11AM is the starting time for those able to participate in the coffee-themed potluck luncheon or we’ll see you at 12 noon if you’re coming just to hear Leocadio and Francisco’s talk. Feel free to bring a guest or two as we can accommodate up to 60 at this location. Don’t forget to bring cash if you want to buy coffee (we are trying to get unroasted beans too, for you DIYers). Please let us know if you can attend. There will be a small fee of $2 to offset the cost of renting the CRC.
Click here for some ideas on cooking/baking with coffee.
Leocadio is the driving force behind a Mayan indigenous NGO called the CCDA based out of Guatemala whose concerns are social justice and agrarian reform. The Comite Campesino Del Altiplano or CCDA now owns 3 beneficios and are exporting organic beyond fair trade coffee exclusively to Canada. Cafe Justicia is a high elevation, shade grown, organic coffee produced in the Highlands of Guatemala by indigenous campesinos. Individual local cooperatives operate through the CCDA to process and market their coffee, thus avoiding many of the middlemen keeping the people in poverty. The CCDA is also very active in restoring civil rights and educating communities, providing medical care facilities, some micro financing, schools and libraries, educational scholarships, and the redistribution of lands for agriculture and homes for the landless poor. For more on the CCDA and their work see: http://www.justuscoffee.com/producers/our-growers/ccda-guatemala
The coffee, Cafe Justicia is marketed from Vancouver by BC CASA (more about them at: http://cafejusticia.ca/ ) and we are getting very close to being able to distribute their outstanding product through The Abundant Pantry our own bulk buying club.
Leocadio will be in Powell River on Sunday, March 24 and we’d like to invite you to come hear him speak, share a potluck themed around coffee and taste some of their fabulous brew (you’ll also be able to buy some if you can’t wait for the next TAP order. The event, spoken through Steve Stewart as interpreter is most interesting. Steve established BC CASA in the 1980s to support positive social change in the Americas. From the outset they had a strong connection to the CCDA and helped introduce the coffee to Canada in early 2000. He has been a good friend to Leocadio for many years and the translation flows accordingly. This year Leocadio is bringing Francisco Coz as an added guest, an elder of the organization; Francisco was born in 1947 and he began organizing peons on the coffee plantations in the 1970s, like Leocadio he is a Kakchiquel Maya and lives in the village of Nueva Vida in Solola province.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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:
whole items (be it fruits, vegetables, etc.); this reduces access to the moister parts; sliced or shredded food works best and fastest
fibrous food like sliced artichokes or carrots (unless they are sliced really thinly)
high-moisture foods like watermelon and cucumber that take a long time (but they are interesting just the same!)
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!
It was a beautiful, sunny October morning, crisp as the apples we were pressing into delicious cider during Skookum’s Co-op week celebratory Community “Press-Off”, outside the Community Resource Centre, as part of the weekly Saturday Winter Market. The concept was that both members and non-members could drop by, wash and press their apples into incredibly delicious cider, and pay by donation. Many people brought their own bottles and jars, but we had some sterlized bottles on hand if needed. The Skookum Cider Press is normally only available to members, and for a daily fee for use.
Skookum board members and other volunteers helped to make this event a fun time, and it even raised some $70 toward the Cider Press fund. But most importantly, we helped community members produce a great, locally processed food, from local produce. Of course, the event also showed off our cider press and increased our visibility in the community. Six quarts of juice also returned to the CRC, from apples picked through Skookum Gleaners!
It’s hard to say how many apples we collectively pressed, but I figure that at least 40 quarts of juice and a whole lot of pomace resulted from the 3-hour pressing. We plan to turn most of our own apple juice to apple cider vinegar, but some people were planning on freezing their bottled juice (making sure they were 25% empty and with a loosened lid), and others planned on adding champagne yeast to make hard cider. Apple juice will keep about a week in the refrigerator, but those who attended enjoyed immediately sipping the free samples as they watched cider being pressed on this gorgeous day.
We even got some help with the cider press clean-up from some energetic nearby youth engaged in a car wash fundraising event for the new Youth Resource Centre; it is set to open in a month or so, right next door to the CRC.
A heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped out in various ways!