Welcome to Splitsville, at the Abundant Pantry project

A tad squirrely
Winter’s Coming… Going a tad squirrely?

It really is worth remembering that one of Skookum’s recurring benefits to members comes through our The Abundant Pantry (TAP) Bulk Food Buying Club that runs every two months. The next deadline is Sunday, November 10 at 11:00 PM sharp. If you haven’t used it yet, you’re missing out on the benefits of gaining access to the best quality organic and conventional foods, at the lowest possible prices.

It’s easy.

  1. If you are already signed up as a TAP member… move to step 2 (if not, click here)
  2. You shop online anytime you want (up to 11:00 PM on Sunday November 10 for this next cycle)
  3. Check out the existing splits offered or enter your own invitations to split an order
  4. Show up on Delivery Day (Thursday November 14) at the set time and location  in Wildwood and pay there. Want to help at the distribution location? Ask Wendy, the program coordinator at bulkbuying@skookumfood.ca

Buying in bulk has many advantages, especially with the colder weather on its way…

  • You save money when you buy in bulk (we have food and non-food items, plus pet food, with some local products too)
  • You store more and better quality staples for the best price (which means you can often buy Organic food via The Abundant Pantry (TAP), for the cost of non-Organic at the supermarket, or less!
  • You will tend to eat better, less-processed and Organic food if you have better food in storage!
  • You generally reduce the need to rush off to the store (saving money, gas, time, effort, annoyance, especially in the winter when it can be an extra chore)
  • You generally reduce the amount of packaging when you buy in bulk (it depends on what you’re buying, but generally the larger the quantity, the less packaging and the more recyclable the packaging is)
  • You get to contribute a little bit to Skookum (a very small fraction of your bill is to help pay for the coordination and rental of space)
  • More importantly, get to know your fellow members; it’s all part of building a resilient community that will benefit us all
  • …and if you’re worried about having too much of a good thing (i.e. overbuying some products) do we have splits for you! It’s our program’s Splits Page, and it doesn’t end there, you can also use our Skookum members email list (just email members(at)skookumfood(dot)ca) or our Facebook page  and let them know you have food to share, either before you buy or afterwards. You can set up arrangements between yourselves.
  • It happens every two months, with the next order being November 10, so start browsing and check out the 1,500+  products available to you.

All the details are at The Abundant Pantry site. Any questions at all? Contact the development team at bulkbuying@skookumfood.ca.

What it means to be a Community Service Cooperative

This is Part 2 in a short series on cooperatives, and specifically on Community Service Cooperatives, because that is the designation for Skookum.

As a cooperative, we adhere to all the rules as described here (there are 171 of them) based on the BC Cooperative Association’s Regulations. This includes the fact that cooperatives are owned by their members (that’s one member=one vote, as opposed to being based on amount invested/donated, making cooperatives very democratic entities), and that each member holds a stake in the cooperative, that can be redeemed at any time. At Skookum, this is represented by your share certificate that costs $20.

The gist of it: What’s A Community Service Cooperative?

  • The purpose of a Community Service Cooperative can be either charitable or to provide health, social, educational or other community services to members, with a responsibility to the wider community. While Skookum is a non-profit cooperative organization, we are eligible via this new Community Service Cooperative designation, to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency for charitable status, if we so wish.
  • Assets collected or donated may only directly support and grow the cooperative (providing members with services and access to information, events, tools, land, supplies etc.), Skookum cannot return profit shares to members (unlike Mountain Equipment Co-0p or First Credit Union), whether on a periodic basis nor upon dissolution of the cooperative.
  • If the cooperative were to dissolve, members would receive their initial share price, after satisfaction of its liabilities and the costs, charges and expenses properly incurred in the dissolution or winding up. Any further assets must be transferred to or distributed among one or more community service cooperative or a registered charitable organization.

Skookum is concerned with increasing the amount of food available locally, regardless of how it comes to people:

  • Grown: any kind of produce, grains, beans, etc.
  • Gathered: wild foods, gleaned fruits nuts, etc.
  • Raised: animals other domesticated food sources;
  • Caught: wild animals, fish, etc.
triplebottom-linegraphic-1
The Triple Bottom Line:
Healthy Community: we intend to produce benefits for the social life of the community, through the strengthening of ties among people, by respecting and honouring the work that people do to feed themselves and others;
Economic Vitality: we intend to produce economic opportunities for people, embedded in a vision of a fair and just economy which pays fair prices and fair wages;
Natural Environment: we intend to minimize waste and destructive practices as we go about our work.

In practical terms, the cooperative’s members are encouraged to reflect Skookum’s commitment to the three pillars of the Triple Bottom Line (social, environmental, economic) by creating and supporting projects that help members to grow, gather, catch, raise, preserve, prepare and share healthful food as locally as possible.

As a cooperative, Skookum is a ‘bottom-up’ organization that relies on the energy and ideas of its membership to address this Triple Bottom Line through engagement at the levels of governance, project management, and participation in the projects or events we develop/participate in.

Skookum has no paid staff, but projects are expected to provide for coordinator remuneration, while addressing our core values and purposes, and providing a percentage toward Skookum operating costs. Recent projects include a member-run bulk purchase of fruit trees, ongoing Tattler lid sales, Cover Crop sales, and The Abundant Pantry Bulk Buying Club (now offering Cafe Justicia fairer-than-fair trade coffee, and always more local products), but also the recent get-together and plans for more informational/fun events like seasonal potlucks, film screenings and guest presentations in the fall/winter to come. We are also planning another round of our yearly ‘Apple Cider Press-a-Thon’ at the 2013 Powell River Fall Fair on the weekend of September 21-22.

We are seeking helpers for this as well as materials to make it work even better, so contact us with how you want to help out or click here and come up with your own Skookum project; check this page out for inspiration.

 

 

A Cooperative Primer

cooperation
Better Together.

Time for a primer on cooperatives, because apart from knowing you’re a valued member of Skookum and that you gain value from our cooperative, it’s important to know what we are creating together. This little review includes the different types of cooperatives out there, how Skookum bridges several types (while primarily being classified as a Non-profit Community Service Co-op, primarily engaged in the Consumer Co-op model; see below) and what your role is in the whole thing. Consider this part one of a multi-part series on cooperatives. Cooperatives are becoming much more popular, and in future posts, we will discuss why that is.

The information below was culled from the British Columbia Cooperative Association website (we maintain membership in the BCCA) and from the Canadian Cooperative Association.
 

Types of Co-ops 

Co-operatives are unified by their democratic structure, but different co-ops may be set up for different purposes.

Consumer co-operatives: These are co-operatives whose members are their customers; the majority of consumer co-operatives are retail stores. Mountain Equipment Co-op, UFA and the local retail co-ops that are part of Federated Co-operatives Limited, Co-op Atlantic and Arctic Co-operatives Limited are examples of consumer co-operatives. Housing co-ops, carshare co-ops, funeral co-ops and other types of service co-ops are also consumer co-operatives. At Skookum we have ‘Consumer co-operative’ as one of our models for The Abundant Pantry Bulk Buying Club (TAP) and for bulk purchases of seed, trees, Tattler canning lids, and food dehydrators ( interested in heading a project? Click here).

Other models we dip into have to do with community education, with the potential to engage in cooperatively purchased land, tools, and a host of other things that would grow out of our mission, values/principles and purpose statements.

Financial co-operatives: Credit unions and caisses populaires are examples of financial co-operatives. Like consumer co-operatives, the members of financial co-operatives are the individuals or business owners who use their services. Another type of financial co-operative is The Co-operators, an insurance company which is owned by Canadian co-operatives, credit union centrals and like-minded organizations.

Producer co-operatives: These are groups of producers who band together to process and/or market their products. Agricultural co-ops like Gay Lea Foods, Agropur, La Coop fédérée, Organic Meadow, Scotsburn Dairy, Farmer’s Dairy, Northumberland Dairy, Citadelle, Granny’s Poultry and Organic Meadow are examples of producer co-operatives.

Worker co-operatives: These are businesses owned and controlled by their employees. La Siembra (Camino chocolate products), Just Us! Coffee Roasters, The Big Carrot and the Vancouver Renewable Energy Co-op are examples of worker co-operatives.

Multi-stakeholder co-operatives: These co-operatives include different categories of members who share a common interest in the organization: for example, clients, employees, investors and community organizations. Multi-stakeholder co-operatives in Canada include Common Ground Co-operative, which provides employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities; the West End Food Co-op, a Toronto co-op owned by consumers, producers and employees, and the Aylmer Health Co-op, formed by citizens, doctors and health professionals to improve community health services in Gatineau, QC.

Mutuals and co-operatives: Mutuals, which in Canada exist primarily in the insurance sector, are governed by different legislation than co-operatives but operate under a similar business model. Both mutuals and co-operatives are independent associations of individuals who have voluntarily come together to fulfill their economic or social needs through co-ownership in a democratically-run organizations. Source: http://www.canada2012.coop/en/what_is_a_cooperative/Types-of-co-operatives

coopstuff
Click above for a list of some popular Canadian cooperatives.

 Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative is a Community Service Co-op

Since April 2007, an amendment the BC Co-op Act means that “non-profit” co-ops can now be incorporated as Community Service Co-ops and have similar status to non-profit societies. The change made community service co-ops eligible for charitable status via CCRA. Skookum has this designation, but at this time we are not seeking charitable status, but this is certainly a possibility for the future.

The Community Service Co-op designation ended the confusion arising from uncertainty surrounding the legal status of non-profit co-ops, while affirming the democratic structure of member ownership and control that is unique to the co-op model.

As a Community Service Co-op, Skookum’s Memorandum of Association includes all of the following non-alterable provisions:

  1. That the co-op is a community service co-operative,
  2. That the co-op will not issue investment shares,
  3. That the co-op’s purposes are charitable or to provide health, social, educational or other community services,
  4. That upon dissolution, the co-op’s property must be transferred to another community service co-op or a charitable organization,
  5. That no part of the property of the co-op is to be distributed to members while it is in operation.

Want to start your own cooperative? Here’s a guide: placeholder

Guide for “Cultivating Co-ops” http://farmfolkcityfolk.ca/PDFs_&_Docs/Cultivating_Co-ops.pdf

 

 

Time to Can? Tattler Lids and Rings Available to Skookum Members

Tattler Time.

Tattler Time.

This post is an excerpt from a permanent page on our site. Find it here.

Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative has Tatter Canning Lids and Rings for sale to members only.

Why Use Tattler Lids, and why buy them from Skookum?

  • Tattler lids are reusable up to and beyond 20 times over (those conventional rubber-coated metal lids are only recommended for single use; the rubber rings are reusable up to 5 or so times– you can buy they separately from Skookum as well)
  • They are therefore cheaper to use in the long run (and even ‘medium’ run)
  • Unlike most canned foods (in metal cans, and those in jars or in plastic most of which contain the chemical Bisphenol-A), Tattler lids do not contain Bisphenol-A (BPA), a very controversial chemical used in plastics industry and banned by some countries using these on baby products. 
  • Unlike single-use lids, Tattler lids are recyclable (they contain only one material: BPA-free plastic and as such can be recycled)
  • Tattler lids are also excellent for canning high-acid foods that can corrode through to metal lids and throw the flavours off.
  • Tattler lids are different from conventional canning lids and follow a different procedure for canning. There are instructions on their website and included on paper with each purchase of lids you make from Skookum. Failure to follow their specifications may lead to troubles using the lids.
  • Tattler lids are not recommended for pressure canning.
  • Tattler lids can be used for dry food storage as well!

You can buy Tattler lids via Skookum for the best price possible (about half of what you’d pay via Amazon.ca, for example… and no shipping costs! See for yourself here). More information on the lids at the company’s website: http://www.reusablecanninglids.com/

Our prices are as follows; to order, use our contact page and tell us what you’d like, then you can pick them up by arrangement from our Westview neighbourhood location (sorry, we cannot ship the lids, and this is for members only– you can become a member here for just $20 for a lifetime membership).

Remember also that 15% of your purchase price goes to fund Skookum projects, too! It’s a win-win-win situation: you get to buy a product that is not widely available in Canada, you’re encouraged to can local and in-season food, you get to help Skookum fund projects, and you save c. 45% off what you would normally have to pay for the lids!

Here are your choices:

  • Regular sized lids
    • 24-packs of regular lids + rubber rings .60 ea ($14.50)
    • 50-packs of same ($30);
  • Wide-mouth lids
    • 24-pack wide mouth lids + rubber rings  .70 ea ($17.00)
    • 50-packs of same ($35);
  • Individual extra rubber rings (wide and regular) .22 each in packs of 5  ($1.10 per pack).

_______________________________________________________________

We also have more cover crop seeds available so plant sow them as soon as you harvest a crop (like for e.g. garlic), to increase soil health and to keep weeds down.

William Dam seeds: 547 Peas 4010 and Oats 50/50 Mix Organic ($3 for a half-pound bag; shipping and tax, plus 10% going to support Skookum,  included in price.)

Best green manure for spring seeding. Very effective Nitrogen and biomass builder. 4010 peas are the best leafy forage peas for plowdown, producing over 40″ of green mass in 10 weeks. Oats will utilize available nitrogen, building soil structure, suppress weeds and provide quick growth while the peas fix nitrogen for following crop. Well suited for late summer/ fall seedlings as well. It is best practice to allow three weeks before seeding following crops. Mow down and work into soil at flowering. Seeding Rate: 2-3lb per 1000 sq. ft, 80-100lbs/acre drilled, 100-120lbs/acre broadcast.

Aside from adding organic matter to the soil, cover crops have many other purposes:

          • They reduce soil loss from water erosion.
          • They maintain soil surface infiltration, so it does not compact.
          • Cover crops improve soil tilth (structure).
          • They scavenge nutrients that might otherwise leach from the field.
          • They feed and provide shelter for birds, wildlife, and beneficial insects.
          • They fix nitrogen in the soil.

To purchase ($3 for 1/2 lb bag), contact us here or email giovanni (at) rabideye (dot) com.

Survey Results

surveyTop 5 Interests indicated by our members from our Skookum Members’ Skills Survey held in late 2012/early 2013

5. (TIE!) Seed-Saving and Cider/Wine-Making
4. (TIE!) Bulk Food Buying and Public Outreach + Facilitation
3. Food Preparation (cooking/baking)
2. Food Preserving (canning, smoking, dehydrating, pickling, lacto-fermentation, cheese-making, salting/ packing in sugar)
1. Gardening!

32 members responded to our recent survey (feel free to respond anytime as well), and we already have some positive action from several members, including:

  • A generous offer to fix and maintain our cider press, along with a backup option
  • An offer to host a summertime Skookum picnic on a member’s seaside property (more on this soon!)
  • And several members said they would keep an eye out for the materials we need to complete the Skookum Cider Press kit (see here for what we need; you can also donate money to the project via PayPal (accepting credit and debit card donations as well, and cheques too– click the PayPal link for more info).

Remember that a big ongoing Skookum project, The Abundant Pantry Bulk Food Buying Club (TAP), is taking orders until Sunday, May 12 at 11 pm. Make sure you get your orders in before this. The next order after this will be in July. For more information, contact the coordinator Wendy Pelton at bulkbuying@skokoumfood.ca.

Creating a Skookum Cider Press Kit

Skookum's cider press
Skookum’s cider press

Hey there members, it’s time to freshen up the Skookum cider press with some maintenance and repairs (anyone willing and able to help with this, please contact skookum@skookumfood.ca) AND we really need to set up a proper kit of materials that can accompany the cider press as it is loaned out to members, or used for public demonstrations/ pressings such as at the Fall Fair. So far, we have borrowed materials each time we need to do a group pressing, which is great. Problem is, it takes an immense amount of time and coordination to reconstruct the kit from scratch every time. So, if you have any of this equipment to donate to Skookum, then please consider it sooner rather than later. Used is fine, if functional.

Email us at skookum@skookumfood.ca to find out where and when you can drop off the materials. We will post what we have received (and what is left on the shopping list below), and send out reminders periodically.

If you cannot donate the materials or equipment, then please consider a monetary donation to the “Creating a Skookum Cider Press Kit” via PayPal, Debit or Credit card or by cheque (c/o SFPC and mail or drop off at Kingfisher Books 4486 Marine Ave. Powell River, BC  V8A 2K2 CANADA). We’ll go on a shopping spree in late summer and try to complete the list.

We accept PR$
We accept PR$

Of course, we accept Powell River Dollars (PR$) too; just drop off your donation at Kingfisher Books. And thanks! Please remember that your membership dollars ($20 for a lifetime membership and redeemable at any time) represent individual shares in Skookum; you own the cooperative as much as any other member. The funds raised through memberships are kept for the most part in reserve, and are not used to cover expenses.

Equipment needed (prices approx.)

(Click on the big “Grow Our Co-op” button at right to make a donation toward any piece of equipment)

canopyBasic set up:

  •  2 awnings (aka event tents or canopies or gazebos) c. $450
  • 2 tarps: 1 to put underneath the cider press and 1 to cover it up overnight (as for Fall fair) c. $50
  • 3 smaller tables (hand washing station; prep table; pasteurization/double boiler set up table) c. $175
  • 1 large table (usually supplied by the Fall Fair) for front service counter. c. $100
  • 2 water hoses (to bring the water closer to you b/c pressing requires a lot of water) c. $65
  • 2 hose splitters (so you won’t be accused of hogging the communal hose and you won’t have to keep running to the tap to turn the hose on) c. $50
  • 2 garbage cans per day for apple crud (or more if you’ll be doing lots of apples) ; with wheels! c. $65
  • Metal Ramp (to allow the press to be rolled or pushed up into a flatbed truck or vehicle) c. $250

waterSanitation:

  • Large hands-free water container with “tap” for hand washing station c. $23
  • Plastic buckets for waste water (1or 2) c. $18
  • Bleach, pump soap, paper towels (1 each) c. $12
  • Stout spray bottle for bleach sanitizing solution c. $10
  • Cloth rags $5

Processing apples:primaryferm

  • 2 Large food grade, clean plastic tubs (like primary fermenters) for washing apples pre-pressing. 10 gallons ea. c. $80
  • Some large buckets or Rubbermaid to hold the washed apples (4) $40
  • 2 buckets to catch the cider as it flows from the press $20
  • 2 large cutting boards (wood or hard plastic) $20
  • Various knives including a few paring knives (minimum 4) $60
  • 3 or 4 large stainless bowls to put the prepared apples into $40
  • Funnel and strainer $20

Keeping cider cold:

  • Ice packs (several) c.$35
  • (8-12 large bags of ice– one-time purchase on days of event)
  • 2 very large coolers c.$70
  • Biodegradable paper cups (about 250) available from Aaron Vending:  some small for “tasters” and large for selling cold cider. Napkins. c.$35

burnerKeeping cider hot:

  • Matches or lighter $2
  • Propane gas burners (2) $150
  • Hot plate $25
  • Extension cords (3) $30
  • Large canner for boiling water bath $35
  • Large pot to fit inside canner to keep cider hot w/lid $30
  • Ladles (2)
  • Pot holders (6) $40
  • Stem thermometer $25
  • Cider spice sachets (6) $12
  • Mugs for selling cups of hot cider (must be washed and reused, not possible at all locations) $20

clothOther:

  • Some attractive one-colour tablecloths to enhance booth “eye appeal” 4X: $60
  • Blackboard for noting wares and prices $30
  • tracking sheet
  • Tally sheets on clipboards to keep track of sales
  • Pens
  • Bug spray and sting relief (for bees/wasps; antihistamine) $20
  • Paper bags and ties as wasp deterrents (in a bad wasp year, use lots!) $3

Optional (if for Fall Fair or other demo)

  • Info sheets on upcoming or happening projects
  • Waterproof Displays of whatever relevant kind to enhance booth eye appeal and advertise the coop and its mission, pens, sign up sheets for Skookum and press info.
  • Compact chairs for weary workers to sit on!

Thank you. And here are the winners…

Thank you members, for taking the quick-n-easy Skookum Members’ Skills survey by the deadline of February 14th! The Survey has since been Re-opened, and we’d like the rest of the membership to also consider filling it out too (click here), as we feel it’s important to gauge our collective capacity.

More Than Honey plays at the Patricia Theatre on Saturday, February 10:30am. $8/$6 students/seniors.
More Than Honey plays at the Patricia Theatre on Saturday, February 10:30am. $8/$6 students/seniors.

The winners of 2 pairs of tickets each to the Powell River Film Festival (Feb 19-24, 2013), including tickets to More Than Honey and to the opening gala reception/film A Royal Affair….

<insert drum roll>

Skookum members Eva Van Loon and Karen Munro!

Thanks for playing and happy viewing!

The results (with no names attached) of the survey will  be revealed shortly, so please take the survey as soon as you can  (click here)!

 

Show us what you love to do & win film festival tickets!

Click the picture to take the 3-minute survey and you can win tickets for 2 to the Powell River Film Festival (Feb 19-24, 2013)
Click the picture to take the 2-minute survey and you can win tickets for 2 to the Powell River Film Festival (Feb 19-24, 2013)

As a cooperative, we want to know more about you: what your concerns are, what your skills and interests are, and what you feel you can do to help strengthen our cooperative and the larger community. We encourage each member to commit to initiating or participating in projects, joining a committee, serving on the board of directors, and helping with events and tasks as they arise. No pressure, though. Just take the short ‘n snappy survey now (2 minutes of your time) click here BY THURSDAY FEBRUARY 14 (yes, Valentine’s Day) and we will return the love via a random draw of two pairs of tickets for two, to the Powell River Film Festival (Feb 19-24, 2013)!

If you’ve already taken this survey, thank you! You are automatically entered in our random draw!

Catching (and Wrapping) Up

Happy Holidays and thank you for helping to make local food happen.

It’s been a very busy Fall for Skookum so far this year; and as we head into 2013 it’s ‘whiplash time’ as we look back to see what we accomplished, and forward on how we can do more and better. 2012 was the UN-designated Year of the Cooperative and we are working on airing a 5-program series on cooperatives on CJMP 90.1 FM Community Radio before year end. Keep your ears (and eyes, as we will be promoting it) peeled.

You may remember seeing some pictures on our Facebook page  from our last event of 2012, as several of us helped press apple cider for James Thomson Elementary School’s Farm to School program. We had another successful Abundant Pantry order (next order will be mid-January 2013, check the site in January to order), and we’re just about ready to distribute over 500 lbs of dried fruit/nuts/confectionery from our second Rancho Vignola order that just came in.

Skookum is more than bulk buying, though, and we’d like to increase our workshops and other hands-on projects in 2013. That said, one great reason to have a cooperative is to be able to generate some buying power as a group, and in doing so, also help the community and the cooperative grow and increase self-sufficiency.

Buying seed together.

Last year just after Christmas, I started thinking about and then planning a bulk seed order. A dozen or so members got together and I coordinated an order from our local Eternal Seeds company, who gave us a 20% discount overall if we collectively bought 10 packets of any of their seeds (about 5% was allocated to Skookum and the coordinator). This year, the feedback indicates that we need to order earlier than the February 14th deadline we had last year, by at least a month.

If anyone out there would like to manage the seed order (and the project can be as different as you like), please drop us a line or fill out a short proposal here. Deadline for a proposal or indication of interest in managing this project is EXTENDED to Dec. 30, 2012. The deadline to order should be by Jan 14, 2013.

Below we have a list of our completed projects for 2012, and in addition to these, we have an on-going Abundant Pantry bulk food order every two months. All our past projects are listed on our past projects webpage.

January 2012:

  • Skookum held a potluck members’ social event to celebrate 2012, the UN International Year of the Co-op. Read the story here.

March 2012:

  • Bulk seed order from Eternal Seeds

June/July 2012:

  • Skookum held 2 home tanning workshops

August 2012:

  • Bulk purchase of fruit/vegetables and dehydrating work party at the Community Resource Centre

September 2012

  • Skookum’s second Tattler lid bulk order
  • Bulk purchase of Sausagemaker dehydrators
  • Skookum was at the Fall Fair, pressing cider and raising funds

October 2012

  • Second Rancho Vignola Fruit and Nut Bulk Order

November 2012

  • Skookum helps the local Farm to School project press apples for James Thomson Elementary School for a second year.

The What, Where and Why of Dry

Dried local peaches, nothing added.

As you may have noticed in our recent Facebook posts, Skookum members are drying up a storm this year, preserving the local (and local-ish) harvest of peaches, plums, squash, tomatoes, peppers, apples, pears, berries and more.

David and Brownie cutting up apples to make applesauce that was then dried into fruit leather.

A crack team of 6 members have been buying, picking and sharing in-season produce from Bernie’s Fruit Truck (a.k.a Vitamin Express), and attending dehydrating work parties at the Community Resource Centre (CRC), which houses two food dehydrators. Part of the bounty is always put aside for CRC client use, thus fulfilling our community share. Additionally, Skookum’s newest project is a bulk order of dehydrators, where members of our cooperative got together and saved on shipping/ brokerage fees to have five Excalibur dehydrators delivered, making at least five local families more food secure.

Black Diamond plums, dehydrated and delicious.

What is the buzz on drying food?

      • What can you dehydrate?
      • Does it replace canning, pickling, or freezing?
      • What are the advantages and drawbacks of drying?
      • What can you dehydrate and what do you do with the dried food anyhow?
      • How long does it take to preparea and dry stuff?
      • How much does it cost?
      • How do I get started?

 

Despite being an ancient form of food preservation, dating back to biblical times,  dehydrating is coming into its own in our less-than-arid climate, through simple technology: a dehydrator. At its most basic level, this is a vented box with heat elements, fans and porous shelves upon which to place sliced, diced, shredded or even select whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, meat, fish, etc. The ‘devil is in the details’ though, as uniformity of dehydration and the ability to set accurate drying temperatures and lengths of time are attributes that only the better machines offer.

Why dry?

            • Dehydrating foods provides “living ” or uncooked foods. If done properly, only the water content is extracted, leaving much of the flavour and nutrients behind
            • They are easy to digest, rich in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and are highly nutritious
            • Many modern methods of preserving foods through refrigeration, freezing, canning, pasteurizing, and chemical or even natural additives like sugar, salt, pectin, Sodium Bisulfite, etc. reduce the nutrient content in food, or provide unwanted extra calories/sodium
            • Easily stored in air and light-proof containers, dehydrated foods weigh considerably less than fresh or food preserved any other way (useful in camping and backpacking: easy to carry!) and can sit on your shelf for up to 20 years making them excellent for disasters and hard times (think food security here!)
            • It’s cheaper than freezing, in the end: a few hours of drying at a few cents per hour, and you’re done. This frees up freezer/pantry space for other goodies that must be preseved in other ways.
            • See some seasonal food on sale or have a glut of local food? Pick it or buy it and dry it during any season. Dried pineapples and mangoes make great (if non-local) snacks; autumn is a great time to ponder dried chanterelles…
            • And you can mix and match your foods to create dried culinary delights like pear-apricot leather with embedded walnut pieces, a mixed dried vegetable soup mix (with a different vegetable on each tray of your dehydrator), an entire dehydrated spaghetti dinner, stews and chile, even jerkies of all kinds (salmon, chicken, turkey, beef); think of it as gentle ‘cooking’, in slow motion
            • Using dried food is a dream: either use it as is (as in fruit leathers) or mix it with wetter foods or soak to rehydrate dried food in water or broth to create flavourful concoctions with super-concentrated flavour
            • Dehydrators can be used to raise yeasted bread doughs, make yogurt, teas (out of leafy herbs or bits of  fruit), cheese, seeds for planting, and even dry flowers and leaves for crafts – anything that can benefit from a low, sustained, dry heat (this includes me—Swedish sauna, anyone?)

Drawbacks?

        • As in freezing or canning food, there are some upfront costs, namely for the dehydrator (here is a review of  some of the more popular types; they range from about $80 to $2,000+) and for containers in which to store the food (plastic bags, and even glass jars preferably with the air sucked out via a vacuum sealer); add to this the electricity use in the actual dehydration process
        • Time is of the essence: you need to be able to collect or buy food at the peak of freshness and ripeness to get the best results, and it does take some time to peel, pit, check (drop briefly in boiling water to remove some of the waxy coating on things like blueberries or grapes) and slice certain items like pears, peaches or cherries to prepare them for dehydrating. Also, getting the dried food off the racks and in air-tight containers is best done sooner rather than later because the dried food will act as a sponge and collect ambient moisture!
        • Certain foods just don’t dehydrate that well, such as:
          1. whole items (be it fruits, vegetables, etc.); this reduces access to the moister parts; sliced or shredded food works best and fastest
          2. fibrous food like sliced artichokes or carrots (unless they are sliced really thinly)
          3. high-moisture foods like watermelon and cucumber that take a long time (but they are interesting just the same!)
          4. foods with lots of fat/oil in them that can go rancid without other preservatives like salt/sugar, etc.
        • You need to make sure that foods are dried and stored properly, to avoid mold and spoilage, so home-made dehydrators are not recommended in our climate
        • You need to pay attention and respond to your dehydrating foods as needed; factors such as the type and variety of fruit/vegetable you are dehydrating, its ripeness and sugar level (both increase drying time), and ambient humidity, all factor in the final drying times. While you cannot really over-dry things at the recommended low temperatures, you don’t want to be wasting energy either or producing food that is overly dry for no reason; some moisture content is okay, depending on what you are drying.

Want to get started? Contact us (just comment below or use our contact page)  and we’ll see what we can do to get you drying at least some food this year!