Tuesday, April 29, 2014

CHEF TALK What Food Should I Can / Retort at Home


I received, to my pleasant surprise, good positive response from ‘cold country’ people I know in the UK and Holland on my articles about retort in pouches. They apparently liked the idea to retort food products in pouches. Especially the idea of buying items you can find cheap or cheaper, if you like, at the peak of the harvest season and retort those at home.
During the winter season, when you have to dig yourself out of the snow on the driveway practically every day, craving for something not available in the market reaches its peak as well.  I know that feeling. I come from a cold country myself. 
Spring finally arrives. The gloves and duffel jackets retire for a couple of months and the first new produce pops-up. The first straw and what not berries, peaches, rhubarb, WOW, what a feast. What’s for lunch, strawberry sandwich with sugar? My mouth still waters by the thought alone. 
Expensive at first, of course, but after a few weeks when the market overflows and the prices go down is the time to get going and prepare for retort whatever food you love and can lay your hands on.   
Canning is actually quite old. In 1897 a Dr John T Dorrance invented a concentrated soup and got it manufactured in a can. For Americans it was love at first sight. For Dr John also, he never looked back and the Campbell Soup Company was born.
To apply the retort process small scale at home was for long not so easy. The introduction of retort pouches has made the process well possible for many among us.
The retort pouch was invented by and for the army by the United States Army Natick R&D command. They received a patent for the product in 1978. It is obviously much more convenient for soldiers to handle and transport a pouch than a can. Soldiers never forget their weapon but I am not too sure about can openers.

Retort at home in pouches is much easier to handle than cans or bottles. I would say that cans are out of the question, bottles need sterilization and the danger of infested caps is always present. 
Are retort pouches therefore a good choice? Yes they are, easy to handle, easy to store, absolutely food safe and the retort time is significantly shorter than for cans or bottles. Oh, you need some stickers and a non –erasable pen, put that on your next shopping list.        
So what should we pouch retort. Here are some ideas:

1) All types of Berries, peaches, pineapple, figs, kiwis and prunes 
Pasta Sauces:                                                                                                                                 
2) You can make basic pasta sauce with only tomatoes but also complete sauces filled with vegetables and meat if you like. What about sauce with zucchinis, aubergines (eggplant), mushrooms. 
Ready meals:                                                                                                                            
3) Meals with beans are great. Chili’s, chickpeas with bell peppers and mushrooms, meat balls in pasta sauce with aubergine.
Dessert toppings/sauces:                                                                                                             
4) Use all fruits you have and spice them up with (star anise, cinnamon, lemon juice)
5) broccoli, asparagus, mushroom, pumpkin, tomato, spinach 
Sandwich spreads:                                                                                                                              
6) Fish is a great idea for sandwich spreads, sardines and tuna are common so try other types of fish that are seasonal in your area. 
Individual fruits and vegetables:                                                                                    
7) tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, aubergines (eggplant), zucchinis.   
     Before you start some warning should be given!!!
1) Read the manual of the pressure cooker carefully. Information given may vary according to the brand of cooker.
2) Never vacuum HOT produce in a vacuum pouch.
3) Ensure your work station, utensils and other materials are very clean (sterilized) before use.
4) Pouch retort works great for almost all you can think of. Be innovative and surprise the family.

Written by 
Professional Chef Marinus Hoogendoorn


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