Remember last year I had a lovely young woman live with us during the summer? Annie helped me out immensely and we have missed her since she has moved. She and her long time boyfriend (my daughter, Emily’s fiance’s brother) are expecting their second little one in a few months, a baby girl named Alice. They are moving to California after Emily and Reed’s wedding. She came to visit me yesterday, which was such a treat. We talked about how easy the gardening will be there and how nice for them to be near her family. We recalled how she moved in a week from now a year ago and how she had just missed the mulberries. We grabbed quart jars to head out and harvest but the weather had another idea, as the clouds opened and poured down heavy, nourishing rain. We came inside and started the cheese instead. I will be out there right after I finish this post getting those delicious mulberries! Today I am making juice to can.
One of the main things to remember about being a homesteader is that you have to act quickly. You have to be ready to drop everything and harvest all those berries, or eat all the lettuce before it bolts, or get a windfall preserved before it all goes bad. There are many ways to preserve produce, including canning, freezing, and dehydrating.
I highly recommend you get an Excalibur dehydrator. They are top of the line, work forever, consistent work horses on the farm. When we lost everything four years ago, I sold mine for $50. Oy, the lament! I must get a new one soon.
I have tried air drying. Old fashioned, effective. The ants love it when I air dry produce. I placed peach halves dipped in lemon juice and water (so they don’t brown) onto screens laid across an indoor clothes drying rack and placed it outside. The ants just scampered themselves right up the legs. I sprinkled cinnamon on the apples after dipping them in the lemon juice/water mixture. Ants love cinnamon.
Last year I lined cookie sheets with tomato halves and put them in the oven at the lowest setting. They turned real crispy but not all the way dehydrated. I put them all in olive oil in the fridge for sun dried tomatoes, but they are not the same consistency as when I used a proper dehydrator.
There are plenty of trays in a dehydrator and an amazing motor in the Excalibur. It allows you to choose the temperature you desire. In one of our old homesteads, I didn’t have a lot of counter space so the dehydrator sat out on the front porch humming for weeks at a time churning out tomatoes, apples, peaches, dried onions, and anything else I could think of!
You can dehydrate any vegetable and simply throw by the handful into soups or grind into seasonings. Tomatoes and mushrooms can be rehydrated in a cup of hot water. Dehydrated foods take up less space and are convenient. My husband loves dried fruit. I can never get it to the consistency of the store (because they use a preservatives) so mine are more chewy and act more like bubble gum. Delicious to chew on until you can swallow it. You can leave fruits still moist, just pop in the refrigerator or freezer. Any moisture will make them mold. You an also make jerky.
Variety is the key to a successful homestead. Lots of different fruits and vegetables and different ways to preserve them keep winter suppers interesting, delicious, and oh so nutritious! While you are canning, blanching and freezing, and harvesting, the dehydrator just hums in the background doing its part on the homestead.