Transforming foods for storage and market involves all the processes that raw ingredients undergo to become new food products. If we take a bunch of vegetables from our garden (potatoes, onions, carrots) and some meat from our freezer to make a soup we are transforming the raw ingredients into a new food. Some other examples of this include taking flour, water, yeast and other ingredients to make a loaf of bread or cutting up a whole animal into parts like roasts and stakes. Transforming the foods into new products also may allow us to eat the products longer after they are harvested, such as freezing or preserving foods to eat later. Food transformation for storage and market happens in a variety of ways in our food system, starting at the small scale in your home kitchen all the way to large food corporations making products like tomato sauce or potato chips.
People have been processing fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy at home for many years. A number of households in our community either freeze, dry or can fruit such as apples, peaches, strawberries, cantaloupe, and others. Colorado State University (CSU) Extension has a lot of resources for preserving food, such as fact sheets that are available online. Food Smart Colorado has information for food preservation and safety for home use. Another great resources is the National Home Food Preservation site, where you can find the latest research and all the "how to dos". It's a place where grandma's recipes were taken and made safe to those of us who wish to prepare those special family recipes. And, for those of us in the mountain community, recipes have been adjusted for altitude. Some practical tips for preserving foods at home:
Have a plan - without a plan evern preserved food becomes food waste.
Dehydrators allow you to dehydrate (remove the water out of food) and give you a good amount of dries food for those winter months.
Don't confuse a pressure cooker for a pressure canner, which is made specially to work with low acid foods that can hold microbes. They heat the food at temperatures above boiling water to kill off the microbes that can linger around the food.
There are many different types of commercial processors. Locally and regionally, thanks to our pastures and ranchers, beef is processed commercially and makes it to our tables via either USDA or custom processors. Regulations related to these different types of processing can be found at the Federal Inspections for Meat Products site. Archuleta County currently has two custom processors and USDA inspected processing options are available outside of the county. Locate custom and USDA inspected meat processors in Colorado HERE.
Other processing operations include cheese, chocolate, coffee, tea, beans, produce, and grains (such as quinoa, wheat, barley) among others. Locally, we have chocolatiers and brew masters who bring the art and science of their craft to our community. Regional commercially processed foods such as grains and beans are available at some of the local restaurants.
You have a family recipe for bread and have been preparing it for a number of years. Your friends and family rave about the bread. Your children are learning about math and finance and you decide, maybe it's time, we prepare the popular bread and sell it at the farmers market. In this way, the children will learn about business and more people get to eat the tasty bread. You start researching and find the local farmers market and learn that they need you to have a certificate in cottage foods before you can sell your bread. You contact your CSU extension office and attend the Colorado Cottage Food training. You learn about food safety, the regulations, business practices, and much more. Now you are set to work with your children to start your cottage food business. Since, you are using your home kitchen and selling to the public, you really appreciate the emphasis on food safety in the training. You also appreciate meeting others in your community who want to start their cottage food business and all the great resources that you got from the training to build a successful home business.
To recap, in order to sell your homegrown/made products, eggs, and small flock chickens you need to obtain a Cottage Foods certificate. To receive one, you have to complete a four hour course that teaches you about food safety, business practice, and regulations. At the end of the course, you receive a certificate to sell your cottage foods for three years. You have to renew your Cottage Food Certificate after the three years are up to continue selling. If you continue to sell without having obtained a Cottage Food Certificate, then the SJBPH, the organization that has authority over all food sold in retail, may embargo your products. The purpose of a Cottage Food Certificate isn’t to limit, it’s to support local communities and businesses. Not only does it cultivate a sense of trust and safety in a community - when individuals undergo the proper training to sell their products in a safe, productive way, it also helps establish small business owners, and gives them resources and information that they need to navigate a business setting.
Want to learn about food preservation to prevent food borne illness
Pathogens - lots of bugs we share as a community, mostly bacterial, virus, parasites and mold. Food that contains pathogens will look, smell, and taste normal for the most part.
Factors that affect growth of microbes: temp, acidity, time, and temperature.
To prevent food borne illness - find a recipe that has been tested and follow it.
Practice personal hygiene - wash your hands and sanitize food prep area and utensils.
Avoid cross contamination - do not wash protein - can cause cross contamination.
Wash your sponge - microwave, bleach, dishwasher, clothes washer.