, along with ginger and garlic. I congratulated myself on planning holiday gifts while purchasing the seeds last February. *pat on the back*

Well…my first two batches failed. I wasn’t alone. Friends reported that their sauerkraut or pickles weren’t bubbling and were way too salty.

Ready for brine…
Image buy Buffy Rhoades

 

Failed batches are a learning opportunity, but we were following tested recipes, so I wasn’t sure what went wrong. Did any of you have issues with your ferments being too salty this year? Did Kahm yeast, that white film that ruins the flavor of ferments, colonize in your jars? Raise your hand if that happened to you too. *hand raised*

It’s important to understand how fermentation occurs so you can learn from your experiences. The subject of fermentation is diverse (pickles, wet-brine, dry-brine, vinegar, wine, beer, kombucha, sourdough, yogurt, cheese, charcuterie…) and is well covered by knowledgeable authors of famous books and university publications that provide step-by-step instructions, equipment recommendations, and trouble-shooting help.

All brined up and no where to go.
Image from Buffy Rhoades

We can’t review all these topics in one post, but will dig deeper in the future. (My friend, Kristina, is recommending a multi-part series to cover this topic.) Let me know if you’re interested in more fermenting content. For now, let’s take a look at evaluating pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

This may be putting the cart before the horse, but understanding the principles- the How It Works and Why We Do What We Do- can help you answer your own questions during the process. Every batch, every season, is different and knowing how to respond to this living project may be helpful as you get started.

So this is the low-down:

I purchased a new airlock system with glass weight to see if it prevented yeast development.
Image by Buffy Rhoades

Salt: It creates a beneficial environment for certain bacteria to grow and discourages growth of undesirable bacteria. It’s used to pull liquid from vegetables when dry-salting, a technique used when making sauerkraut, or as a brine to submerge vegetables, such as when making pickles. Only use pickling/canning salt, as not all salts are the same weight by volume and recipes are tested use this salt. It’s also free of additives.

Containers: Glass, food-grade plastic, and ceramic is okay. Avoid metal clasp-top lids because the acidity you’re striving for will eventually ruin them. I like glass containers because the tiny bubbles show active fermenting and I can see if all the bubbles have been released daily. Quart and half-gallon jars are great; place on a non-metal plate or pie tin to catch drips. 

A jelly jar fits nicely in wide-mouth quart jars. Image from Buffy Rhoades

 

Weights: You need something to keep your fermenting ingredients under liquid. This can be easier said than done, as little wispy things like to float. It’s important though, because fermentation bacteria thrive in anaerobic (air-free) environments. Large cabbage leaves or even a couple onion slices can act as the first layer to corral small vegetables or spices. You can go low-tech and use a zip-close bag or jelly jar filled with brine (or jelly), or ceramic or glass weights. I have zero luck using a plate. If it works for you… awesome-sauce. Please tell me what you do in the comments. FYI, The Joy of Pickling suggests using brine instead of water, just in case the bag leaks or the jar spills in your product. By the way, it’s not a matter of if it will leak. It’s a matter of when.

Note the onion slices acting as a first layer and the cloudy brine. Cloudy brine is normal.
Photo by Buffy Rhoades

Temperature: This is pretty cool to know. As a general rule of thumb, a slow ferment produces the most interesting flavor. The beginning bacteria like to start out around 60F and 72F. Too low and they have a hard time waking up. Temps higher than 80F and they’re likely to be soft and can skyrocket into what I think of as the Fast Track lactobacillus and can become very acidic, but not have much depth of flavor. Temps over 90F can result in rotting. Sometimes low temps are a good thing, like if you’re going away for the weekend and have no one to babysit your batch, you can pop it in the fridge, but is not ideal at the beginning of your ferment or for long term storage. 

Sequential growth of bacterial species with acid production during fermentation. Image from the amazing resource book Food Preservation and Safety: Principles and Practice.
by Shirley J. VanGarde and Margy Woodburn

What’s Happening In There? The initial fermenters, the first bacteria, are naturally present on the surface of the vegetables. (Yes, you should still wash the veggies before starting.) Salt, water, temperature, and providing an anaerobic environment help them outgrow the competition. They consume carbohydrates and convert them to acid. That conversion creates a new, optimum (acidic), environment for the next set of microbes, and so on. As they expire, they release gas (CO2) resulting in bubbles. 

Managing Brine: Now listen, this is important. Brine is not just salt water. Its the juices pulled from your vegetables. It’s the accumulation of different bacteria converting sugar to acid. It’s valuable stuff. It evolves with your vegetables. When your product is full of bubbles, don’t let them just sit there. Gently shake them out. They create pockets of air, something we want to avoid. Plus it’s a fun way to start the morning. Either way, you don’t want to lose this stuff. (Unless it’s thick and slimy, in which case you toss the contents, note what you did wrong and start over.) Which brings me to the major reason for loss of brine…

See that? Thats not enough headspace. Image by Buffy Rhoades

Headspace: Do not overfill the jar or container. It can be tempting to add “just a little bit more” to a nearly full jar. Please, I beg of you, learn from me and don’t do it. As your ferment becomes more active, it will overflow and if you’ve overfilled the jar, you’ll lose that valuable brine. (This is where the non-reactive plate or pie pan comes in handy.) Some overflow is natural and to be expected, but you don’t want to lose so much that you don’t have enough to cover your ingredients. When this happened I tried to push it down. Guess what. It didn’t work. I had to remove some kraut. Adding new brine at this point is too late, because the microbes have been hard at work creating a whole new environment. I called that failure a “teachable moment.”

Recipes: This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Imagine growing peppers from seed and reserved limited garden space to let your coriander plants go to seed, but for some reason used an untested recipe and, instead of fermenting, it became a salty host for Kahm yeast. Do yourself a favor, save time, money, and effort and use extension resources. OSU Extension’s Pickling Vegetables publication is a great place to start!

These take up quite a bit of fridge space. Image from Buffy Rhoades

Now What Do I Do? If left under the same conditions, your product will continue to ferment, but will move beyond peak quality and begin to deteriorate. You have a couple of options: 

  1. Store in the fridge. Eat it. Gift it.  It’ll be at peak flavor and texture for about 6-9 months, depending on the temperature of your fridge, but will be fine for about a year. The color will fade and texture will become softer but it won’t be unsafe.  Depending on how many ferments you have, this may take up a substantial amount of fridge space. Plan accordingly 🙂
  2. Preserve: If you eat fermented foods for its probiotic benefits, you won’t be interested in canning your sauerkraut, as it kills the probiotics. But did you know it’s possible to do so? If you decide to Boiling Water Can fermented pickles, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, OSU’s Pickling Vegetables, and other university publications have recipes to safely do so. Half-fermented products, like half-sours, cannot be processed because they haven’t developed the acid necessary to make it a safe product. Also, fully fermented pickles made from a tested recipe can be safely processed using Low Temperature Pasteurization, if indicated in the recipe.

With guidance from OSU Extension and Master Food Preserver Volunteer Program, I learned the science behind fermentation and gained confidence from my amazing teachers, but still make mistakes. We talk them over, share ideas, experiences, theories and learn from each other. In hindsight, I should have sanitized my equipment, since Kahm yeast likes to stick around a while. I managed to save the failed peppers by rinsing them and applying different preservation techniques. One batch went into the dehydrator to become powder, using the technique mentioned in Tomatoes and Autumn Sweaters, and the other batch is in 5% strength apple cider vinegar. It smells amazing and is nicely spicy. I see pickled onions in my future!

Sarit Gat gifts 2.0
Image by Buffy Rhoades

 

Don’t be discouraged by failure. If we’re lucky, we learn from it, right? 

Until next time friends… please comment, share, and visit the OSU Extension Clackamas County Family and Community Health (FCH) program’s Facebook and Instagram pages, learn new skills on our YouTube channel, read the latest installment of holiday topics in our newsletter, Healthy Together, and more on our website.  

 
Keep exploring, stay curious, and be excellent to each other!
 
Buffy Rhoades | mom. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver

Winter Squash and Wild Mushrooms

Kabocha and Butternut curing on the porch
Testukabuto squash samples at the Culinary Breeding Network

February 16th, I attended OSU’s Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase event, sadly one of my last public events before COVID-19, and sampled a Tetsukabuto cream filled Purple Karma barley waffle cone. It blew my mind. Creamy texture and not-too-sweet, the squash was a perfect marriage with the dark chocolate-lined barley waffle cone. I planted Kabocha seeds and plan to attempt to replicate this dish.

Folks love the comfort-food quality of pumpkin and warm spices, and often ask how they can preserve their winter squash. Unfortunately, pressure canning pumpkin (or other winter squash) puree is unsafe. The density of the low-acid puree prevents thorough heat penetration, creating a serious food-safety risk of Botulism. If your “Charlie Brown Pumpkin Patch” has produced more than your freezer can accommodate, consider canning them in cubes and puree after opening the jar. Also, check out Food Hero’s winter squash and pumpkin recipes, nutrition information, coloring sheets…so much goodness… on their website

Pumpkin soup and pepitas. Photo courtesy of Tina Vanhove on Unsplash.

Can’t find jars or lids? Remember the dehydrator and powder technique I shared in the last post, Tomatoes and Autumn Sweaters? This technique works for winter squash too. Wash, cut in half and roast, leaving the skin on, until soft. Scoop out the flesh and mash or puree. Gently cook it down to the consistency of canned pumpkin and add spices to the pulp for pie filling or soup base. Dehydrate on a leather tray at 135 degrees f until crispy. Break into shards and grind into powder and store in an airtight container. Don’t waste the seeds! Toasted Pumpkin seeds, aka Pepitas, are delicious and full of nutrients. Instructions here.

Golden Chanterelle photo by Buffy Rhoades

My favorite seasonal treat, wild mushrooms, present a similar issue when it comes to preserving. Freezing and dehydrating are the only research-based, university-approved methods to preserve wild mushrooms. Mushrooms have a low pH (6.2) and are a food safety risk for Botulism. Due to their uniform size and density, commercially-grown button mushrooms have been researched, resulting in safe, tested recipes. Chanterelles and other edible fungi have not been tested. (I would love to see research on other safe ways to preserve Oregon’s state mushroom.) Until then, I’ll happily forage, freeze, and dehydrate.

I like the effect of dry sautéing mushrooms. It releases their juices and yields a beautifully caramelized mushroom, perfect for dehydrating or freezing. Instead of boiling away the mushroom juices, I save them in a container to use as broth for freezing. (Or mushroom gravy.) If freezing, I add a tiny amount of butter or olive oil at the end of cooking so the mushrooms get somewhat crispy, but I don’t add fat during the cooking process if dehydrating them. (The oil can become rancid over time.) 

When fully cooked, cool, label, and store in the freezer

 

FYI, button mushrooms do not need to be cooked before drying, but due to the fibrous nature of chanterelles, they benefit from pre-cooking. Our Master Food Preserver dehydrating guru, Don Wiley, explained that the cell structure of most vegetables, and this includes fibrous mushrooms like chanterelles, needs to be broken down before drying so they aren’t tough and rubbery when reconstituted. (Steaming is a fine method of pre-treatment.) After dehydrating, consider grinding them up for an easy mushroom soup base, perfect for backpacking or camping, or leave whole. Sealed in an airtight container or vacuum sealer, they’ll keep for months to years. Thank you Don!

 

Until next time, friends… enjoy the beautiful Autumn weather and fruits of the season. Look for more information on the OSU Extension Family and Community Health program on FacebookInstagramYouTube, our website, and newsletter.

Keep exploring, stay curious, and be excellent to each other!
 
Buffy | mom. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver
 

Tomatoes and Autumn Sweaters

As last week’s morning fog can attest, Autumn has arrived in the Pacific Northwest. It brings to mind garden clean up, and one of my favorite songs by Yo La Tengo, Autumn Sweater.

End of season tomatoes on a misty Oregon morning.

As the weather cools and Summer crops fade, it’s tempting to let tomatoes stay on the vine, but if you’re going to be canning them you might want to reconsider. Tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines in your garden are unsafe to can. (Yes, it’s true!) Why? The pH in tomatoes attached to dead or frost killed vines change to a less acidic level that is unsafe for safe canning directions. Despair not, they’re still great for drying, pickling, freezing, and eating fresh! 

Pickled tomatoes w edible flowers and whole spices. Photo courtesy of Kirsten Schockley via #fermentation on Instagram.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has some great ideas on uses for green tomatoes here. (Pickled green tomatoes are going into this year’s holiday gift baskets as part of a Bloody Mary kit.)

 

Clackamas County Master Food Preservers utilize every bit of their tomatoes by dehydrating the skins left over after peeling tomatoes for canning. It’s an easy, no-waste method of Extending the Harvest. Dehydrated tomato skins, leftover pulp, and seeds become delicious tomato powder. Powder can be used in soup, sauce base, or paste, and is a perfect backpacking/camping food. Bonus, it doesn’t require jars. (Jar and lid shortage is a real thing!)

Blended tomatoes, dried herbs and garlic for dehydrated pizza sauce. Photo by Buffy Rhoades

To make: Blend cooked skins, or whole cooked tomatoes into a sauce and spread on lightly oiled leather trays. Caution! Let the sauce cool before blending in a blender! Dry at 135°F for approximately 10 hours. After about six hours, the tomato leather should be dry enough to remove from the leather trays. Flip onto mesh drying trays and finish dehydrating until brittle.

 

Blended tomato skins. Photo from Buffy Rhoades.
When completely dry, you should be able to easily snap or tear it into smaller pieces. Blend with a blender or food processor until powder. Store in an airtight container and shake to condition. To make into a thick sauce, add 1/2 cup of boiling water to 2 1/2 T of powder. It’ll thicken slowly. If you want a thinner sauce, gradually add water.
 
Hopefully you’re enjoying the warm afternoons, getting time in the kitchen and garden, stocking the pantry, and eating well. Meanwhile, look for the OSU Extension Family and Community Health program on FacebookInstagramYouTube, our website, and monthly newsletter.
Keep exploring, stay curious, and be excellent to each other!
 
Buffy | mom. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver
 

Buckle up Buttercup, it’s Harvest Season!

Photo courtesy of Buffy Rhoades

It’s Harvest Season in the Willamette Valley and a busy time of year for anyone involved in local and seasonal food. This year has shown renewed interest in gardening and preserving and we’re all cooking at home more. Farms, farmer’s markets, local fishing industry, and consumers are in the midst of peak-season crops and harvest. But what do you do with all those tomatoes or peppers, or giant zucchini your neighbor left on your porch?

As my friend and mentor, Lin, is wont to say, “It’s Harvest Season Baby! Our day calendars are full of to-do lists. (They look different in 2020, but are still lists.) Today’s list includes canning peaches and dehydrating last year’s bread and butter pickles. Yes, dehydrate your pickles! Especially if they’re softer than you like, or you need the jars. We’re also waiting for our tuna fisherman to call back and say he has our order. (Stay tuned for a video on shopping the dock and canning tuna!)

I’ve been thinking about mentors a lot. We all need one. Some folks grew up with family members that preserved the season’s bounty but may need a refresher course on safe methods and recipes. Others are new to preserving and don’t know where to look or how to begin. Videos are helpful.

In addition to preserving, we like to eat and live well. OSU Extension’s Family and Community Health program is a great place to find budget-friendly, healthy recipes and cooking videos. Or exercise activities for your young ones. We’re part of Oregon State University’s Extension Services, a FREE, safe, and reliable public resource. Let us be your mentor instead of a “well kept secret.”

Extending the Harvest is a bi-weekly selection of science-based resources promoting food preservation, food safety, nutrition, wellness, using food dollars wisely, and strengthening local community food systems. With the help and support of Clackamas County Master Food Preserver/Family Food Educator volunteers, I’m looking forward to sharing stories, knowledge, and helping you Extend your Harvest.

Please look for us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, our website, and monthly newsletter.

Buffy Rhoades | mom. gardener. volunteer turned program assistant. a real busy beaver