Showing posts sorted by relevance for query dehydrating. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query dehydrating. Sort by date Show all posts

May 23, 2017

Does Dehydrated Food Lose Its Nutritional Value?

dehydrated fruit, dehydrated vegetables, dried fruit
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Years ago, when my children were toddlers and I first dipped my toe into the world of home dehydrating, I remember a friend saying, "But why? Food loses all it's nutritional value once you dehydrate it!" In years since, I've heard similar thoughts from friends and readers - but the question is, are they right?

First, let me be clear that today I'm only addressing home dehydrated food. Store bought dehydrated food usually has sugar and preservatives added - which is definitely not something I want for my family. Home dehydrated food, however, has no preservatives and no added sugar (unless you chose to add it). In addition, I'm discussing food that's dried either by the sun or by a conventional electric food dehydrator, not food that's preserved in a home freeze drier, which is something else entirely.

Does Dehydrating Remove Fiber Content? What About Sugar?

A common belief is that dehydrated fruit and vegetables do not contain fiber. This is untrue. The fiber does not dry up and float away - in fact, compared to fresh fruit, there's more fiber in proportion to weight. This is why dried fruit is often used as a remedy for constipation; there's simply more fiber per bite than fresh food can offer.

I also think it's important to note that the carbohydrates or sugar in food do not diminish when that food is dehydrated. Just like fiber, sugar stays put - which means dehydrated food has a higher sugar content than the same food in fresh form.

Plums prepared for dehydrating.
Does Dehydrating Remove Minerals?

Some sources claim dehydrated food loses no minerals, while others claim food "generally retains its mineral content well during the drying process." However, if you blanch food before dehydrating - a practice sometimes used to help retain the food's color and vitamin content - it will lose more minerals than if you don't. Still, the mineral loss is scant.

Does Dehydrating Remove Vitamins?

The quick answer is: To a certain extent. The amount, and which vitamins, depends upon the methods used to dry the food.

According to Harvest Right, the makers of a home freeze drying (not dehydrating) machine, canned food retains 40% of its nutritional value, while dehydrated food retains 60% of its nutrients. (Home freeze dried food, they claim, retains 97% of its nutrients.)

This jibes with what I've read elsewhere; a nutritionist in The New York Times states that a cup of fresh, halved apricots "is 86 percent water, with 74 calories, and a cup of dried fruit is 76 percent water, with 212 calories. Fresh apricots have 3.1 grams of fiber versus 6.5 for dried; 0.6 milligrams of iron versus 2.35 milligrams; 15.5 milligrams of vitamin C versus 0.8 milligrams; and 149 retinol activity equivalents of vitamin A versus 160."

According to the University of Missouri Extension Office website, Vitamins A and C are most likely to see a reduction through dehydrating because they "are destroyed by heat and air." In fact, if you cut a piece of fruit, it will begin losing those nutrients right away, just from air exposure. In addition, heat - including heat used in cooking or dehydrating - reduces the amount of vitamin C in any given food.

What About Enzymes?
Dehydrated tomato paste (made from tomato skins).

Whenever you heat food, some enzymes are lost. However, the low temperatures used in home dehydration are less likely to kill enzymes than cooking that same food.

How to Prevent Vitamin Loss in Home Dehydrated Food

The single best way to preserve as much of the nutrients in home dehydrated food is simply to dry it at the right temperature. This is one area where an electric food dehydrator trumps using the oven or a solar dehydrator to dry food: Controlling temperature and keeping it low equals more nutrients in the finished food. This easy guideline ensures that almost all the food's original nutrients remain in place. So it pays to follow the standard heat recommendations for home dehydrating:

Herbs - 95 degrees F.
Nuts and seeds - 105 degrees F.
Fruit and vegetables - 135 degrees F.
Pasta - 135 degrees F.
Meat - 160 degrees F.

Dehydrating jerky.
Other things that can help retain nutrients in home dried food include:

* Pre-treating by dipping vegetables and fruit in lemon juice or citric acid. This not only helps prevent browning, but it helps preserve vitamin A and C in the food. Unfortunately, this treatment can also reduce thiamine in dried food.

* Blanching vegetables before dehydrating helps preserve their carotene...but it also lowers a food's vitamin C content and may cause a small amount of mineral loss. Steam blanching is less likely to reduce nutrients in food than blanching in boiling water.

* Not letting the food sit in direct sunlight. This is why dehydrated food should be stored in a dark location - and also why solar dehydrators should have a shading cover (like this one).

* Slicing food evenly, to ensure you don't over-heat and over-dry smaller pieces. Using a mandoline to slice makes this much easier. (This is mandoline I use.)

* Rotating dehydrator trays to prevent over-heating and over-drying of some portions.

* Planning ahead. If a food is likely to only take a couple of hours to dry, for example, don't put it in the dehydrator at bedtime, or by morning it will be over-dried.

Related Posts:

* Making Dried Apples in an Oven
* Drying Tomato Skins to Make Easy Tomato Paste
* Why I Love My Dehydrator
* How to Make Jerky in a Dehydrator

Jun 4, 2012

Dehydrating Citrus Peels (Even Without a Dehydrator)

Dehydrating citrus peels - even without a food dehydrator
If you're like me and hate wasting food, then you also enjoy finding new ways to use up the "throw away" parts of it. That's why I've been dehydrating citrus peels to use in place of fresh citrus zest in baking.

Now, I wouldn't do this if I wasn't absolutely certain the citrus was organic. There's no point in saving the peels of lemons, oranges, and other citrus if they are laden with chemicals. And dehydrating citrus peels does take a little prep time. But I think the results are worth it. Citrus zest adds a great deal of flavor to baked goods, syrups, and French toast - and by dehydrating left over peels you'll save time and money later.

Start by saving citrus peels. I spent a week using up a plastic grocery bag of lemons a friend gave me; mostly, I juiced them. As I juiced them, I placed the peels (including the left over "meaty" parts of the lemons) in a Ziplock bag and put them in the fridge. But don't feel you have to save up bagfuls of the peels. If you only have the peels from one or two citrus fruits, it's still worth dehydrating them. In my electric dryer, the drying process took just 2 hours. 

Also, while this method works for all types of citrus, I've found it next to impossible to remove the bitter white pith from thin-skinned citrus like mandarin oranges.

Now, here's how to do it - with or without a dehydrator:

1. Cut the lemons into quarters - or slightly smaller pieces, if that makes them easier to handle.

2. Remove as much of the bitter pith (the white part found between the peel and the "meat") as possible. I found the easiest way to do this was to lay a piece flat on a cutting board, peel side down. Then I shaved away thin layers of the pith using a serrated steak knife.
Remove as much of the bitter white pitch as possible.
 When you're done, the peel should look something like this:
 3. Cut any large peels into smaller pieces; you want them to be about the same size so they dry evenly and as quickly as possible.

4. Lay the pieces in a dehydrator tray and dry at 135 degrees F. until completely dry. If you don't have a food dehydrator, lay the peels on a wire cooling rack placed inside a baking sheet. Place in the warming drawer of an oven, or in the oven at it's lowest possible temperature, until the peels are completely dry, curling, and chip-like. (To test for dryness, pinch a piece between your fingernails. You shouldn't feel any moisture.)
Dried citrus peel are chip like.
 5. Use a coffee grinder to turn the peels into a powder. Store the powder in a canning jar with a metal lid and ring. (Plastic is okay, too, but because it expands and contracts, the powder will be exposed to more air and won't last as long.) Store in a cool, dark location. The powder will stay good for at least a year.

Use the powdered zest just like you would fresh zest. There is no need to adjust amounts. The flavor is slightly different - less acidic and more mellow and robust. Enjoy!

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Jul 4, 2012

Why & How to Choose a Food Dehydrator

My Nesco American Harvest dehydrator, with the jerky maker option.
In recent months, I've dehydrated some of my overflow of backyard chicken eggs, organic citrus peel (to use in place of fresh zest in baking), onions, various tea and medicinal herbs - and of course, the standbys in our house: apple rings, banana chips, and cooking herbs. Why do I bother?

Homemade dried foods are not only cheaper than buying store bought dehydrated food, but they are often healthier, too, since many store bought dehydrated foods have added chemicals and sugar. A dehydrator also allows you to make your own tea (from rose leaves or dandelion flowers, for example, or from many other common leaves and flowers), your own herbal medicine, and preserve any abundance of food you might have. For example, even though I both freeze and can foods, sometimes I don't want to fill up the freezer, or I've run out of canning jars or pantry space. So I dehydrate instead. You can even make your own backpacking and camping food, rather than buying store bought jerky or dehydrated meal packs.

I'm Not Sure I'll Really Use a Dehydrator...

Apple rings drying in an oven's warming drawer.
If you're not sure your family will eat dehydrated food, you can try dehydrating a few things in the warming drawer of an oven - or in the oven itself. Often, the product won't be of as high a quality because an oven's temperature is usually higher than a dehydrator's, causing a higher loss of nutrients. Still, it's a cheap test. For best results, use proper dehydrating temperatures:

Herbs = 95 degrees F.
Nuts & Seeds = 105 degrees F.
Fruits & Vegetables = 135 degrees F.
Meats & Fish = 160 degrees F.

Most ovens don't go below 170 degrees F., so you'll have to use a higher temperature for herbs, seeds, and nuts.

To make the foods a bit easier to handle in your experiment, place a wire cooling rack on a baking sheet and place the food on top of the rack. If the food is small (say, flowers or certain herbs), lay a sheet of parchment paper over the wire rack first.

What to Look for in a Dehydrator

An Excalibur dehydrator.
Ready to purchase a food dehydrator? Don't let anyone tell you you'll need to spend hundreds of dollars. I love my Nesco American Harvest, which I sells for about $65. I bought extra trays (I now have a total of eight - about the maximum I recommend; I've never needed more, either) and the fruit roll sheets (which I use for drying herbs and eggs). I use it a ton and it works great. But really any dehydrator will do, as long as it has these essential features:

* It must have a fan. The placement isn't as vital as some like to suggest, but if the fan is on the top or bottom, you might need to rotate the trays during the dehydrating process if you're using a lot of trays. And those famous, expensive dehydrators with fans in the back? According to the manufacturer, you're supposed to rotate those trays, too.

* It must have a way to control the temperature, making it go as low as 95 degrees F. and as high as 160 degrees F.

* It should have good reviews. These days, any decent dehydrator should be available on Amazon or similar sites. It pays to actually read the reviews - not just look at the star ratings; sometimes something that really bothers one person is no big deal to another.

* It should have the ability to expand. One area where the less expensive dehydrators excel is in the ability to expand how many trays you use - something most expensive dehydrators just don't allow. That said, it's foolish to add too many trays, since this will result in uneven drying. (As noted earlier, I think about 8 trays is all I'd use in a consumer model dehydrator.)

You may also want to learn how noisy the dehydrator is. There are times I have mine running non-stop; if it was noisy (which it isn't), this would drive everyone in the house batty.

Clearly, efficiency is another important factor. You'll want to use the least amount of electricity possible, so your home dehydrated food remains frugal. Unfortunately, this is a tough thing to know before you buy. There is a certain expensive food dehydrator (okay, let's jut call it by name: Excalibur) that many people believe is more efficient than cheaper models. The question is: Is it really more efficient? And if it is, by how much? I can't really answer these questions for you, never having had the dough to spend on an expensive dehydrator, but I would point you to a post over at  Kitchen Stewardship, in which the author uses an expensive Excalibur side by side with an affordable Nesco.

UPDATE 7/9/12: My mother in law has an Excalibur dehydrator and the magnets on the door stopped working; thinking an expensive appliance like this one would be backed up with parts for repair, she called the Excalibur company. When they heard her model number, the representative not-so-nicely balked, "That's 30 years old! We don't carry parts for anything so old." Apparently, higher cost does not mean repairable - or that customer service will be good.

Happy dehydrating!

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May 21, 2012

Eating Onion Flower Buds & Overgrown Scallions - & a Lentil Soup Recipe

These "overgrown scallions" have a distinctly different flavor.
Every spring, I discover the distinctive green shoots of onions coming up in the onion patch. They aren't supposed to be there. Perhaps some onions got choked out never grew shoots the previous year. Or perhaps I accidentally left a portion of the onion in the soil when I harvested them in the early fall. No matter. I've discovered if I leave those "hold over" onions in the ground, they become what I call "overgrown scallions:" Bigger than a scallion, but definitely not a full grown onion, these tasty veggies remind me of ordinary scallions or leeks. And their flavor has become my "secret ingredient" in many dishes, including lentil soup, which I share below.

Most people probably either pull out such "hold over" onions or leave them to grow full size. But in my experience, they never grow very big and are constantly growing flower buds. Onion flower bulbs should be cut off to redirect the plant's growth toward the onion bulb; you can remove the bulb and eat it (they taste onion-y), but if you remove the whole, young plant, I think you'll be pleased with your "overgrown scallions."

When I can, I pick these overgrown scallions just before cooking with them. But this year, I had quite a few, and I wanted to use them up before they got too big. So yesterday, I froze half and dehydrated the other half.

Onion flower buds are edible - and delicious!
Freezing & Dehydrating Onions

Freezing "overgrown scallions," regular scallions (also called green onions; both are merely young, underdeveloped onions), leeks, or onions is easy as can be. Just chop or mince them, toss them into freezer bags, and freeze them. When you want to cook with them, they break apart easily in your hands and don't need defrosting. (If you have trouble breaking them up, just bang the closed bag against a counter.)

Dehydrating onions is just as easy. Chop or mince; place a fruit roll sheet over the regular dehydrator tray (to keep the small pieces from falling through the holes in the tray), and dehydrate at 135 degrees F. until completely dry. I will warn you, however: Your house will smell onion-y during the dehydrating process! Store the dried onions in a glass container with a well-fitting lid in a cool, dry, dark location. In most instances, there's no need to rehydrate them, although you can soak them in water before using them in your cooking, if desired.

As for the onion flower buds - treat them just like you would scallions. Use them fresh and uncooked in salads, or saute, stir fry, or roast them. Or, freeze or dehydrate whole or chopped.

"Secret Ingredient" Lentil Soup

What You Need:
2 teaspoons olive oil or coconut oil
2 - 3 overgrown scallions, chopped (OR Walla Walla onions, leeks, 5 green onions, or 1 onion)
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
coarse salt
freshly ground pepper
29 oz. beef stock (or 14.5 oz. beef stock and 14.5 oz. chicken or vegetable stock)
1/2 cup cooked lentils
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Medium skillet
Large spoon
Chopping knife

How to Do It:
1. In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium high. Add the overgrown scallions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring once in a while, for 3 minutes.

2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes.

3. Add lentils and cook until the soup is slightly thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add vinegar and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 2 main dish servings.

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May 1, 2012

How to Freeze or Dehydrate Eggs

Although backyard-fresh eggs last for months in the refrigerator (and store bought eggs at least one month in the fridge), there are a few reasons you might want to preserve eggs for later use. If you have backyard chickens, you may find you're getting more eggs than your family (and neighbors!) can eat. I do recommend keeping them for when the chickens are molting and not producing many eggs, but eventually you may run out of refrigerator space. If you buy store bought eggs, learning to preserve eggs also allows you to take advantage of great sales. And with preserved eggs in the pantry or freezer, you'll always have a back up when you run out of fresh.

Freezing Eggs

Frozen eggs are very good for cooking and baking. Once thawed, you can use them in any recipe, exactly how you'd use fresh eggs.

1. Break open one egg at a time and pour the contents into a bowl. Whip to mix, using an immersion blender, traditional blender, a whisk, or a fork.
Blend together the egg yolks and whites.
2. It's generally recommended that for every cup of whole eggs you should stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar or 1/2 teaspoon of salt, to prevent graininess after defrosting.

3. Pour the whipped eggs into the cups of an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer-proof, airtight container and place in the freezer.
Pour the mixed eggs into the "cups" of an ice cube tray.

In most cases, a frozen cube equals about 1 egg.
Ice cube trays vary, so if you think you'll need to know exactly how much frozen egg equals a fresh egg (say, if you plan to bake with them), begin by whipping up a single egg and pouring it into the ice cube tray. In my experience, larger ice cube trays hold 1 egg per hole, but I have several ice cube trays that only hold half an egg.

Be sure to thaw completely in the refrigerator before using.

Dehydrating Eggs

Dehydrated eggs are good for many kinds of cooking - even scrambling - although they have a stronger egg flavor than fresh eggs. Do note that while some people say they use home dehydrated eggs for baking, I've had little success with this; for some reason, I can't get baked goods to rise properly with home dehydrated eggs.

On the plus side, dehydrated eggs take up very little room in the pantry...and they are good terrific for camping or backpacking - just add water. Homemade dehydrated eggs are much more economical than store bought dehydrated eggs - but some experts say home dehydration may not kill salmonella or other bad bugs - so use your best judgement. (Store bought eggs are more likely to have salmonella problems, so I would never home dehydrate them.)

The actual job of dehydrating eggs is very easy- but it does take a bit of time for them to dehydrate, so plan on doing a few trays at once. These directions dehydrate just six eggs - enough for one tray on a Nesco dehydrator.
Use 6 eggs for every fruit roll sheet on a standard dehydrator.
1. Place a fruit roll sheet onto a dehydrator tray. (It must be a fruit roll sheet and not just a piece of parchment paper; you'll need the lip on the end of the sheet to keep the eggs from dripping off the tray.

2. Put six eggs in a bowl and whip them to blend. I use my immersion blender, but you could do this by hand or with a traditional blender.
Blend the egg yolks and whites.
  3. Pour the whipped eggs slowly onto the fruit roll sheet. Dehydrate at 145 degrees F. for about 16 hours, or until the eggs are thoroughly dry and extremely brittle.

Pour the mixed egg yolks and whites onto a fruit roll sheet.
What the eggs look like after being fully dehydrated.
4. Put the brittle eggs into a food processor, blender, or coffee grinder and turn into a powder. Store in an air tight glass container in a cool, dry, dark location.
Powdered, dehydrated eggs.
 One heaping tablespoon is the equivalent of one fresh egg. To reconstitute, mix one tablespoon dehydrated egg with two tablespoons water. Stir; let sit for 5 minutes before using.

NOTE: Some sources say to cook the eggs in a Teflon frying pan (without any added fat) before dehydrating. This results in a much less flavorful product - and one in which many of the nutrients are already cooked out.

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Sep 22, 2015

How to Preserve Apples: Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, and Root Cellaring

Apple trees are a huge blessing. A single tree can provide a whopping 420 lbs. of filling, healthy food! As I walk around my suburban town, I always feel gratitude toward earlier residents who planted an abundance of apple trees. Some are still in private yards, but many are in public areas where we can forage. Plus, we have our two little columnar apples (which produced about 9 lbs. this year). But whether you have large or small apple trees in your yard, or you forage for apples in public areas, or you buy apples from a local farmer, fall is the time when you're faced with the question: What should I do with all these apples?

Fortunately, there's a lot you can do with apples. They can be stored in a root cellar - or stored well into winter without a root cellar. You can dehydrate them, or freeze them, or can them. So many possibilities!

Apples ready to be pressed into cider. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Root Cellaring

A root cellar is a cool, underground location designed for storing fruits and vegetables so they last many months without electricity or any special treatment, like canning. If you are fortunate enough to have a root cellar, take advantage of it!

Not all apples store well for many months, so if you're planting new trees and know you want to root cellar them, choose an appropriate variety. Generally speaking, thick-skinned apples store better, as do those that ripen late in the growing season (October - November), including Jonathans, Ida Red, Red Delicious, Winsape, Stayman, Crispin, Spur Winters Bananas, Northern Spy, and Rome. If you're unsure what variety you have already growing in your yard (or wherever you forage), a little trial and error is probably your best bet to determining whether or not your apples will store well through winter.

To store apples for months in a root cellar, first make sure your root cellar has the right conditions. The ideal temperature for apples is 30 - 40 degrees F. with an ideal humidity of 90%. Check several locations within your root cellar, because some may have the right temperature while other locations do not. Apples will rot quickly if they freeze, and will ripen very quickly past 40 degrees F., so do stick as close to those ideal temps as possible.

Next, sort through the apples and store only those without bruising or other blemishes. (Blemishes hasten the ripening - and rotting - of apples. Eat apples with blemishes right away, or use another method of preservation.) In addition, larger apples don't store as long as smaller ones, so it makes sense to separate the large, medium, and small apples, choosing the largest to eat first.  Also note that different varieties of apples ripen more or less quickly, so be sure to separate out varieties and store them separately, first eating those that ripen quickly.

Now, wrap each apple in black and white newspaper. A lot of people don't do this; instead, they just put the apples in a box or basket and store. However, if one apple in that box rots, the rest will rapidly follow. By wrapping each apple in newspaper, you protect it from rotting quickly - even if a nearby apple is going bad. A good method for wrapping each is apple is to lay it in the center of a single sheet of newspaper, pull up the edges, and twist the ends to "close" them off. Store wrapped apples in a cardboard box or basket..
Jonathan apples are a good storage apple. Courtesy of Sven Teschke and Wikimedia Commons.

More tips:

* Store apples as soon as possible after harvesting.

* Don't store apples near potatoes or onions, because the apples will take on the flavor of both. In addition, aging potatoes release an otherwise harmless gas that encourages apples to ripen more quickly, leading to quicker spoilage.

* Tart apples that are stored over winter sweeten over time.

* Root cellar apples should store well into February - or perhaps even later.


Storing Without a Root Cellar

If you don't have a root cellar, you may still be able to store fresh apples for many months. For example, you could dedicate a refrigerator toward their keeping. (According to the Purdue Cooperative Extension, 1/4 of the volume of the fridge should be left as air space for circulation.")

Although you can wrap the apples individually, just as you would for root cellar storage, you can also put them in perforated plastic bags.
Northern Spy apples. Courtesy Red58bill and Wikimedia Commons.

If you don't have an extra fridge, another method for storing apples is to put them in any cool location that won't freeze and remains dark - like a garage, basement, or in the closet of an unheated room. For best results, wrap them individually in black and white newspaper and place them in a box or basket. Also, try to ensure the location is as close as possible to 30 - 40 degrees F.

You can expect apples stored appropriately in a fridge or other cool, dark location may last into February.

P.S. If you really want to go old school, dig a pit and line it with straw, fill it with apples, then cover with a thick layer of straw.

Apples dried in the warming drawer of an oven.

Dehydrated apple slices or rings are easy to make, and last at least a year. They make an excellent snack, especially when you're on the go.

If you have a food dehydrator, simply wash and slice the apples. I like to keep the peel on because they add nutrition - but you can remove and compost them, if you wish. For me, the easiest method of preparing apples for dehydrating is to use an apple slicer; if you have large amounts of apples, this is definitely the way to go. Otherwise, you can do the slicing and coring by hand.

If you don't want your apple slices to look brown, sprinkle diluted lemon juice over them. (1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 cup of water). Honestly, though, I usually skip this step because, as far as I can tell, it's purely about aesthetics. (I've heard some people say lemon juice also helps preserve the apple's nutrients, but I can't find any scientific evidence to back this up.)

Now, lay the slices in a single layer on the trays of the dehydrator and set the temperature to 135 degrees F. The slices are done when you can tear a slice apart and not squeeze juice from it. Let the slices cool completely, then place in glass jar with an air tight lid and store in a cool, dark location.

If you don't have a food dehydrator, you can create dehydrated apples using your oven's warmer drawer - or you can dry them in the sun.

Freezing apple pie filling.

There are many ways to freeze apples. Two of the most popular are to freeze applesauce or apple pie filling. But you can also freeze apple slices and use them for baking - or making applesauce at a later date.

Begin by washing the apples, and peeling them, if desired. To prevent browning, sprinkle them with diluted lemon juice (1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 cup of water). Place the apple slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; don’t let the pieces touch. Place in the freezer. After 3 hours, transfer to freezer safe containers.  

For a sweeter recipe for freezing apples, click here.


There are also many ways to can apples. Applesauce, apple pie filling, and apple butter are popular choices. You can also can slices or rings in simple sugar. To do so, wash, peel (if desired), and core apples. Sprinkle with diluted lemon juice (1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 cup of water) to prevent browning. Pour into a pan and add 6 1/2 cups water and ¾ cups granulated sugar. Bring to a boil and stay there for 5 minutes; stir from time to time, to prevent scorching. Pour into hot canning jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Process pints or quarts for 20 minutes in a water bath canner.

An apple press. Courtesy Anne Dirkse and Wikimedia Commons.

Another way to can apples is to turn them into juice or cider. Yes, the traditional way to do this is with an apple press - and if you have a large amount of apples to process, it's a good idea to save up and invest in one. But you may also make apple juice or cider other ways.

To make apple juice using a kitchen juicer, choose apples of at least two or three varieties, experts suggest mixing tart and sweet types. Wash the apples and cut into pieces of the correct size for the juicer (usually halves or quarters). Run through the juicer and refrigerate juice for 24 - 48 hours. Pour off the clear liquid and toss the sediment (if any) into the compost. Strain juice through double layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Pour into a large pot placed over medium high heat, stirring once in a while. When the juice begins to boil, turn off the heat and ladle into sterilized canning jars (pints, quarts, or gallons). Leave 1/4 inch headspace. Using a water bath canner, process pints or quarts for 5 minutes, gallons for 10 minutes.

To make apple cider,  follow the same procedure - though many experts suggest using only sweet apples. Also, don't strain the liquid or refrigerate it before heating and canning.

Don't have a juicer? You can still make cider or juice! Just chop up clean apples, and put about 4 inches of water on the bottom of a large pot. Add the apples, cover, and turn the heat to medium high. Once the water boils, turn down the heat to medium and allow the apples to turn completely soft. Be careful not to scorch them! Pour the contents of the pot through a colander (catching the liquid in a bowl) and heat and can. If you're making juice, strain the liquid first, then refrigerate for 24 - 48 hours, and strain again before heating and canning.

WARNING: Any cider or juice must be heated to a boil before ladling into jars and canning.

More Posts about Apples

What to do with Crab Apples

Picking Unripe Apples for Making Apple Pectin

Apple Skillet Cake Recipe

Apple Spice Bread Recipe 

Apple Butter Oatmeal Crumb Bars Recipe

Canning Apple Pie Jam

Freezing Apple Pie Filling

The Best Tasting, Easiest Applesauce Ever

Making Dried Apple Rings in the Warmer Drawer

Title image courtesy of Spirtu and Wikimedia Commons.

Aug 15, 2017

Blackberry Recipes (Recipes for Canning, Freezing, Drying, Fermenting, and Eating Right Now!)

Recipes for Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, Fermenting, and Eating Right Now. Including Low Carb, Keto Recipes
We are having a bumper crop of blackberries this year! I've never seen either the thornless, domestic blackberries or the wild, invasive blackberries produce with such abundance. And while I already have enough berries in the freezer for one year, you can bet I'm taking advantage of this crazy good crop to preserve berries for years when the crop is meager. So...what can we do with all these blackberries? Oh, have I got ideas for you!

Freezing Blackberries

Freezing is the easiest preservation method to preserve blackberries for future use. The "right" way to do it is to lay the berries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, pop them in the freezer, and when they are good and hard, pour them into freezer safe containers. The way I actually do it, however, is to pour berries into freezer safe containers of the size that contain the amount of berries I want for particular jobs, like making a cobbler or pie. Yes, the berries stick together. But no, it doesn't matter because of the way I am using them.

Canning Blackberries

* Whole Blackberries in Syrup
* Blackberry Lemonade Concentrate
* Backberry Jelly (without added pectin)
* Blackberry Jam (with added pectin)
* Blackberry Jalapeno Pepper Jelly
* Blackberry Jam (with Pomona's Pectin)
* Razzleberry (blackberry and raspberry) Jam
* Lower Sugar Blackberry Jam 
* Blackberry Apple Jam
* Blackberry Rhubarb Lime Jam
* Bumbleberry (blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry) Jam
* Blackberry Pie or Cobbler Filling  (another version here)
* Blackberry Syrup
* Blackberry Applesauce

Fermenting Blackberries

* Blackberry Fermented Soda
* Fermented Whole Blackberries
* Blackberry wine 

Baking with Blackberries

* Blackberry Crumble Muffins
* Blackberry Apple pie
* Iron Skillet Blackberry Pie
* Blackberry Custard Pie 
* Blackberry Trifle
* Blackberry Turnovers
* Blackberry Cobbler
* Blackberry Cheesecake Squares
* Blackberry Oatmeal Cookies 
* Blackberry Cream Cheese Frosting 
* Blackberry Crumb Bars 
* Blackberry Bread 
* Blackberry Pound Cake 
* Blackberry Coffee Cake
* Blackberry Banana Bread
* Blackberry Cheesecake Brownies
* Blackberry Crisp
* Blackberry Oat Bars

Other Blackberry Recipes

* Blackberry Iced Tea
* Blackberry Cream Cheese Spread 
* Blackberry, Basil, and Ricotta Pizza 
* Blackberry Ice Cream (no churn) 
* Blackberry Sorbet
* Blackberry Frozen Yogurt
* Cream Cheese Blackberry Crepes 
* Blackberry Tarragon Salad Dressing 
* Balsamic Blackberry Vinaigrette
* Thai Blackberry Basil Chicken
* Blackberry Glazed Salmon
* Blackberry and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin
* Blackberry BBQ Sauce (another version here)

Low Carb/Keto/Diabetic Blackberry Recipes

* Low Carb Blackberry Cobbler
* Low Carb Blackberry Gelato 
* Low Carb Blackberry Ice Cream (no churn)
* Low Carb Blueberry Cream Cheese Crumble (substitute blackberries) 
* Low Carb Blackberry Coffee Cake 
* Keto Mixed Berry Cake Bars 
* Keto Blackberry Fat Bombs 
* No Sugar Added Blackberry Jam 
* Low Carb Berry Sauce 
* Low Carb/Keto Blackberry Cheesecakes 
* Low Carb Blackberry Custard Pie 

What About Dehydrating Blackberries?

I don't recommend it, because I believe it makes the seeds more pronounced. But if you'd like to try it, here are some directions.

You can also make blackberry leather (fruit roll ups).

A Word About Washing and Bugs

If the Internet is believable, a lot of people wash their berries before preserving or eating them. The trouble with this, though, is the flavor of the berries is greatly diminished after washing. If you're worried about surface bugs, just leave the berries in a container outside for an hour or so. Spiders and such will flee during that time. Hand pick any leaves or other debris off the berries. I don't get very picky about this. A few tiny pieces of leaves aren't going to hurt anyone!

Jul 25, 2016

Sorting the Fruit Harvest - An Easy, Practical Method to Avoid Waste

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When you buy fruit, even in bulk, the sorting has already been done for you. You just pick the fruit
that looks freshest, pay, and you're done. But when you have even one fruit tree, you'll soon discover you need to put a little more thought into gathering fruit. The method doesn't have to be complicated or terribly time consuming, but if you sort your fruit, you'll waste a lot less of it, and preserving it through freezing, dehydrating, canning, or cold storage will be much easier. Here's how I go about sorting our fruit.

Step 1: Windfall

When I gather the harvest, I always look for windfall fruit first; this prevents me from stepping on it and making it inedible. ("Windfall" just means fruit that has fallen to the ground due to wind or ripeness.) Some windfall fruit is too rotten or squashed to do anything with; I leave that on the ground for the critters and the soil. If you prefer, you can compost it. But if you gather windfall fruit every day, you'll find much of it is still useful. Don't worry if it has some bruised spots, bird "bites", or other less than pretty parts. You will cut those parts away later. I like to put all the windfall fruit into a separate bucket or bowl. (And, by the way, collecting windfall fruit is an excellent job for kids!)

Step 2: Harvest the Tree

Next, I like to gather everything I can reach by hand, then use our fruit picker for the rest. If you want, you can try to sort the fruit as you pick, putting the very ripe (its-gonna-be-bad-tomorrow) fruit in one bucket and the rest of the ripe fruit in another. I prefer to get all the picking done without sorting, so I put all the picked fruit into one bucket (or more, as the size of the harvest dictates).

Step 3: Check the Ground Again

Often as I pick fruit, more fruit falls from the tree, so after harvesting the tree, I look around on the ground again for good fruit and place it in my harvesting bucket(s).
Sorting a plum harvest.

Step 4. Final Sort

When I bring the fruit indoors, I put the windfall fruit aside and separate the fruit that's super ripe (its-gonna-be-bad-tomorrow) from the rest of the ripe fruit.

Ta-da! I'm done sorting!

What to Do With Sorted Fruit

Super ripe (its-gonna-be-bad-tomorrow) fruit: Eat it within hours; or prepare it that day in a dish (like cobbler or pie); or preserve it. Super ripe fruit is, in my opinion, best preserved by making jam or maybe pie filling. However, I usually freeze the fruit whole and make jam or filling when I'm not so overwhelmed with preserving the rest of the harvest.

Windfall fruit: This type of fruit often has bruising, so it's also good for jam, pie filling, or (in the case of apples) applesauce. Or, eat it within hours of picking off the ground.

Ripe fruit: Eat fresh, whenever possible. I recommend sorting through the ripe fruit every day, to look for fruit that is getting super ripe. Always eat this fruit first, or freeze it, or preserve it in some other way so it doesn't get wasted. Ripe fruit is also excellent for dehydrating; canning whole, halves, or in slices; or freezing in slices.

A Note About Harvest Abundance 

Recently, a reader commented that I should give much of my fruit to charity. We do give away some of our harvest, but we also think long term about our family's needs. Many Americans think only about the food needed for today or tomorrow - or maybe for the next two weeks. But homesteading philosophy dictates we think ahead at least a year. So yes, we have too much fruit for our family today, but we don't have too much fruit if we think in terms of the year. The reason I preserve so much while the harvest is ripe in the summer is that this food will be our fruit when fruit is no longer in season. This way, we aren't encouraging the modern idea that food should be shipped or trucked thousands of miles to us, and we know we can always have healthy fruit that hasn't been sprayed with chemicals or canned with unwholesome ingredients.

Jul 22, 2013

Canning, Dehydrating, and Freezing Plums

Some weeks back, my husband spotted what he thought might be a "wild" (i.e., feral) plum tree. Last weekend, I finally had him drive me to the spot so I could check it out. It turned out the plums - little 1 inch balls that looked a lot like a large cherry but have a fantastic plum flavor - were ripe! I picked a bag full, then headed home to research them (they are called, not surprisingly, cherry plums and date back to the 19th century) and decide how I would preserve them.

Canning Plums

The first thing that came to mind was to can them, even though I've never eaten, seen, or heard of canned plums. But, it turns out, plums do can well. You don't have to remove their skins (always a bonus) and you may can them whole or cut them in half and pit them. For full directions, consult The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving or visit The National Center for Home Food Preservation. The raw pack method is easiest, but some people dislike it because you end up with jars that don't look full because the plums float. To prevent this, you can hot pack the plums instead.

You may also make plum jam. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has several recipes for both canning and freezing. You'll also find recipes all over the web, including:

* Basic Pectin Plum Jam
* No Pectin Plum Jam
* Spiced Plum Jam
* Raspberry Plum Jam
* Peach and Plum Jam
* Lower Sugar Plum Jam

I also found this great-looking recipe for canned plum pie filling.

Freezing Plums

Plums can be frozen whole or cut up. The traditional method is to pack the plums into freezer containers and cover with syrup: 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar and 4 cups of water brought to a boil until the sugar completely dissolves. Cool completely before pouring the syrup over the plums.

A more modern method is simply to pit and slice the plums, placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the plum slices are solid, then transfer to a freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months.

There is no need to thaw frozen plums before turning them into pie or jam.

Dehydrating Plums

Before there was home canning, before there were freezers, people dehydrated plums in order to preserve them. Cut the plums in half, then press them into the dehydrator tray, to help flatten them a bit. Dehydrate at 130 - 135 degrees F. until no trace of moisture remains. (To check for moisture, pinch a piece of fruit with your nail; you should feel no moisture.) To hasten dehydration, you can steam blanch the plums first.

To steam blanch: Fill a lidded pot with 1 or 2 inches of water and bring to a rolling boil. Place a steaming at least 3 inches off the bottom of the pot. Place a single layer of plums in the basket, cover, and begin counting 1 or 2 minutes. Immediately plunge the plums in ice water.
basket in the pot so it is

Plum Recipes

Of course, a great many of my plums were eaten raw, as snacks. Other ways to eat plums include:

* Plum pie, plum tart, or plum crumble/cobbler
* Plum cake
* Plum shortcake
* Roasted plums
* Plum chutney
* Plum sauce (to eat with pork)
* Kebobs
* Turkey with poached plums

Happy eating!