Spreading the love… Dips and Spreads

Many cultures eat beans daily, for BREAKFAST even! Don’t get me started on the joys of warm, whipped hummus or savory white bean spread, not to mention vegetable-based spreads and dips! They’re satisfying, nutritious, and versatile, and while I’m a big fan of morning oatmeal, I also love lemony hummus and toasted pita bread.

Image by Buffy Rhoades

When I think of warm, creamy hummus, I’m reminded of a woman I worked with back in the early 90s. Naget traveled from Warrenton, Or to NW Portland every week and made sauces and spreads for the restaurant Garbonzos. I cooked next door at the Cajun Cafe, (my first pro cooking gig) and as she taught me to make sauces and salads, she also shared stories of her youth in a farming community in Syria. She was our “mama” and the foods she shared were complete comfort. I’m so thankful for her.


Today’s post will be short and sweet; mostly a collection of recipe links and Naget’s hummus recipe, thoughts on seasoning as you go and how to cook garbanzo beans that yield a light and creamy dip. You can use this method with any style of beans you plan to mash or puree.  

This Tuscan White Bean Spread heralds from the perennially delicious restaurant in SE Portland, 3 Doors Down Cafe. It’s herby deliciousness is simple to make. If you can’t find cannellini beans, another small white bean is fine.


Roasted Pepper and Tomato Sauce from Ball. This video includes steps to preserve the sauce. (Please don’t alter the recipe or try to preserve the other recipes I’m sharing. They haven’t been tested for safety.) This sauce (slightly), reminds me of Romesco sauce. Romesco Sauce is made from ingredients common in Spain, but a very tasty version can be made from local ingredients, using locally grown hazelnuts instead of almonds. This recipe from the author of The Oregon Hazelnut Cookbook adds a few spicy ingredients, but traditionally Romesco is not a spicy sauce, so feel free to leave out the heat if you prefer. It goes great with fresh or grilled vegetables, pasta, poultry, seafood, lamb, and pork.

Ball/Fresh Preserving

Food Hero Hummus recipes:

With Tahini /Without tahini (contains dairy)

Food Hero hummus, without dairy



Naget’s Creamy Hummus recipe:
Ingredients:

      • Cold water
      • 8 oz dried chickpeas (1 1/2 cups)
      • 2 T, plus 1t Diamond Brand kosher salt. (Morton Kosher salt is more dense, so use 1/2t. If using table salt, use even les.)
      • 1/2 t baking soda
      • 3 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and tough end trimmed
      • 3/4 c tahini, well stirred, at room temp. (This stuff is like natural peanut butter. It will be oily on top and dense at the bottom. Stir until it’s the same consistency throughout.)
      • 3 1/2 T lemon juice (fresh or bottled) If you like it lemony, you may need more. 

Steps:

Dry beans soak up more water than you’d think.
Image from Buffy
      1.  Soak the chickpeas and 2T of salt in water, about 8 cups. The beans swell more than you’d think, so use plenty of water. Let soak overnight at room temperature. 
      2. Place strained beans in a large stock pot. Add about 10 cups of water, or enough to generously cover the beans, and the baking soda. The baking soda helps break down the skins. It’s science, but it’s also like magic.
      3. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the skins start falling off and the beans are
        Tahini w lemon juice and salt added. Image from Buffy
        tender, about 45 minutes. (*Be prepared for the beans to foam. It’s normal.)
      4. While the beans are cooking, pour the tahini in the bowl of a food processor. As it’s running, add the lemon juice, 1/2c water, and 1 t salt. It’ll tighten up for a moment like peanut butter and you’ll wonder if it’s ruined. Keep at it, I promise it’ll work. Within moments it should be the consistency of pudding.
        Prepared tahini sauce.
        Image from Buffy
      5. Pour/spoon prepared tahini sauce into a bowl and return food processor bowl and blade to the machine base.
      6. Strain cooked chickpeas, reserving about 3/4c of the cooking liquid. Transfer cooked beans (and the pieces of garlic) to the food processor and blend until smooth. This may take up to five minutes. Stop the machine and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula periodically.
      7. Add the prepared tahini sauce to the pureed beans and blend well. Taste and add lemon juice and salt as needed. (It may seems like a lot of salt, but the beans absorb quite a bit. Do this in small amounts, as you can always add, but can’t take away.) Once you have the taste you want, if the sauce is too thick, with the processor running add some of the cooking liquid to thin it out. If you don’t love the taste of bean broth, use water or more lemon juice instead.

Serve warm or cold in a wide bowl and using a spoon, create a swirl pattern on top to hold a drizzle of olive oil and other flavors, such as paprika, parsley or mint. Eat with everything! Veggies, olives, in a sandwich! Stored covered in the fridge, it’ll keep about 5-7 days.

What are your favorite dips or spreads? Carrots and harissa? Olive tapenade? Please share in the comments. I’d love to hear about them!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I’ll be making oyster dressing and thinking of the people I love. This can be a tough time of year for so many reasons. Please be kind to yourself. We’re all doing the best we can. If you think you may need some help getting through this season, please call or text the NIMH. There’s always someone to talk to. You are important. 

As always my friend, 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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Sharing Your Extended Harvest

 

from citações org/minimalismo

Recently a meme floated through social media promoting clutter-free gifts. Raise your hand if you don’t need more stuff. (I’m in the back row with my hand raised!) Great ideas included gifting an experience (tickets to a favorite event or class,) memberships (in person or digital subscriptions), and DIY goodies like a jar of affirmations, old-fashioned mixed tapes, and consumables are mentioned in this sweet essay from Closed Loop Cooking.

DIY. (Yes! We love this category!) Not everyone loves receiving food gifts, but Lin (family/friend/mentor) actively encouraged a consumable gift exchange. The kids and I would drive over the pass in our ’69 Volkswagen bus with a basket of pickles, jams, and preserves and come home with a cooler packed with frozen venison or elk, salmon, and her amazing zucchini bread. I consider these gifts from the heart.

Image from Pinterest

Before joining OSU Extension, my former occupation was a cheese monger and produce buyer for a small grocery store in SE Portland. The store carried a plethora of local and imported specialty grocery items, perfect for gift baskets. I often heard folks say they could make “that” at home.

 

Caution: hard to find treats can be tempting to make at home, but may be unsafe. Commercial processing facilities have higher temperatures and processes to preserve foods, and are tested by a process authority for safety.

However, thanks to university research, there are safe options:

Herbs and Vegetables Stored In Oil Follow these instructions to the letter.

Photo by horst from Pexels

Oil’s oxygen-free environment is perfect for growth of bacteria. For this reason, herbs and vegetables in oil must be stored correctly to prevent botulism food poisoning. (Commercial garlic-in-oil mixtures are acidified to prevent bacterial growth. These products can be stored safely at room temperature.) Safe gift ideas in this publication include:

    • Dehydrated tomatoes in oil– Acidified for safety and to soften them a bit, they can be stored in oil. Adding herbs or garlic is okay but they will need to be stored in the fridge for 4 days max, or frozen.
    • Pickled mushrooms or hot peppers, stored in oil–  Pickled mushrooms and chilies in oil must be refrigerated and used within 4 days or frozen for long-term storage unless they have been pickled with vinegar or lemon juice. Pickled mushroom recipe here. Pickled hot pepper recipe here.
    • Pesto– Freeze it.

Making Garlic- and Herb- Infused Oils at Home –  Follow instructions exactly for a safe product. In a word- Acidify! Flavored olive oil is great w bread, but what about drizzling it over a bowl of rosemary-infused beans, or homemade butternut soup?

Image from PNW 664

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

Which brings me to Winter squash. In a previous blog post, we talked about food safety issues preserving purees. Because of density issues affecting thorough and consistent heat penetration, it needs to be frozen, but listen, frozen soup is a great gift! (Imagine having a selection of delicious homemade soup in the freezer!) It can also be dehydrated and ground into a powder.

Flavored vinegars– Safe, easy, and fun to make. Vinegar isn’t just for salad dressing, consider making a drinking vinegar or shrub to add to sparkling water or a more adult beverage. Infuse with berries, fruit, herbs, spices, or roots like ginger or turmeric. Get creative!

Finally, as we (rapidly) approach the gift-giving season, please consider taking some intentional time to be kind and patient with yourself and the world around you. It’s not only good for your emotional and mental health, but it’s good for your body too. And as a nod to my friend and former mail carrier, hug your loved ones a little more. Make sure your peeps know you love them.

Until next time, friends… embrace the rain and fruits of the season. Look for more OSU Extension Family and Community Health program information on our FacebookInstagramYouTube, website, and newsletter. And please subscribe!

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

 

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Mad skills…

Homemade broth is not only nourishing to the body, but also the soul.

If you spend any amount of time w my friend Heather, you’ll hear her refer to someone and their mad skills, usually referring to their cooking skills. If you have “mad skills’, you can cook just about anything and make it taste good.

We aren’t born with these skills. I’m fortunate enough to have mentors, such as my great-aunt, that love food as much as I do.

Using vegetable scraps in broth are a great way to reduce food waste and save money, but not all scraps are created equal.

She had a huge bookcase full of cookbooks and we’d read them on lazy Summer days, commenting on what looked good. She was my cooking mentor before OPB and Julia Child. I’ve always loved food and cooking and learning about it, using it in my daily life, and sharing it come easily to me. Do what you love, and the rest will fall into place, right? What if you don’t have a mentor, or someone to share your love of cooking? Well…that’s where we come in. The Master Food Preserver volunteers and staff in Clackamas County wanted to try something new and created skill sheets for folks and the farmers that feed them.

Green Sauces can be made from greens as well as herbs.

I’ve mentioned our stellar volunteer group. They’ve been patient during the pandemic, asking for ways to participate with the Family and Community Health program when we can’t provide in-person classes. Early this Spring we met via Zoom to discuss ways to support farmers selling their produce. I alluded to it in this post.

In case you thought pesto was the only green sauce.

We didn’t want to step on our well-respected peers toes, so we decided to focus on skills. Skill sheets are open-ended so you can apply them to many different foods. It opens up a world of options and decreases food waste. This idea originated with Zenger Farm’s CSA for Prescription Health program.

Fall and Winter root vegetables bring richness, flavor, and sweetness to your cooking. Try celery root this year!

Creating something simple and easy to use is harder than it sounds. These sheets represent months of brainstorming, researching, testing, editing, countless emails, and printing.

Big shout out to all of the Clackamas County volunteers that contributed, (I won’t list them here for privacy reasons), as well as Kelly, my friend and

Simple and tasty cooking ideas to help get you started. 

neighbor Kristina (lady, you have mad editing skills!) and Bryan and the Zenger peeps…y’all are rock stars. Thank you!!

 

 

 

Please, please, please, share. These aren’t meant to be a “best-kept secret”. A downloadable pdf is available on our webpage under Culinary Skill Sheets as well as our social media pages. If you find them useful, or not, please share your (constructive) feedback in the comments.

 

I can personally verify that trimmed basil stems kept in a glass of water will eventually sprout. 

 

As always my friends, keep up the good work. You’re doing a great job. I have to remind myself that 100% today may look different from yesterday’s (or tomorrow’s) 100%. Be kind to yourself. It’s been a little rough lately, but as Samwise Gamgee said to Frodo, “There’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Do yourself a favor, if you have access to green (unripe) coriander seeds, keep them.  They freeze well and are great in a next veggie saute, green sauce, or curry. Mine are pickling in a fermented hot sauce. 🙂

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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It’s okay to be a little corny…

Nasturtiums “from my garden” was listed as a salad ingredient and were peppery and delicious.
Photo from Buffy Rhoades. (Yes, these are from my garden.)

A couple weeks ago my husband and I celebrated our anniversary with a fancy-schmancy dinner at a local restaurant. They featured seafood and seasonal produce, and to my delight, corn was one of the highlights of the menu. (Corn pudding or majarete, is delightful! Who’d have known?!) 

Photo courtesy of Julian Scholl on Unsplash

Now listen, I’m dating myself here, but I have childhood memories of a large wooden crate of freshly harvested corn on the side of the road with a hand-painted sign advertising “CORN 4 ears for $1”. My family would bring some home for dindin, but also to preserve for the rest of the year, because in-season produce is not only best quality, it’s also more affordable.

Lucky for us, Oregon State University Extension has a number of food preservation publications for individual foods, such as Preserving Corn. If you don’t care to pressure can your corn, but would really like to freeze it, they share everything you need to know about how to get the best results. (I did not know that you need to blanch corn before freezing it until I began training as a volunteer for OSU Extension. This explains my previously disappointing results!)

Photo courtesy of Mohd Hafiz Yahya on Unsplash

The season is winding down, but it’s not too late. I’ll be dreaming of my beloved great-aunt Barbara’s corn chowder while cleaning, blanching, and freezing ears of corn this weekend. Also, don’t forget OSU Extension’s Food Hero site for more recipes, facts, and kid activities. 

It’s been a long while since my last post. Be assured, more topics are on the horizon, but in the meantime, if you haven’t already subscribed to our YouTube channel, followed us on Instagram and Facebook, or visited our webpage, please do so. We share all kinds of things relating to the Family and Community Health program. Mostly about life and getting good at it. (I love that quote!)

Sunflowers from the garden have been a source of joy this season. 
Photo by Buffy Rhoades

As always my friends, keep up the good work. Get your pressure canner gauge tested at an Extension office, 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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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