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

Aug 21, 2017

How to Dehydrate Just About Any Food - Easily!

dehydrating food, food preservation
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Recently, I've received a few questions about dehydrating food: "How do you dehydrate such-and-such?" and "What dehydrating books do you recommend?" I was all set to send these reply with the easy way to dehydrate just about anything when I realized...I've never written such a post! How can that be?

I've been dehydrating since my children were toddlers and I experimented with using my oven's warming drawer to dehydrate apple slices. It's an invaluable way to preserve food, whether I'm squirreling away orchard fruit for the winter or I'm trying not to waste store bought food that will soon spoil. In fact, dehydrating is just about the easiest method of preservation, with very little hands-on time required and little monetary investment necessary.

And here's the deal: Dehydrating is so simple, there's really no need for a book on how to do it. Once you know the basic rules about dehydrating, there's not even any need to hop online to check how to dehydrate a specific food.

So let this post be your dehydrating "bible," if you will. Dehydrating with an electric dehydrator is really simple. And dehydrating other ways isn't hard, either.

What Foods Can Be Safely Dehydrated?

Fruits, vegetables, herbs, jerky, and seeds can all be safely dehydrated. Some people dehydrate meals (like soups) or non-jerky meats, but this is considered risky. In fact, when it comes to home dehydrating, it's easier to discuss what you shouldn't dry:

Fatty meats and dairy - All these tend to go rancid quickly because of their high fat content. A neat trick some people like to use is to dehydrate small drops of yogurt to use as snacks. This is fine - but those yogurt drops need refrigerating afterward. And yes, you can dehydrate lean meats without making them into jerky, but they aren't considered safe to store at room temperature.

Eggs - Considered by most experts unsafe to dehydrate due to salmonella (which is not killed during the dehydration process). I have dehydrated backyard fresh eggs before, but I can't recommend them from either a safety or a quality standpoint.

Nuts - You can dry these, but because they are fatty, their shelf life still isn't long. It's best to preserve nuts by freezing them.

Fish - You can dehydrate fish but it will only last 1-2 months.
Dehydrating plums.


How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last?

It depends upon the food, how dry you get it, and how well you store it, but generally speaking, home dehydrated foods last about a year.





What Kind of Dehydrator Should I Use?

Everyone raves about Excalibur dehydrators, but man are they expensive. And honestly, I don't think they are any better than my Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator, which is much more affordable (about $65). I purchased additional trays to make it more productive, and it's been going strong for years. (Actually, I love it so much, last year I bought an additional Nesco dehydrator!)

What every worthwhile home food dehydrator needs is:

* An adjustable thermostat, from 85 to 160 degrees F.
* Double wall construction.
* An enclosed heating element and a fan/blower. The heating element should not be at the base of the unit, because foods could drip onto it.
*  UL seal of approval.
* The ability to add trays.
Dehydrating yarrow.

You may also use a solar dehydrator, but these really only work in arid locations, or where you'll have low humidity and high temperatures for several days running. (If you want to try it without any upfront investment, try it the old school way: Lay a clean white sheet in a sunny area and lay the prepared food on top. Turn the food several times to speed the drying process.)

Other options include using a standard oven or using the warming drawer in an oven. Neither are ideal because very low temperatures cannot be achieved, which results in quality loss. Of the two, warming drawers are preferable.

For more on choosing a dehydrator, click here.

What Temperature to Use When Dehydrating

Herbs - 95 degrees F.
Seeds and Nuts - 105 degrees F.
Fruits - 135 degrees F.
Fruit leather - 140 degrees F.
Vegetables - 135 degrees F.
Jerky - 160 degrees F.


Dehydrating rose hips.
How to Dehydrate Just About Any Food

Herbs - For small-leaved herbs, place stems with leaves still on them onto dehydrator trays. For herbs with large leaves, remove the leaves from the stems and place in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Dry until crisp. Leaves dried on the stem are easily removed by running your fingers down the length of the stem, with a bowl beneath to catch the leaves as they fall.

Fruits - Most fruits should be sliced before dehydrating. The thinner the slice, the less time the food will take to dry. If desired, you may prevent discoloring by dipping the fruit in lemon water as you cut it up. (Use about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of water.) Place juicy fruits, like plums, peaches, and apricots, skin side down on the dehydrator trays. (This will keep them from sticking to the trays - which can make them very difficult to remove.)

Dehydrate until you can tear a piece of fruit and no fluid seeps out. Fruit should still be pliable after being dehydrated. To prevent over-drying, test a thinner or smaller piece of fruit before you think it's dry. Allow it to cool and test for doneness.

A few fruits require an extra step; for example, berries with tough skins (like blueberries and cranberries), as well as grapes, need their skins broken before being dehydrated. An easy way to accomplish this is to freeze them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Once hard, transfer the fruit to the trays of a food dehydrator. Another method is to plunge the berries into boiling water for about 15-30 seconds, until their skins crack, then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process. You may also prick berry skins with a needle or similar implement.

Fruits with a rind, like watermelon or cantaloupe, should have their rinds removed before dehydrating.

Fruit Leathers - Fruit leathers are homemade fruit rolls. Puree fruit and, to prevent discoloration, stir in 1 teaspoons of lemon juice for each cup of puree. Pour into a fruit leather dehydrator tray and dehydrate. Leather is done when you can touch the center and see no indentation is left behind. Remove the leather while still warm, roll into a scroll, allow to cool, and wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze, if not using immediately.
Dehydrating zucchini.

Vegetables - Cut, if desired, and dehydrate until you can tear a piece and no liquid seeps out. Veggies should be brittle when dehydrated.

Most vegetables require blanching (drop into boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes, then dunk into ice water to stop the cooking process) to help preserve color, flavor, and nutrients. Many times, I leave off the blanching and just pop the veggie into the dehydrator; it's a matter of personal preference. The following veggies should never be blanched before drying: cucumber, eggplant, garlic, horseradish, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and winter and summer squash (including zucchini).

Jerky - Cut all fat off the meat and season as desired. Lay in a single layer on the dehydrator tray and dry until the meat cracks when you bend it. Homemade jerky should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

For information on using a jerky gun, click here. For info on making smoked jerky, click here.

IMPORTANT: Food should not touch on the dehydrator trays, or the pieces may stick together. Always check the food every few hours during the dehydration process. This ensures you don't over-dry anything. (Yes, you can over dry dehydrated food, making it tasteless and too tough.) Remove finished pieces as they are done, consolidating pieces that still need drying time. In addition, be sure to rotate dehydrator trays periodically.






How to Condition Dehydrated Food

Experts suggest "conditioning" your home dehydrated food before storing it long term. I honestly never do this and have never had a problem - but it does allow you to spot food that still has moisture in it.

Dehydrating pineapple.
To condition dehydrated food:

1. Allow the food to cool completely.

2. Place the dried food in a plastic or glass container with a loose-fitting cover.

3. Shake or stir the food every day for one or two weeks, looking for any signs of moisture.

4. If you find moisture, put the food back in the dehydrator, dry and allow to cool.

5. Once you're sure the food is dry, store in a glass jar with an air tight lid, a Ziplock bag with the air pushed out of it, or in a vacuum sealed bag. Store the container in a cool, dark environment. Be sure to label the food, including the date of preservation.
Dehydrating strawberries.


Aug 19, 2017

Weekend Links

Berries!
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

"...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."

1 Thes. 4: 11-12

_______________________________

* Life is good on the homestead. I'm picking copious amounts of wild berries. (The photo to the right explains why I rarely have my kids help. Guess which bucket is mine and which bucket is one of the kids'.) We got a few coveted yellow plums, and there are still some red plums, prunes, and apples on the trees, despite hurricane force winds last spring. I'm growing broccoli and cauliflower, which I've never successfully grow before. Our little broody hen is sitting on ten hopefully fertilized eggs. The dog is finally coming out of his puppy phase. Hubby set up two additional rabbit cages, so my daughter can soon get a mate for her buck. And, in answer to many prayers, my hubby finally got a job close to home! No more four hours of commuting each day.  No more concern about what fatigue and driving were doing to his health. What an AMAZING gift time is. We're thrilled for both him and us. He's taking a steep pay cut, but we are trusting God on this. And I'll be working even harder to try to bring in some income for our family. So...if you want to help support this blog (my labor of love) and my family, would you take a moment and consider purchasing one of my books? Most are very affordable. You can see them all here.
From a photo shoot I recently did for Self-Reliance magazine.
* I've blogged quite a bit about dehydrating food as an alternative to canning or freezing it. But another great reason to have a dehydrator is that it helps prevent food waste. Case in point: I bought some strawberries to make my daughter strawberry ice cream for her birthday, and had quite a few berries left over. But because we have an abundance of fruit on the homestead just now, they weren't getting eaten. So a few days ago, I popped them into the dehydrator. (Here's the one I use.) Quick and easy, and it will make a really yummy treat that will last on the shelf for at least a year!

Dehydrating strawberries.
* I have an article in the new issue of Backwoods Home magazine. Check it out; it's a fantastic resource for homesteaders.

Learn to make your own pectin in Backwoods Home magazine.
* Graco car seat recall. 

* Blue Wilderness dog food recall.

* Comfy Cow ice cream recall due to E.Coli.

* AMPT Coffee recall.

* Papaya recall due to salmonella. 

* Ground beef recall due to contamination with Styrofoam.

* I have new videos on YouTube. Be sure to check them out - and subscribe and like! Thank you.

* There's been a ton of news about the safety of viewing the solar eclipse. I thought I'd done the right thing by purchasing eclipse-safe glasses for everyone in the family. Then NASA came out and said they only recommended a handful of brands, saying other brands may not be tested safe. I know some people pooh-pooh the idea that viewing the eclipse without special glasses is unsafe. I do not, because I've researched the history of solar viewing and can see that thousands of people have damaged their eyesight looking at the sun. Anyway, I was relieved to find this comprehensive list of manufacturers who've had their eclipse glasses tested for safety. Our glasses are on the list! Are yours?

* How Smartphones are Destroying a Generation - an interesting read.

Eagerly awaiting the red plums!

* What you probably don't know about child grooming and abduction. A must read for every parent.

* The weird thing about Ball's new canning lids. A lot of experienced canners are reporting false seals with them too.

* Here's a helpful aid for teaching children to pray: Prayer prompt printables.

* 10 Ways to Preserve Cucumbers.

* Why aren't we telling diabetics the truth about diet?

Oldies But Goodies:

* 10 Ways to Save on Back to School Supplies

* How to Forage for and Eat Lobster Mushrooms

* Why Homeschool Preschool? 

* DIY Spice Blends - Healthier, Cheaper, and Easy! 

* How We Homeschool on a Shoestring Budget.
Our broody hen sitting on 10 lovely eggs.


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!


Jun 12, 2017

Gearing Up for the Canning & Preserving Season

Gearing Up for the Canning and Preserving Season
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

 I think I'm almost set for the bustle of canning and preserving season. I can't wait to preserve the food growing on our homestead; the still-green blueberries taunt me, and the tiny baby apples are calling my name! And this year, I purchased a few inexpensive tools to help make preserving easier.
Use it for plums, not apples!

Apple Corer...For Plum Pits

A time saving addition to my canning and preserving tools is this apple corer. I won't be using it for apples; I tried that with a similar model last year, and it broke. Instead, I'll use this tool to quickly pit plums and prunes. Last year, my dad-in-law introduced me to this idea and loaned me a corer from his kitchen. It made pitting those plums so much faster! This winter, I carefully researched the sturdiest model I could find, and came up with this. (By the way, for actually coring and cutting apples, as well as peeling them if desired, I use something similar to this.)

A good cherry pitter is a must.
Sturdy Cherry Pitter

Another good addition to my arsenal is this cherry pitter. I have a plastic one in my utensil drawer, but this stainless steel version will hold up much better to the large amounts of cherries I hope to have on our trees this year.

A decent mandoline makes things much easier.
Mandoline Slicer

Last year, I also purchased a new mandoline. I had a plastic one for years and rarely used it; eventually, I gave it away. But now that I'm a dehydrating fiend, this baby comes in very handy. I like this model because it's affordable, but not flimsy, like so many mode sold today. But I'm prone to cutting myself if I'm using any sharp tool, so an important accessory are these cut resistant gloves.

One Time Use Canning Supplies

Naturally, I'm also gathering one time use canning supplies. I like to do this now, before I'm in the middle of canning, for a couple of reasons. One, canning lids and similar items often go on sale in the spring. Two, having everything I need on hand reduces stress and the need to go into town at the last minute because I have pounds of produce that need immediate canning. I've bought some lids, and also a few seasoning packets. I don't typically use those - homemade seasonings are better. But I do like to have a few on hand for making pickles.




The Heavy Hitters
I've loved my Nesco dehydrator for years.

And of course, I couldn't do any preserving without my heavy hitters on hand - my Nesco American Harvest dehydrators (I now have two, with added trays) and my Presto pressure canner, which I also use as a water bath canner. I still need to pick up an extra sealing ring for the canner; having a new one on hand is a must, because if I'm in the middle of canning and the ring stops working, the last thing I want to do is abandon everything and run to the store. Incidentally, years ago, I bought a rocker gauge for this canner so I wouldn't have to go to the Extension office every year and have the pressure regulator checked. (More on that here.)

My Presto pressure canner is high capacity.
And...The Preserving Kitchen

My other - rather large, ahem! - preserving investment comes in the form of beginning work on my preserving kitchen. Why would I want a separate kitchen just for preserving? Well, for one thing, my kitchen stove runs on a propane tank. I can't imagine how many times I'd have to refill that tank if I canned on it. For another, it's hard to boil water on my stove; I don't know if I could get a canner up to temperature. And finally, in the summer, canning inside makes the house so hot. Since our house has a lot of thermal windows in the combined kitchen and living area, and since the house is well insulated, this is a much bigger problem here than it was when we lived in a leaky 1950s house in the suburbs.

I could definitely just create an outdoor canning set up with propane burners, but...we have the original homestead building sitting near the house and it's already wired and plumbed. Right now, we use it for the washer and dryer - and we use the old tub inside it for washing the dog. But there's also an old farm sink with a drainboard in there...so all we really need is an electric stovetop. We plan to buy one used.
The original, old building on our homestead...and my future canning kitchen.



You can't see it here, but the old metal roof currently leaks like crazy.



A lovely vintage farm sink. It just needs a little cleaning!

And then there's just the tiny task of filling in all the holes and cracks in the un-insulated, wood plank walls. And putting a new roof on. And adjusting the foundation. But, the contractor who's putting on a new metal roof is supposed to come today, so maybe I'll be using the canning kitchen sometime this year. How exciting would that be?!


Jun 8, 2017

How to Make Celery Salt (Plus: How to Dehydrate Celery)

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

We have but one celery plant in our garden, yet it's enough to supply all our celery needs. That's because celery is a "cut and come again" plant, meaning you can cut off the stalks and new ones will grow in their place. Given that our plant is prolific, and given that it's getting huge now that it's spring, I recently cut all the larger stems off and decided to preserve them as celery salt (SO delish on meat and eggs!). I also made some plain dried celery.

Dehydrating the celery was easy: I cut up the stalks, laid them on dehydrator trays (covered with fruit roll sheets that prevent small pieces from falling through the trays' holes), set the dehydrator to 135 degrees F., and waited for the pieces to dry. It only took about 5 hours. These chopped, dried, stalk pieces are perfect for adding to soups and stews, come cool weather.

But I also had a ton of celery leaves I wanted to do something with. When I cook with fresh celery, I normally chop up the leaves and add them to whatever I'm cooking. They add celery flavor, but not crunch. So I dehydrated the leaves, too - and could have left them as is, to also add to soups and stews. But instead, I made really yummy celery salt.





How to Make Celery Salt

You can make celery salt with dried celery leaves, dried celery stalks, or even with celery seeds (but not seeds designed for planting in the ground; they may be treated with chemicals). For salt, I  recommend sea salt, since table salt or iodized salt will impart a less pure flavor. You may use either coarse or fine salt.

1. Powder dried leaves, stalks, or seeds. I used a food processor, but you could use a blender. If you're using leaves, a mortar and pestle, or even your fingers, will also do the trick.

2. Combine the salt and celery powder. The ratio you use is a matter of personal preference. I used half and half (equal parts), but some people prefer a 1:2 ratio, using more of whichever flavor, salt or celery, they want to emphasize.

3. Pour the celery salt into an air tight container, like a glass jar with a lid.

Watch this video to see just how easy it is!



May 23, 2017

Does Dehydrated Food Lose Its Nutritional Value?

dehydrated fruit, dehydrated vegetables, dried fruit
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

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

May 18, 2017

Realistic First Year Homesteading Expectations

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

I know so many people who've been waiting and hoping and praying to homestead for years. And when they finally get the opportunity to live on some land, they want to do everything all at once. They want chickens, goats, pigs, a milk cow, a huge vegetable garden, an orchard, an herb garden...RIGHT NOW. Unfortunately, they're setting themselves up for disappointment and discouragement because what they want is impossible. So let's talk about what is realistic when you first start homesteading - whether that's in the suburbs or in the sticks.

Hard Truths About Homesteading

Hard Truth #1: Money is probably the number one thing that prevents most people from homesteading on the scale they wish they could. Unless you're quite wealthy, it's just not feasible to buy land, build a house, obtain animals, house animals, and so on in a year's time.

This is not to say that you shouldn't do as much as you can with as little as you have. In fact, making do is really at the heart of homesteading. But you simply can't fudge on, say, animal housing. You can build it from scraps, yes. But chances are, you'll have to buy at least some materials in order to make the housing truly safe for your animals. (If it weren't for the cost of animal housing, our homestead would already be a menagerie!)

Hard Truth #2: It takes time to acquire the skills you need to run a homestead. Unless you grew up on a farm, you probably don't have all the skills and knowledge you need to run a full fledged homestead. That's okay! Give yourself time to learn. Want chickens? Read multiple books on the topic - not just one! This will save time, money, and heartache. Then give yourself time to implement the skills you've read about (because reading about it and doing it are very different things) before you move on to another skill.

Hard Truth #3: It takes time to run a homestead. We all wish we could quit our jobs and homestead full time. Very few people are blessed to achieve this. So, for now at least, assume you'll have to continue working away from home. That means you'll have limited homesteading hours. Don't over-estimate what you can accomplish during those hours.

Realistic First Year Goals

So what is a realistic view of what you can accomplish your first year homesteading? Honestly, that's hard to say because it depends upon your financial resources and how many hours you work at your job. But assuming you work ordinary hours, and you have a middle class income - as well as a strong desire to set up your homestead -  I think the following goals are completely achievable:

1. Start Composting. This is a homesteading basic that reduces your garbage considerably and benefits your garden and orchard...and you can do this virtually anywhere - even if you live in the city! Composting can be as simple as burying organic matter in the soil, or as expensive as buying several enclosed, rotating compost bins. More Info: Learn how to compost.
 
Composting is an important first step when homesteading.
2. Start a vegetable garden. It doesn't have to be huge - in fact, it probably shouldn't be. As your skills grow, so can your garden. And don't get hung up on pretty. Yes, raised beds made of rock are beautiful, but you can grow just as much food in berms that cost next to nothing. The important thing is to start growing food! More Info: Learn how to start a garden.
 
My very first productive garden beds.
3. Plant some fruit trees. Plant them soon, because they take a few years to begin producing fruit. However, it's better to plant trees in the fall...so take spring and summer to look for sunny locations and the least boggy land for your trees. Learn more: Fruit trees for small spaces.

Our first fruit trees were these columnar apples in pots.
4. Start learning to cook from scratch. I don't recommend trying to making everything from scratch when you're first starting out; that can be really overwhelming! Instead, start by making your own spice blends and baking mixes, then learn to make bread. And so on. More info: See more from scratch recipes.
 
Homemade bread isn't as hard as you think!
5. Get chickens. If you eat eggs, chickens are a homesteading essential, and - once you're set up with a hen house and run - are not expensive to maintain. More info: Learn the basics of chicken keeping in my Chickens 101 posts.
 
A portion of our first flock of chickens.
6. Plant a few herbs. You don't have to create a large herb garden right away. Instead, just choose 3 - 6 herbs you'll use for cooking and medicine and put them in pots. There! Done. More info: Learning to grow kitchen herbs.
 
Herbs in pots are easy.
7. Learn to dehydrate. Drying fruits, vegetables, and herbs is one of the easiest ways to preserve. You don't have to spend much on a dehydrator (I love my Nesco American Harvest dehydrator better than the expensive Excalibur some friends have. You can add as many trays to the Nesco as you want.) Learn more: See my dehydrating posts.
Dehydrators preserve fruit and veggies you grow, forage, or buy.
8. Learn to water bath can. This type of canning is less intimidating than pressure canning, and allows you to put up jam and jellies, pickles, and fruit. It's the perfect way to start building up your food supply. More info: Learn how to use a water bath canner.
Canning makes self-sufficiency easier.
Related Posts: 
* Homesteading Skills to Learn NOW - before you head to the farm
* How to Save Up for Your Very Own Homestead
* Prioritizing Your Homestead: Where to Start & Where to Go From There
* How Do I Quit My Job & Start a Homestead

Feb 25, 2017

Weekend Links

The fruit trees are budding!
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

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"Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord."

 
  Psalm 27:14

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* Spring is the time homesteaders work hardest to fulfill their dreams. It's the time to start seeds, whip together new garden beds you neglected to create in the fall, and buy baby animals. But a lot of things seem to stand in our way this spring. Every weekend, my dear husband has either been ill in bed or working on an emergency project - like fixing the gas-mileage car he drives four hours every day to commute to work. And then there's all the unexpected medical bills we've incurred lately. And the undiagnosed illness I have that makes me vomit randomly. And a host of other things. (And did I mention we lost one of our laying hens for an unknown reason?) But we push onward, just like the millions of homesteaders before us. At least the homestead is beginning to show some signs of spring!
Clematis is blooming!
* Britax stroller recall.

* Recall of Little Tykes toddler swings.

* Study shows a medication commonly given to women during childbirth or after a C-section may be linked to postpartum depression.

* Make your own cream cheese. It's not hard, and it's less expensive.

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2013/05/cant-eat-just-one-blackberry-muffins.html#.WLCt4PLkrcR* Research backs up natural remedies for children's ear infections.

* There are sound reasons you should never leave your family's dog alone with a baby or small child.

* Are you eating food from Japan? Quite possibly. And that food might be contaminated with radioactive materials, says the FDA.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Can't Eat Just One Blueberry Muffins. (Time to get the freezer ready for coming harvests!)
* DIY Ranch Dressing. (Tastes better, cheaper, and healthier!)
* Dehydrating Citrus Peels to use in baking.


Books for Spring:


A Vegetable For Every Season Cookbook - just $2.99!
Starting Seeds - only 99 cents!
The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook
Grow the Dirty Dozen - 5 stars on Amazon!
http://amzn.to/2l91UNt