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I am transferring all food tech related articles from foodrecap.net here. Please help me spot and correct any weird stuff that may occur.

Reworking Fruit Jam to Fruit Leather

Reducing juice volume without use of any sophisticated equipment is a daunting task. Boiling and stirring it for several hours. Ensuring the sides and bottom are regularly scraped to prevent burning. Stirring is getting harder on muscles as the pulp and sugar concentration rises. The heat against skin makes you wanna leave it and take a long rest. Even harder for heavy concentrates, jellies, jams and fruit leathers.

When someone asked me to specifically use her homemade fruit jam as inclusion for chocolate bars. I asked her to remove more moisture, cook it longer than usual and make the texture similar to fruit leather. Chocolate hating moisture is a known fact. It must not interfere with the process.

The product arrived in its usual texture. Spreadable jam. I was screwed. I could still use it though as bonbon fillings. Something that explodes after biting its crunchy shell. However, the request was not bonbon. It was chocolate bar with visible dried fruit specs on back. I cannot just place it on bar while molding. It will flow out surely once the bar is placed sideward or up-side-down. You know when it comes to chocolate bars, putting “this side up” sign is ridiculous. Who will follow the ridiculous sign by the way? It will simply not work.

fruit jam spread

It need rework. If cooking it from scratch in a pan is tedious. I bet it is even more for rework. Imagine the hard work of mixing and taking care not to get it burnt.

What I did? I spread it thinly in a pan and heated in oven for almost three hours. The purpose was to remove moisture but prevent it from getting burnt. Spreading it thinly exposed wide surface area which aided drying without stirring. It would have been faster if I have forced convection oven and able to spread it even thinner.

Last thing, I suggest putting it on baking paper for easy removal.

No Tear Here

In a world where almost everything is fast and convenient, seeing a hard to open convenience food is rare. One of the rare find. This pack has no part where it can be opened easily, like a small V-cut and short direction or an easy to pull seal. Okay, it was not hard. I can simply grab a knife, cutter or scissors and cut it open. Perhaps a ballpen or pencil. A simple strike and pull will do it. Grab one end in between teeth pull. A kid will probably do it but a grown-up won’t. Sharing snacks after incidentally dabbing it with saliva is fun for kids but unethical for adults. It has “ew” factor.

mini eggnogg

The manufacturer need to consider. The things I said above won’t be done by adults. Having to reach for a knife or scissors just to open a pack of snack is not convenient. He is likely to buy competitors brand next time. He might threw it away or make a return. It happened to us first hand. We accidentally sealed a pack of cocoa powder below the zip lock and v-cut. A customer returned it because he found it hard to open and re-seal afterwards. This matter should be taken seriously because only a small fraction of customers have the guts to complain and make a return. Most of them just don’t buy again.

Convenience plays an important role on how customers buy. Instead of buying mature coconut. She is getting the grated and pressed coco from the supermarket vendor. Even if she has her own coconut plantation, she will choose buying it from marketplace because of convenience. She don’t have to waste time, muscle effort and energy just to get the coconut milk for cooking ginatan. Few businessman go to extent of preserving them in cans. Though I still prefer the newly grated and pressed from my favorite vendor. It is not as clean but not loaded with hard to read additives.

Instant noodles are not healthy but have many patrons. Just boil for 3 minutes and it is ready. Ready carbohydrates before going to work, before sleep or warmer during cold ber months. It was even made popular by cup noodles. It is on the go, anytime, anywhere.

Potato chips in cardboard tube are expensive but still a popular buy. Its rigid packaging design and unique chip stacking fashion help protect it from damage due to external forces. It resist drop, rough handling and crude bag packing. Anyone wouldn’t want their crispy potato broken before it touches their tongue. If there is anything left, it can be recapped for later.

I prefer the more expensive canned tuna brands. Not because they are more delectable. I want them because of the easy open lid. Not sure how many times I got a wounded hands because of opened can sharp edges. Some can openers are able to do clean cut but they just don’t last long. With easy open lid, simple pull and it is ready to go. Even my kids can do it unsupervised.

Drum Roaster Insulation

Due to numerous unexpected expenses, the budget intended for drum roaster build was reduced to almost penny. Needed to start the project on target date with such small funds. It must be broken down to several small sections. Do one at a time as the budget and incidental materials come. Incidental refers to materials scouted from junk shops, friends donations and scraps from broken equipment.

I placed my bet on the drum first. Besides, this is always to first step found in every roaster build demos and tutorials. We sub-contracted the drum, center shaft and front plate. We don’t have yet the equipment to roll bend thick metal plate and weld the middle shaft in almost perfect center. We build the skeleton housing ourselves and borrowed a 3-phase geared motor plus VFD from a generous friend. The drum rotated as intended and seems to mix the beans well after few trials and modifications. Did a first roast with a poorly made housing – thin galvanized iron sheet. It went well.

drum roaster prototype

Time to get a little serious.

I observed so much heat loss on the sides. Not surprising cause we used galvanized iron sheet. The roast process could have used half the energy with the same output.

Perhaps the best insulation popped out of my mind is the clay brick. I already saw several ovens made of bricks. They looks nice and energy efficient. Locally made pizza oven are lined with bricks. They are not so popular I guess. Heavy and fragile blocks require extra cost and care during transport. I may want to ship the frame and bricks separately. Or, rather build all from scratch in point of installation. Then again, change of position will be tedious.

The next in line is asbestos. They are highly toxic however. It may require me more money for safety measures, hazard pay and hospitalization in the end. Let say we installed successfully with great caution. Roasting my commodity immediately next to unsafe thing makes me feel guilty.

Fiberglass is another a good choice but also has safety issues. Just imagine minute glass pieces suspended in air. It may not hurt skin but what if inhaled? An inert and dangerous foreign matter inside the system.

Then I accidentally saw the ceramic fibers. A guy was installing it in his newly made laboratory oven. Ohh! It maybe my best bet for now if not for its high cost and life span of only two years. It become brittle after the period. Easily broken with slight forces. Meaning, it should be securely installed in-between walls. Preventing it from getting into foods once degradation begins.

I think I should take it slow. Like what i usually do. Use roaster and made modifications as excess budget appears.

Soaking Coffee Beans in Honey?

Honeyed Robusta? Interesting!

When it comes to commercial coffee production, Robusta is the king. I guess it is attributed to its huge fruiting capacity, ease of cultivation, pesticide resistance and wider choice of growing lands. Excelsa and Liberica have low fruiting capacity while Arabica is picky on its growing altitude. Arabica is well raised in mountain areas and is the choice of specialty coffee makers.

Coffee can be sweetened during cup preparation. As in adding sugar to boiling concoction or individual cup by drinkers preference. Instant coffee in sachets and bigger packs are often added with sweetener, milk and other flavorings before packing. Kind of fast and convenient but strips away most of the inherent flavor. Whatever, there must be fewer people who are very particular with the taste. Instant coffee is a boom business.

I saw the post on Coffee Roaster Forum, with short provided description. Based on my understanding, it was whole unmilled Robusta soaked in honey. Robusta usually undergo dry processing – harvesting then immediate sun drying. Soaking maybe done before drying or after, then re-drying. The latter is more labor intensive but may allow better absorption. Removing the husk first will surely save on precious sweet liquid.

So why add flavor before the coffee is sent to roasting chamber? The roasting temperature for sure will degrade and evaporate those. A method with more sense is spraying flavor right after roasting. When the freshly roasted coffee is in cooling stage. If vanilla flavor is sprayed, there is a good chance it will be carried over to cup. However, if coffee beans was soaked in vanilla solution, dried, then roasted. Do not expect a vanilla flavored coffee after. For light roasted coffee, maybe. I might do some testing once our own built drum roaster is in operation.

I also heard this trick with cacao beans. Adding fruit flavors such as calamansi and mango during fermentation process. In artisinal setting where makers roast their bean light. Flavors added during fermentation may survived roast. Even more chance for raw chocolate makers, beans never undergo roasting. Ohh! I remember. There is a thing called “green coffee”. I mean literally selling the ground green coffee. In this case, any infused flavor is surely retained to great extent.

Honey flavor may not be the real intention. Roasting is a complex process. One of this is sugar caramelization. Reinforcing the sugar content by soaking in honey may improve the end flavor a lot.

Maja Kalabasa

Maja kalabasa. Cool!

maja kalabasa

Maja Blanca has many fans. Kalabasa has too but it is nothing compared to first. Who wants kalabasa for meryenda? Most children reject it even if cooked as veggie. I hated it too before. However, if we transform it to other food items such maja, pastillas and candy. Why not? It maybe squash but it is still a maja. A semi sweet food love by many.

This particular, is good. Maybe better with less squash. The basis for making maja is cornstarch. Roughly ground corn also do well. In fact I like it better because the natural corn taste is still there. I think the one made with natural corn is “duldol”. It has yellow complexion like this and slanted rectangle in shape. Still popular in public market settings.

I experimented with maja making before. About ideal amount of cornstarch. Lesser amount resulted in saggy texture while more had firmer and better appearance and feel. If anyone modified an original tested maja recipe by adding kalabasa. The additional ingredient will dilute the cornstarch network. Extra starch maybe necessary. It cannot be provided by squash. Add cornstarch or lessen the kalabasa. Sounds simple but it may take several trials to achieve the ideal blend.