Farmers' Market Vendor Trivia by the Numbers

For anyone who watches Dragon's Den or Shark Tank you know how obsessed Kevin O'Leary is with SKU's, Stock Keeping Unit numbers. If you have only one SKU to sell you are less likely to have your product placed in a big store chain.

Today out of interest I thought I would count how many SKU's I purchase to fit out my farmers' market menu.

Keep in mind that these numbers DO NOT include such items as my printer and ink cartridges, housecleaning, travel to purchase ingredients and arrive at the market, my cooking utensils and baking sheets, my bread oven and commercial mixer, the tubs to hold bread dough or all my measuring utensils and spatulas. This does not include any display items and tablecloths, paper and signage. No handwipes. No miscellaneous baking ingredients. This is my basic 'go to' that I need week in and week out.

And by the way, our market this season is a total of 16 weeks.

Here it is.

Packaging - 21
This includes all final packaging, labelling, securing, coverings and support for the food.

Flavours - 18
Here I have to list them. I am so thrilled to have such diversity and most are natural, organic and local. Saffron, rose petals, almond, vanilla, saskatoon, peach, BC and sour cherry, white chocolate, cinnamon, rhubarb, strawberry, honey, herbs & spices, garlic, tomato, raspberry and passion fruit.

Flours and baking -31
This includes my 10 varieties of flours, mostly organic and local. It includes additions to my breads such as local organic lentils, cracked grains and Canadian sea salt.

If my adding is correct that amounts to 70 SKU's or ordering and purchasing 70 unique products for my one little market table. Maintaining my stock and not over purchasing is integral. Failure in both reduces my profit.

So perhaps now you understand better why, although I do appreciate and consider all suggestions, there are very few I can act upon. Changes to my menu, such as adding gluten-free selections, creates a proportionate number of new products that I must keep in stock. Maintaining stock impacts my bottom line.


Preserving the Harvest for a Brighter Winter Season

I have been eating pretty high on the hog since I picked up my CSA box from Meadowlark Farms and a CSF (Community Supported Foraging) box from Prairie Infusions.

A rainbow of beets, carrots and beans deserve more than to be devoured hungrily. As much as I know I would enjoy that I want to partake of their beauty for a bit longer. Preserving the bounty has been my agenda these past few days.

I have been learning how to use fermentation as a preservation method. My lovely red, yellow and orange carrots are in a sea salt brine. I have added fresh ginger to one jar and a Thai chili in the other. Did you know that you can add carrot tops for added complexity and flavour?

Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gatherer Cook fame is my reliable source of recipes using wild and foraged foods. I made his pickled chanterelles. I can hardly wait to open this jar. I look forward to fishing out the mushrooms and anointing them with camelina oil to serve with a charcuterie platter or salad.

Once you have a brine figured out you can pretty well ferment any vegetable. I have a giardiniera going in my gallon crock. I put together a medley of yellow beans, onions, zucchini, green tomatoes, carrots and hot and sweet peppers.

Pickled Chanterelle Mushrooms   from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

I followed this recipe to a T. Dry saute chanterelles first. Clean and put them into a hot dry frying pan. Small mushrooms whole and larger ones cut into large pieces.

1 lb. chanterelles
2 c. white wine vinegar
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. sugar
2 tbsp. sea salt
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. black peppercorns

Clean mushrooms and cut into pieces, if necessary.

Dry saute in a large pan. When they give up their water sprinkle with one tablespoon of salt and the thyme. Add remainder of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and simmer for five minutes. Turn off heat.

Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and pack into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Be sure each jar has a bay leaf and some peppercorns.

Add cooking liquid to cover the mushrooms. Wipe rims of jars and seal. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minute

Fermented Giardiniera

2 c. thinly sliced carrots
2 c. sliced red bell peppers
1 1/2 c. thinly sliced onions
3 c. coarsely chopped zucchini
a few thickly sliced green roma tomatoes
3 peeled and sliced garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
sprig of fresh thyme
3 tbsp. unrefined salt such as kosher or sea salt
6 c. filtered water

Prepare brine by dissolving the salt in water.
Mix all the ingredients except the brine in a large crock or jar.
Fill jar with the brine, leaving 1½ -2 inches of headroom—the space at the top, between the rim of the jar and the top of the vegetables. Weight the vegetables so they are completely submerged in the brine.
Cover the top of the vessel with a lid, coffee filter, paper towel, cheese cloth, or tea towel to keep bugs out.
Be sure to secure towels with a very tight rubber band or the ring from the canning jars. 
Place the jar out of direct light.
Ferment at room temperature 4 days before checking the flavor. If you prefer the flavor more sour, continue fermenting. Any foam that accumulates on the top of the brine can be skimmed off.
Transfer the jars to the refrigerator when the flavour is to your taste. 


In Case You Have Missed Me

My blogging has all been put aside by the farmers' market. It is crazy busy keeping up with the schedule. I promise to get back soon and share some great food.
Mixed berry hand pies

Multigrain bread with sprouted lentils proofing.

Pumpernickel ready to come out of the oven.


Wild Foraged Morels and Bacon Marmalade

June was morel season in the boreal forests of Saskatchewan. My forager friend, Elisabeth sends a box of her best once a month. This time I had an insane amount of wild picked burn morels. This recipe nicely took care of them.  To say this is addictive is an understatement. I kept a tub of it in the refrigerator for random snacking. 
Morel and Bacon Marmalade
Wild picked morels will have some grit if not washed before use. But be careful not to soak them. Wash quickly in two changes of water and use immediately.
8 oz. fresh morel mushrooms 250 g
4 slices bacon or pancetta
5 tbsp. butter, divided 75 mL
fresh thyme
1/2 c. beef, veal or mushroom stock 125 mL
1 c. carrots, diced 250 mL
1 c. shallots, diced 250 mL
1/2 c. Marsala or red port wine 125 mL
1/4 c. red wine vinegar 60 mL
1 tbsp. brown sugar 15 mL
1 tsp. black pepper 5 mL
kosher or sea salt to taste
Cook bacon until lightly crisp. Remove and add morels, two tablespoons (30 mL) butter and a pinch of salt to the pan. Cook mushrooms until soft, have released all their water and are nicely browned. Add stock and two sprigs of thyme. Simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated but the mushrooms are still moist. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside. Discard thyme.
Add three tablespoons (45 mL) of butter. Saute shallots and carrots with a pinch of salt until softened, about eight minutes. Add sugar, vinegar, pepper and wine. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced to a very small amount. Scrape up all the bits on the bottom of the pan
Chop mushrooms and bacon and add to sauce. Reduce further if necessary. You want it to be moist but not runny. Taste to adjust salt and pepper. It should taste peppery.
Serve warm with toasted thinly sliced baguette. Garnish with Labrador Tea.


Foraged Dandelion Green Salad

As I continue  on with my foraging recipe spree we find ourselves with dandelion greens. Yes, you can go out to your front lawn and pick them but more likely than not they will be tough and bitter. Take the time to go to a forest or coulee in early summer for some nice tender greens. The bitterness is offset with the vinegars. And bacon can make anything fit for the dining room table.

Dandelion Green Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
4 c. dandelion greens 1 L
4 slices bacon
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar 30 mL
1 1/2 tbsp. cider vinegar 22 mL
1 tsp. grainy mustard 5 mL
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered
Cook bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.
Discard all but about two tablespoons of bacon fat.
Add vinegars and mustard to the hot skillet and scrape up all the tasty brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. This dressing is now ready to use.
Toss the dandelion greens with the warm bacon vinaigrette and arrange in a bowl or on a platter. Top with quartered boiled eggs and crumbled bacon. Serve immediately.


How to Make a Linen Bread Bag

Bread remains fresh longer if protected from sunlight, kept cool and allowed to breathe.  Plastic bags trap moisture and make the crust rubbery and soft. Keeping bread in the refrigerator will suck out the moisture and it will stale faster.
Herbs, lettuces and most produce also keeps longer when stored in a bag that breathes. Wash the produce first and then put it into the bag without drying it. This little bit of moisture helps to maintain its freshness. Stow the bag in the produce drawer of your refrigerator.
Linen is an ideal fabric. It is heavier and stronger than most cottons and because the fibres are coarser the fabric tends to have a more open weave. Linen is very difficult to find.  In fact most clothing store sales clerks don’t even know what it is. I have searched throughout western Canada and only found it in two sources. Gala Fabrics in Victoria, BC and Mitchell Fabrics in Winnipeg, Man. Both will email pictures and send out fabric swatches for distance shopping.
This simple drawstring bag works equally well for storing produce and bread. We are creating a simple bag with French seams all around and a drawstring top. French seams have no raw edges exposed.
What you will need
2 pieces of fabric 14”x16” 35 cm x 40 cm
coordinating thread
1 yard of 1” twill tape 1 m/2.5 cm

Contact information for fabric shops:
Gala Fabrics                                                
104, 1483 Douglas St.
Victoria, BC   V8W 3K4
Mitchell Fabrics
637 Main St.
Winnipeg, Man.   R3B 1E3

Step 1: Prewash the fabric, dry and press it before cutting. Cut fabric to size. If you want to personalize the bag with embroidery work, do it now.
Step 2: Place one piece of fabric with short side at the top on your ironing board. Along this short end, mark 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) from each side edge. Fold the fabric at this mark and press down the long side about 3 inches (7.6 cm) on both sides. This finishes the edges of the openings for the drawstring tubing. Then fold the top edge of the fabric down 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm) and press. Open this fold and turn under the raw edge by 1/4 inch (6 mm) and press. Repeat with the second piece of fabric. You now have the channel formed for the drawstring.

Step 3: Stitch along the bottom of the tube. With scissors snip the folded fabric just under the tubing so that it will lay flat and press.
Step 4: Pin the two pieces together, with the right side facing you. That means that it will be pinned with the wrong sides together. This is not how you normally make a seam. This is the first step in making a French seam, where no raw edges will be exposed. Stitch the three raw edge sides of the bag 1/4 inch (6 mm) from the raw edge. Trim off half of the seam allowance. Flip the bag inside out and press.
Step 5: The bag is now inside out. Stitch again the three sides at 1/4 inch (6 mm) seam allowance. Flip the bag right side out again and press. You now have all the seams with no exposed raw edges. The outside edge of the bag should be flush with the outside edge of the tubing channel.
Step 6: Reinforce the side seams just below the tubing channel with a wide machine zigzag or with hand stitching. To finish the drawstring, attach a safety pin to one end of the twill tape and guide it through the tubing. Stitch the ends of the twill tape together to form a loop that is used as a drawstring to close the bag.