Prairie Magic in a Bottle

Originally published in Canola Digest – November 1, 2018 


Six Manitoba canola growers are bottling and marketing cold-pressed canola oils with flavour characteristics unique to their own farms. Described as ‘Prairie magic in a bottle’, the oils are a locally-grown alternative to imported extra-virgin olive oils.

Bruce Dalgarno, who farms at Newdale, admits the past year and a half since the growers joined forces to form CanFarm Foods Ltd. has been anything but easy, but he and the other farmers are extremely proud of the work they have done.

“When you tell people the canola from your farm is in that bottle, you can see their surprise,” says Keenan Wiebe, another partner. “They don’t get to meet the farmer behind the product that often.”

Cold-pressed canola oil comes from mechanically pressing and grinding the seed at a slow speed with temperatures not exceeding 60°C. While the process means less oil is extracted, the end product is extremely unique.

The terroir — a combination of geography, geology and climate — gives each region’s oil distinct differences in colour, flavour and even nutritional profile. Described as earthy, grassy and nutty, these distinct vintages are perfect for adding flavour to bread dips, salad dressings and marinades or drizzling over a variety of foods as a finishing oil.

As a premium, specialty product, a 250ml bottle retails at $10 — about 20 times the price of conventional canola oil. CanFarm Foods produces three cold-pressed oils — Northern Lights, Heartland and Big Prairie Sky — from the Interlake, Pembina Valley and Parkland regions of Manitoba.

As developing new markets is one of MCGA’s goals, the organization launched a research project in 2014. The Manitoba Agri-Health Research Network (MAHRN) studied virgin, cold-pressed canola oil, meal and co-products from processing. Growing Forward II provided $396,000 funding and MCGA contributed $10,000. The concept of this value-added oil began with Ellen Pruden, education and promotions manager with the Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA). She noticed slight taste differences in conventional canola oil, was aware of terroir in other foods and beverages and knew there was a growing consumer interest in cold-pressed oils.

The research confirmed terroir did exist in canola. The Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie provided guidance in getting the product ready for retail and food service testing. Consumers, chefs and culinary professionals approved. The stage was set to fill a niche market.

MCGA put out a call for members interested in the commercialization of these new oils. Seventeen farmers initially expressed interest, but in the end it was Brian Chorney and son-in-law Kyle Norquay from Selkirk, Bruce Dalgarno from Newdale, David Reykdal and daughter Rebecca from Winnipeg Beach and Keenan Wiebe from Starbuck who incorporated CanFarm Foods in July 2017. Each stakeholder contributed $10,000 to get the company off the ground.

Dalgarno acknowledges getting the oil from farm gate to market has been slow and frustrating. The paperwork and legalities were easy. The challenges included sourcing reasonably priced packaging to improve margins, obtaining accurate nutritional analysis, development of new labels, marketing, shipping costs, working with facilities to crush and bottle the oil, and maintaining consistency in the amount of oil per bushel crushed.

Yet despite obstacles and set-backs, the partners are anxious to move ahead. Economic benefits will depend on how the company fares. But those involved speak more passionately about the opportunity to connect directly with consumers and share their farm story.

“I believe our long-term sustainability goals and the way we work our land means a lot to people who are concerned about where their food comes from,” Chorney says.

“I think as a farmer we need to be more involved,” Dalgarno adds. “The consumer is looking for info on how their food is produced. It is all about education, and it goes both ways. We can also try to understand what the consumer wants and is looking for.”

Sales to date have been mostly consumer-driven through retail outlets in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba. A few chefs are using the product, including Kyle Lew of Chew restaurant in Winnipeg.

“We’ve used it for a ton of different dishes in the past few years,” Lew says. “In a similar fashion to wine, the different types really reflect the terroir that they are grown in. I don’t really have a favourite (flavour). The oil itself is my favourite.”

Erin MacGregor, self-proclaimed food fanatic, registered dietitian and home economist from Toronto, is also a fan. “I’ve used them exclusively for drizzling over salads and cooked veggies for fresh grassy flavour.”

Online sales have seen the product shipped to Toronto, Vancouver and even New York.

Media coverage in the Toronto Star, Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Manitoba Co-operator has been beneficial. Last fall, Dalgarno took Big Prairie Sky oil to the Great Manitoba Food Fight, a competition featuring Manitoba entrepreneurs who have developed, but not fully commercialized, new and innovative food or alcoholic beverage products. While it didn’t win, he says the experience was phenomenal with valuable connections made in the food industry.

The local, authentic food movement is strong and growing – and with it, the potential for increased sales. As an example, CanFarm’s oils were purchased by a company this spring for a customer-giveaway. Made-in-Manitoba gift baskets and food box subscription services offer alternatives to direct retail sales.

Small-scale food processing may be challenging, but determination and resourcefulness is nothing new to farmers. CanFarm’s unique local oils give its partners a good opportunity to connect with their customers. “Usually, the seed would get hauled away as a bulk commodity and we would never get to be part of the equation,” said Reykdal. “I’m interested in making that connection — directly from the farm to the plate.”

Advertisements

Roasted Sweet Potato & Garlic Hummus

I’ll admit, the first time I tried hummus I wasn’t impressed.  It very dry, over-powered with garlic and rather unpalatable — not a recipe I felt obliged to try! But after sampling a few store bought varieties  — roasted red pepper, caramelized onion — I thought maybe hummus wasn’t so bad after all.  Then I found a recipe for Sweet Potato Hummus at Alaska from Scratch  which converted me to the ‘pulse side’ of snacking!  I adapted it to use heart-healthy canola oil and incorporated a few great tips from a Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus recipe at Nita at Carrots & Cake. The result — a family favourite, kid-approved, delicious, addictive, smooth and creamy hummus! 

Roasted Sweet Potato & Garlic Hummus

Main Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato (approx 1 lb or 500 grams), drizzle of canola oil
  • 1 – 19 oz (540 ml) can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 3 cloves *roasted garlic or 1 raw garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 3 tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup hemp hearts (optional)

Spice Mixture:

  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

Garnish options:

  • Parsley
  • Green onions
  • Hemp hearts
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Grated or ground nutmeg
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Lemon rind

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Scrub the sweet potato & dry thoroughly. Pierce the skin 2-3 times with a knife or fork and lightly coat with a drizzle of canola oil.
  3. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 45 min — 1 hour, until tender.
  4. Let cool, peel off skin, cut off any dark spots and cut into 4 —5 cm pieces.
  5. *If roasting garlic, toss cloves with a bit of canola oil, wrap in foil & place on baking sheet with the sweet potato. Garlic will take less time to roast so remove from oven after about 30 minutes.
  6. Drain & thoroughly rinse chickpeas.
  7. Toss chickpeas, sweet potato, garlic, canola oil, lemon juice, hemp hearts (if desired) & spice mixture into blender or food processor
  8. . Blend well, scraping down as needed. If it isn’t as smooth & creamy as you’d like, add more canola oil (or water), a tablespoon at a time, until it reaches desired consistency.

To serve, drizzle with canola oil and top with your choice of garnishes. Serve with crackers & raw veggies. This also makes a wonderful spread for sandwiches or wraps. Basically this hummus is so good, you will get very creative in finding ways to use it, other than just eating it ‘straight-up’ with a spoon — which, by the way, is totally acceptable!

Notes:

  • Roasted garlic is sweeter & less overpowering than raw garlic, hence only use 1 clove if opting for raw.  My family loves it either way!
  • Hemp hearts will add a nutty flavour & slightly change the consistency of the hummus, but they also add protein, fibre & healthy fats.
  • Encourage creativity in the kitchen by letting the kids help. They love to personalize their snack by choosing their own garnishes, crackers & veggies.

Storage:

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 -5 days, if it lasts that long…

Hearty Harvest Meals

These meal ideas are fabulous — no matter where your ‘kitchen table’ is at this busy time of year.  Originally published on the Canola Eat Well blog on August 24, 2015.

Harvest is now underway, but for many of us at a snails pace as high humidity and frequent rainfalls persist.  Last night in our area, it was unusually quiet after another 21 mm of rain fell — the chirping of crickets the only sound in the evening air. Here’s hoping for a good, long stretch of warm, dry days ahead so combining can resume. 


IMG_20160821_233418For many the end of summer brings a twinge of sadness. Not so for farmers. Usually it’s an exhilarating time filled with excitement, gratitude and relief. Another growing season is behind us and it’s finally time to reap the rewards.

The hum of combines is music to our ears. Country roads are bustling as trucks roll up and down hauling crop from fields to bins. Eyes are always to the sky as we hope for ideal harvest conditions. This is our final ‘dance’ with Mother Nature for the year and we hope it’s a smooth one.

The days can be long and hectic, so keeping the harvest crew fueled with healthy, nutritious meals is key. Thankfully, fresh local produce is abundant whether it be from your garden, the farmers’ market, a roadside stand or the grocery store.

Simple recipes packed with vegetables, which can be prepared ahead of time, are perfect for harvest. Convenience is key – whether taking meals to the field or looking for something which warms up easily if your crew prefers to keep working until weather conditions shut them down.

Apple-Galette-2_WEB

Apple Galette – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

Beef Braised and Vegetable Stew fits the bill perfectly, using onions, carrots and rutabagas. Stew gives you the versatility to change up the vegetables if you wish. Corn-on-the-cob is a quick, easy side and Cheddar Baking Powder Biscuits are ideal to mop up your plate. Pie is always appreciated for dessert but is something this cook has never mastered. This simple, no-fail, fuss-free Apple Galette is every bit as good!

Spice-It-Up-Paste-for-Chicken-Legs

Spice It Up Paste for Chicken Legs – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

On those really hot days your may prefer more picnic-like fare. Pasta salads are always a hit and an easy way to add more veggies to a meal. Put your own twist on Angel Wings Pasta. It pairs perfectly with chicken pieces seasoned with Spice-It-Up Paste.  If you have an abundance of greens to use, Roasted Beet Salad is fabulous.

 

Jenns-Chewy-Granola-Bars

Jenn’s Chewy Granola Bars – Photo Courtesy of MB Canola Growers

‘Grab and go’ desserts are convenient and can do double duty for lunch boxes and snacks. Have a bumper crop of zucchini or a neighbour dropping it off on your doorstep?  Eggless Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake or Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins make a perfect finish with fresh fruit. Jenn’s Chewy Granola Bars are another great option and handy to have on stock in the freezer.

No matter the meal-time choices, this time of year your efforts are always appreciated. Taking a break is good for mind and body, it enhances farm safety and gives you time to connect with your family and friends. Everyone is always happy to sit down to a hearty meal.

I sometimes think back to the days of wood stoves, no refrigeration and large threshing gangs that needed to be fed three times a day. I admire the hard-working women who labored from dawn to dusk to get the job done. It makes me grateful for modern conveniences, the ease in which a meal can be prepared and many choices we now have.

Wishing you well as you transition your ‘farm table’ from the kitchen to the field.  May you have a safe and bountiful harvest!

Simply Canola

There is no denying  canola has been the shining star of agriculture across western Canada this past month — as it is every summer when in bloom.  It isn’t unusual to see people stopping alongside the road to snap a picture, or take a selfie against the gorgeous sea of yellow this crop provides. 

Even those of us who grow it, are taken in by the allure of those bright and beautiful blossoms and have been know to take a picture, or two, perhaps more… I’ll admit I may have gotten carried away this year, but the opportunity was irresistible and right out my backdoor. 

We are proud to be one of the over 43,000 Canadian farmers producing this heart-healthy, versatile, edible oil. These are a few of my favourite shots taken on our farm from June 22nd to July 18th. I hope you enjoy my 2016 canola pictorial diary.  

*Click on the pictures for additional description and information.  

Three-Grain, Berry-Amazing Muffins

When strawberry and saskatoon season collide, your favourite muffins get a make-over! 

Three-Grain, Berry-Amazing Muffins

Muffins & Berries

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup barley flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup yogurt, plain
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, diced
  • 1/2 cup Saskatoon berries 
  • 1 tbsp flour

Directions:

  1.   Pre-heat oven to 375°F (190ºC)
  2.   Lightly grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin with large paper liners.
  3.   Thoroughly mix oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and                      cinnamon in a large bowl.
  4.   In separate bowl, whisk together egg, yogurt, brown sugar, canola oil and     lemon rind.
  5.   In small bowl, coat berries evenly with flour.
  6.   Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stir just to combine. Gently  fold in berries.
  7.   Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, scoop the mixture evenly into    the muffin liners.
  8.   Sprinkle tops with oat or barley flakes.
  9.   Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until toothpick or cake tester inserted into the     center of a muffin comes out clean. Muffins should be golden brown.
  10.   Set tins on cooling rack for 5 min. before removing muffins to cool        completely. Although, you may want to sample one while slightly warm…

Notes:

I love barley flour and have been substituting it for half of my all-purpose flour in all my baking since learning of its heart-healthy benefits.

Baking should be fun – don’t be afraid to get creative and use what you have on hand. Can’t find barley flour in your supermarket and have no whole wheat flour, just use all-purpose flour in its place. No plain yogurt?  Any berry flavour, lemon or vanilla works great too.  Orange rind can easily lemon rind.  The one cup of berries can be any combination of fresh or frozen you like – try raspberries or blueberries. Play with the flavours and create your own favourite version!

Storage:

Can be stored in a covered container for 2 to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. If the kids are home or company drops by, you likely won’t have to worry about that though…

Learn. Create. Eat. ~ Spicing it up with Chef Raghavan Iyer

When the Canola Eat Well team asks you to volunteer for an event, there is only one answer, “Absolutely!” You are guaranteed to learn along with the participants and will always leave feeling inspired.

2016-06-09 15.57.08On June 9th I had the opportunity to assist at an extraordinary workshop held at Kelburn Farm, just south of Winnipeg. The Manitoba Canola Growers hosted over 100 guests in conjunction with the Dieticians of Canada conference.

One of the my favourite highlights involved food, which for those of you who know me is no surprise! My taste buds were taken on a tour of India with a divine meal prepared by the award-winning Chef MJ Feeke and her incredible team. It was inspired from Chef Raghavan Iyer’s cookbook, “Indian Cooking Unfolded.”

2016-06-09 19.07.03Indian Slaw, Truck Stop Beans, Sweet Scented Pilaf, Cardamom Fennel with Firm White Fish along with Corn Bread & Mustard Greens were plated beautifully and served ‘family style’ at our tables. Every single bite was delectable.  No one passed on second helpings when the bowls of food made another round.

Indian cooking is not in my repertoire, nor did I think it ever would be. But as we ate our meal, Chef Raghavan and Registered Dietician, Patricia Chuey broke it down, banished a few myths and made me believe that I too, could bring this fabulous cuisine to my kitchen table.

Chef Raghavan & Patricia Cheuy, RD - dynamic duo with seamless, informative & hilarious banter.  Courtesy of Canola Eat Well

Chef Raghavan Iyer & Patricia Cheuy, RD – dynamic duo with seamless, informative and entertaining banter. Photo courtesy of Canola Eat Well

As I savoured the delicious meal, I also gathered a few key take-a-way points from Chef Raghavan’s conversation and demonstation with the practical, adorable and comedic Patricia Chuey.

2016-06-09 16.24.101.   “Curry is not a flavour, it is an entity”. In India, curry has nothing to do with spices, it is about sauce but spices form the backbone to the many sauces.

2.   Do not ask if food is ‘spicy’! Ask if it is ‘hot’ – heat is a component of spice.

P11600263.   Chef Raghavan loves canola oil because, “It takes a backseat to the diva of Indian food, which is spices.” It is perfect for cooking as it has no flavour and a high smoke point.

4.   Body language plays an important role in cooking.      Do you want saltiness without too much salt? Don’t get so close to your food! Sprinkle salt from higher above, you will use less and get the desired effect.

5.   Searing is important. When searing fish, give it time.

6.   Cooking spices changes the flavours. To cook them without burning, coat them in a little canola oil first.

Indian Slaw - Shel Zolkewich Photo

Indian Slaw – Shel Zolkewich Photo

7.  Always ask yourself, “Does your recipe ‘sing’?”

8.   Presentation, presentation, presentation! “If it looks like s#*t…” Remember we eat with our eyes too!

9.   If you haven’t tried cooking Indian food before, start with one of Chef Raghavan’s all-time favourites, Turmeric Hash Browns aka “Shredded Wonders.”

10.   Don’t be afraid to unfold the flavours. Experiment. Enjoy. Celebrate.

P1160027It is never too late to learn and learning in the kitchen never gets old! Now with my own copy of Chef Raghavan’s “Indian Cooking Unfolded” it’s time to get started and meld some new and fascinating flavours to spice things up at my farm table!