Cultured Red Cabbage and Apples

Cultured Red Cabbage and Apples

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dehydrating: A Fun and Practical Way To Preserve and Store Food

Dehydrating foods is a fun, economical, and space saving way to store the bounty from your garden. In fact the whole process can be a bit addicting! Once you begin to dehydrate foods and realize the ease of re- hydrating or just plopping them into soups and stews, you will want to try your hand at many different types of food. If you don't have your own garden you can buy organic produce from local farmers.When there are good sales in the grocery store on fresh or frozen produce, many people take advantage of these deals. I bought bags of frozen peas on sale for a dollar a bag. 8 bags of peas turned into 2 jars of peas when dried. I don't have to find room for them in my freezer and if the power goes out, they are safe and sound. It takes a little bit of electricity to dry them but once they are dried you are able to store them for free.

The jar on the left in the photo above holds  orangy yellow heirloom tomatoes that dried a pretty deeper shade of orange. Dried food , if it is going to be stored longer term, should be kept in a dark dry place. However, if you plan on using them within the year, they look beautiful stored on countertops and hutches....but out of direct light. The jar in the middle contains eggplant on the bottom and dried yellow squash near the top. And of course the jar on the right is filled with dried corn that was once fresh corn on the cob bought from a local farmer.The corn rehydrates well and tastes delicious with butter, salt and pepper! The corn, in particular, will last for years...especially if you pull out the air with either a FoodSaver V2244 Advanced Design Vacuum Sealer, Black  or oxygen absorbers Oxy-Sorb Oxygen Absorbers for Food Storage ....or some people use both. There are special attachments for drawing the air out of jars.  Foods are most often dried in an oven or dehydrator but they can also be dried outside or even in the backseat of a car near the back window. Some people have made solar dryers. This is the dehydrator I like and use.
Nesco-American Harvest FD-1010 1000 Watt Gardenmaster Dehydrator
 Some people prefer the Excalibur food dehydrator...something to do with even distribution of the hot air. However, the Excalibur only has a set number of trays. You cannot add more trays to the machine like you can with this Nesco dehydrator. The Nesco machine holds up to 30 trays. It  has a fan that circulates the heat and it also has a temperature setting which the cheaper dehydrators don't have. The fan is moderately noisy but I just put it in another room where it won't bother anyone. The foods in the jars below...from left to right are Shiitaki mushrooms, peas and string beans. The mushrooms...in the photo.... I bought already dried from Mountain Rose Herbs but I have dried my own that are growing outside on logs. When I dried the mushrooms I did it outside because from what I have read about the mushrooms... they gain phenomenal amounts of Vitamin D by drying in the sun with the caps faced towards the sun.
Here are my carrots and peppers. Some veggies, such as string beans are best blanched first before drying while others such as green peppers can be dried raw.



 It's also fun and practical to grow and dry your own herbs. When you grow and dry your own, it is much more economical, fresher, and you know exactly what kind of soil and fertilizer was used. Herbs are fairly easy to grow and have many health benefits. The photo below shows the sage I was drying this year. Aren't the purple flowers gorgeous against the green?
Some of the health benefits of sage are: sage boosts memory, it has antimicrobial properties including anti-fungal properties, sage helps with digestion and the herb is a powerful antioxidant. It tastes great added to food and makes a soothing tea, either by itself or in combination with other herbs.

Nettles are another superior herb/green for the health. I started a nettle patch ...oh...maybe three years ago now from just two little plants that a friend gave me from her patch. I now have enough to dry and last all winter. Nettles spread so if you plant them, put them in a spot where you can mow around them to keep them controlled. Imagine...a health-food weed! Nettles make a wonderful infusion/green drink that is basically free! The dried nettles can also be added to soups and stews...or even crumbled up fine into dishes like chili. They add great flavor and nourishment! Young nettles can be cooked from fresh nettles also...like spinach. But watch out...before they are dried or cooked they will sting! Wearing long sleeves, pants and gloves is a must when gathering nettles.
 The seeds from Nettles (below) are also a very valuable part of the plant. They are collected at the end of the summer and set aside to dry. You don't need a dehydrator to dry them. Nettle seeds are extremely good for the adrenal glands.


My most exciting project for this year was finally having enough elderberries from our own 3 year old bush to dry enough for making a medicinal tincture and with two jars left over of dried elderberries to add to herbal teas. The first photo shows our three year old bush, the next photo shows the berries and the third photo shows the elderberries soaking in alcohol which becomes our winter flu prevention.




The herb I was drying in the photo below is lemon verbena. I cook it with rice and add it to my herbal teas. It is very easy to grow!
I just thought I would add a photo of dried calendula from my friends herb shop. The natural color is just so pretty and soothing.
I suppose late fall is not really the time of year to talk about drying food....but I started this article at the end of August and got sidetracked . You can still find various foods to dry at the grocery store and now you can start planning for what you might like to do next year! If your freezer is too full, try drying some of your frozen veggies and stick them on a shelf somewhere. I used my dried carrots the other day in a soup and I wouldn't have known the carrots had been dried first!
There are many you tube videos on the subject of dehydrating. Check them out and join the fun!

If you can't wait to begin growing your own food to dehydrate.... Mountain Rose Herbs has all the herbs I have spoken of here and much much more.



Bulk organic herbs, spices and essential oils. Sin

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