Saturday, December 29, 2012

Preserving the Harvest–Dehydration

HPIM8217With summer comes plants full of strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. Trees are filling out with apples, plums and pears. Basket after basket comes full of delicious fruits that soon overwhelm our ability to eat them. Truly a happy time for the gardener, but all too quickly it ends and we suffer with the store purchased fruits through winter and spring. However there is a way to preserve these bountiful times and that is removing the moisture from the food. Bacteria and molds need moisture to reproduce so by removing that moisture they stay as clean as the day you dehydrated them.

In the days of my wife’s grandmother she would take a window screen, layout all the fruit in slices and place the screen on the roof of the house during the summer. Though that worked in the hotter and drier climates of the central United States, here in the northwest we rarely get the bountiful crops and the dry, hot days at the same time. So we have a food dehydrator that allows us to do the drying inside while the liquid moisture stays outside the house.

When you are dehydrating you really do not want a slice more than an 1/8th of an inch because of the time it would take to get the food completely dry. For example drying 1/8th of an inch slices of apples will take me 6-10 hours before they are just right. What we do is as we are preparing dinner we peel and core the apples so that after dinner we can slice them and place them in the dehydrator for the night and in the morning bag the slices for consumption later (or just then in our case).

Another benefit of the dehydrator is preserving your spices. Chives are used weekly for our Sunday family dinner of baked potatoes. During the winter though, the chives have either gone dormant or the growth is stunted as to not get more then a stalk or two, all the extra chives that we need come from those that have been dehydrated. When you are dehydrating spices make sure that you try to keep them as whole as possible. Oxidation from the air will remove the potency of the spice over time, so keep them whole in a sealed bag until you need them.

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