Sunday, November 14, 2010

Prepared Food Time!

Whew!  What a ride this year and it’s not letting up!  I know, I know everyone waits for a long time for the years first batch of perogies and one day I hope to keep them going year round.  It’s just impossible at this time due to time constraints with growing a ton of seasonal fresh veg! When we can afford to employ more field labour and grading/market staff I will be able to look into prepared foods year round.  Believe me, I’m working on it!  Don’t I say this every year? This week was the introduction of our Organic Sauerkraut.  Made from our own certified organic cabbage and certified organic onions and course salt,  it is the real deal.  We make huge batches and they are left to ferment in the hall kitchen for just shy of two weeks.  The kitchen is kept warm to aid in the fermentation process.  During this time each morning and evening it is essential to ‘check in’ with the kraut and clean off any foam and check brine levels.  I still have not mastered the ‘taste’ technique and leave it up to 85 year old kitchen manager Anne to ‘taste’ and let me know when it has ‘soured’ properly for packing.  We pack into tubs and the kraut is then frozen.  Frozen kraut does not kill the good stuff!  This is how my grandpa had his kraut - in a barrel, frozen out behind the house!  Chip off what you need!!  I may look into a non-pasteurizing jarring method for the future, but for now our customers are loving it this way!  The majority of Sauerkraut you find in the grocery store is No.1 made with conventional sprayed cabbage, No.2 pasteurized with wine or some other brine.  Ours is raw, non-pasteurized containing all the beneficial bacteria!  Loaded with minerals and nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin C & Vitamin K!  It is a super, super food!

And we are changing the recipe for SAUERKRAUT! I did a trial run with UNREFINED SEA SALT!!  The ladies at the hall scowled at it.  It was mentioned that the unrefined salt 'looked dirty'.....LOLOLOL!  The old ladies obsessed with 'white'!  I've learned a lot about salt and how crappy regular table salt is!  The 'anti-caking' agent, iodine, bleached etc.  Did you know that the refining process removes all the good natural minerals contained in the salt?  Ah ha!  'They' just sell those minerals back to you in the form of supplements.  May as well buy 'real, dirty salt' to begin with!! The kraut fermented with the unrefined sea salt turned out excellent.  I need to use more salt in the recipe and the result is slightly more sweeter.  Rave reviews so far.  Next batch - ALL unrefined! 
So yesterday at market I found myself surrounded by a Romanian woman, a Polish woman, and a Jewish woman.  Sounds like the beginning of an awful stupid joke, but we were all discussing our heritage and our different ways to make borscht while they shopped for their vegetables at our table.  I love to cook and am constantly inspired by my customers and I know I have a hand in inspiring others as well!  All cannot wait for my perogies!  While many of them make them all by themselves, they like ours ‘once in a while’, as hell, anyone who makes these European foods knows the work involved!  So today while I do my bag labelling, work out the cost of production,  do this blog, cook a big roast (to feed my crew tomorrow and Tuesday) I can’t wait to find out what I am going to learn this week from my well seasoned crew of women!  Tomorrow is prep day.  Cooking and mashing the potatoes with the cheese, boiling the sauerkraut and mixing it with rendered down onions in butter.  The most savoury and luxurious flavour inside a dough pocket! Hands down my favourite and each year I convert more and more people who seem stuck on just potato cheddar!  Tuesday I will unlock the Ukrainian Hall kitchen and be re-mashing potatoes and cheddar by 6 am, then making the dough by 7am.  We’ll have unbleached white and whole wheat dough this year for both kinds.   I have labelled my bags this year with ‘ingredient integrity’.  We will be using our own farm grown certified organic produce as ingredients wherever possible.  Beyond that every other ingredient (other than the sea salt….working on getting unrefined sea salt for all my cooking very shortly) will be certified organic and locally produced, nothing from outside of Canada.  I’ve sourced excellent flour and Sunflower Oil (Canola is out!), along with organic FREE RANGE eggs! Dairy items including Butter used and the Old Cheddar Cheese  will be Organic Meadow and perhaps some ‘Harmony’ brands soon, as our organic neighbours now ship to Harmony, so I like the idea of perhaps having their milk within our products!  So then I start wondering how I can improve business.  Next step will be doing the actual paperwork and paying the fees associated with getting the product certified so I can sell to a couple stores.  I’ve got family ties with regards to working out proper nutritional labelling, so within the next few years the product line can move forward!  OMG, will I have enough time?  No time to worry now, head down, focus. For now, all we can manage is the farm markets!  Retail sales are the best for these time consuming homemade products.  I start thinking that I could get the women to begin an hour earlier to up production.  Ben insists that I cannot push the older ladies and that we can’t do more than we already do.  I think we can and am going to try.  THEN I am reminded of Ben Stiller’s nurse character from the Adam Sandler movie “Happy Gilmore”"My fingers hurt...." …… LOLOLOLOLOLOL, ok, I don’t want to mistreat my ladies! My youngest is 65, oldest 85.  We’ll be a crew of 12 on Tuesday.   Eight ‘pinchers’, one ‘roller’, one ‘cutter’, one ‘cooler’ and me, the lone ‘cook’! My mother in law, my grandmother, Polish friends & Ukrainian friends.  It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and ALWAYS a learning experience for me!  Just when I think I’ve got the recipes down pat, Anne lets me in on another secret.  So here we go again folks!  Potato/Cheddar Perogies, Buttery Onion & Sauerkraut Perogies, Raw Sauerkraut, Frozen Sweet Corn, Frozen Green Beans, Frozen Peppers, Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls, Beef Cabbage Rolls….I don’t even have to say ‘enjoy’!  I know you all do - as you drive me crazy about WHEN the food is coming! :)