Good morning, everyone!
As promised I am going to spend the rest of the week talking about using dried foods, and showing you how versatile and time/space saving they are in the world of preserving.
Â Â I know we just did a series on canning meat, and many of you are wondering why we went into talking about this form of preserving right away. Frankly, for a couple of reasons.
I was asked about it.
I definitely have my favorites on what I really like to can, and what I like to dehydrate.
I use both equally in my preserving repertoire as we are putting food away
Â for the cold winter months.
I have learned that dehydrating is fast, easy, and actually can be quite fun.Â
Â Â It all started one hot and muggy summer day when I walked into the kitchen to find a cloud of fruit flies hovering over a large bucket of beautiful apples that had been graciously given to us. In a single night they had managed to seriously destroy some of the fruit, and even though I made applesauce, and apple butter, etc all day long (actually even canned apple chunks in desperation), I will never forget staring at the last 1/4 of that bucket and being so mad that I did not get it done in all my human power before the bugs got to it first. Talk about one against a million odds.
Â Â It really stuck with me all through that canning season, and then, one day, while at a garage sale, I came upon a simple, round dehydrator, brand new and in the box, that the guy was selling for $5. Immediately that bucket of apples came to mind, I snatched it up, and determined from here on out NOTHING was going to steal our hard-earned harvest if I had anything I could do about it.
Fast forward to now.
Â Â Many years, and three dehydrators later (I burned out that little white dehydrator in about six months because I used it so much), Â I have decided it is a process well worth writing about and sharing with you.
Â Â I own a 9 tray, regulated Excalibur dehydrator that runs about Â weeks straight at the peak of harvest season, with only a short break for the trays of food to cool down (about an hour or so), then get repacked and turned back on. Thanks to this amazing workhorse, I have most likely saved thousands of dollars worth of produce from my garden, provided healthy and addictive snacks for my kids that would have cost much more than the store, raised countless loaves of bread, fermented kefir and yogurt, and frankly, it has become as dear to me as my pressure canner.
I really believe that with those two appliances, you can put up almost anything.
But I most certainly love them both for completely different reasons.
Â Â Example: I love my dehydrator because it is like adding another person to the room, working beside you as you are working on something different. Due to the built in timer, and temperature regulator, I can fill it up, turn it on, and walk away, and it will do exactly what I want it to do at any time. I have not had a single problem, or even concern with my dehydrator since the day I got it, and I would do it all over again if I were given the same opportunity.
Â Â My pressure canner saves me time and money by putting up things I would otherwise be paying someone else to process for me, and helps me take advantage of sales.
Do you see the difference?
And yet, they overlap as well.
They save me money, and time.
I can take a 25 lb bag of carrots, slice and dice them after washing, load them on trays in the dehydrator, and when all is said and done, they will fit in two half gallon glass jars on my shelf.
They will not go bad if kept out of the sun and moist air.
When thrown into a soup or properly rehydrated, they taste exactly the same as the day I placed them on the trays to dry.
Compare that to 25 lbs of carrots that I just canned up in my pressure canner.
That process will fill up around 14 Quart jars, which will then get moved into my pantry and wait for me to use them.
14 Quart jarsÂ Â Â vs Â Â 2 – 1/2 gallon jars.
One is great for convenience and a quick meal.
One is great for space saving and anything that uses a long, slow cooking time, like soup or casseroles.
So they both work in the Welcoming House Kitchen.
I like to dry things separately and keep them in glass jars, stored so I can use a handful of this and a pinch of that when I am cooking. Here is a list of the items that I have, literally, on hand right now in my cupboard, that are dried and waiting to be used.
strawberries, apples, peaches, pears, blackberries,
cherries, craisins, mulberries, blueberries, rhubarb
corn, zucchini, peas and carrots, mixed veggies, green beans, sweet peppers,
Â squash, celery, carrots, hot peppers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, potatoes,
Â hashed potatoes, potato flakes, beans
(this could take WAYYY too long to go into, so lets just say I have about 60 different kinds, some well known, and some not. All have been grown, handled, and dried by me.)
chicken, hamburger, venison burger, jerky
bread crumbs, cornbread crumbs, cookie crumbs (for crusts or for ice cream)
Think I am nuts yet?
I can make anything,
at any time,
using what I have in my cupboards and pantry.
- If I could choose one thing that I love to have on hand ALL the time that is dehydrated, it would be the hashbrowns or the apple slices, for their convenience.
- If there is anything I have dried that I will never dry again because I feel it has quality control issues I just cant seem to over come (in other words, it never seems to rehydrate properly), it would be the chicken. Just cant seem to swing rehydrated chicken the right way.
I have dehydrated full meals, leftovers, and had great success, thanks to a friend who did it first, ate it, shared it with me via FB, and then cheered me when I jumped off the cliff.
Those meals would be spaghetti with hamburger meat sauce,
and beef stew.
And they rehydrated exactly the way they were when we started the whole process…and were almost more delicious since the dehydrating had intensified the taste of some of the products.
Â Â SO—now that I have sold you on it, I am going to give you three full days worth of meals, and instructions on how to dry everything, then combine it to make meals that are ready to eat—just follow the instructions, and place the completed bags in a place that you can easily access them, but pests cant, and start enjoying meals that take up less space, less time, and only require some sort of liquid to rehydrate in.
See you tomorrow as we start this fun journey of “Meals in a Bag” together. 🙂
By the end of the week you will have 15 new amazing recipes to start adding to your pantry–from simple side-dishes to full dinners, fabulous desserts to stick-to-your-ribs breakfasts.
Have a wonderful day!
Many Blessings to you and yours,
Meals in A Bag—Day Three—dried meat and proteins
Meals in a bag–Day Four–Pullling it all together with recipes!