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

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.

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

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

 
  Psalm 27:14

_______ 

* 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



Dec 31, 2016

Weekend Links & Updates

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!
Ball Heritage jars will soon be discontinued.


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

"
I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.  But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.  And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven"

Luke 12:8-10

 
* Three weeks ago, my doctor told me I had diabetes. My blood sugar was high: 260. And my A1c test, which indicates where the blood sugar has been in recent months, was 9.5%. At 9%, the medical guidelines are to put the patient on insulin. But after talking to my doctor, he gave me three months to get my blood sugar down. He gave me Metformin, which decreases liver glucose production, and suggested I go on a Keto diet. I did, and a few days ago, I had my first normal blood sugar test! I am doing a very strict and very low carb, high fat version of the diet: Nothing made from any type of flour, no rice, no fruit, no veggies that are higher on the glycemic index, and no sugar or any type of sweetener. My hope is to eventually get off the medication, since it does have side effects (like sleepiness) and can be hard on the kidneys and liver. Keeping it up is going to be the hardest part :)  Fortunately, I rarely feel deprived. Even at Christmas, I ate turkey, green beans, and broccoli salad. The food was good, and I was satisfied. I do miss popcorn, though...

* Recall on Herr's potato chips.

* Recall of Treehouse Foods mac and cheese.
 
* Cuisinart recall.

* Ball, the maker of a popular type of canning jar, just announced that come January 2017, they are retiring their colored canning jars. If you want some, now's the time to buy them! 

* If you've had a hard frost, and if there's not snow on the ground, now is an excellent time to gather dandelion leaves for eating because the cold weather takes away much of their bitterness. Try picking some, then saute them up for dinner!  Or preserve some by freezing, dehydrating, or canning for later use. You can also put the leaves in smoothies.

* Can Probiotic Foods Really Lower Blood Sugar?

* This is so spot on. We're Killing Our Kids and Calling it Love.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Why Every Housewife Needs Safety Goggles
* How to Use a Whole Ham
* 15 Bean Stew Recipe

Oct 25, 2016

How to Dehydrate Figs

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

I am a complete fig novice. Before we moved to our rural homestead, I'd never even tasted a fig (unless you count Fig Newtons.) And since I've been constantly behind since we moved here, it's little wonder I haven't found time to research taking care of the four fig trees that came with our property. So it was a bit of a surprise when we started getting a bumper crop in October!

Originally, I'd wanted to make some fig jam with a bumper crop, but since the fire destroyed this summer's worth of canning, I just haven't have the heart to can anything. Plus, now that the pole barn is gone, I have pretty much zero space for storing canned goods. I thought I might use up all the figs in various recipes, but discovered almost all recipes call for dried figs. (This makes sense, because ripe figs are highly perishable and most stores therefore only carry them in dehydrated form.)

But drying figs at home? It seemed a dubious endeavor. Truly ripe figs are super-moist. Wouldn't it take forever to get a ripe fig dry? Turns out, the answer is no! Figs dry surprisingly fast and well.

By the way, you can use either a food dehydrator or your oven for this project. However, because  ovens can't go to the low temperature that's best for drying fruit, the end result will be a little less flavorful and nutritious. (Thinking of buying a dehydrator? You do not need an expensive, fancy machine. I love my Nesco American Harvest, which is both affordable and long-lasting. You can buy additional trays for it, if desired.)



How to Dehydrate Figs

1. Cut off one fig's stem; discard. Cut the fig into quarters. (I've seen people dry fig halves, but because it takes longer for halves to dry, and since most recipes call for chopping up dried figs, anyway, I chose to quarter them.)


2. If desired, dip the fig quarters into a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and cold water. I didn't do this, but it does prevent the figs from browning while dehydrating.

3. Place fig quarters on the tray of a dehydrator. Make sure they aren't touching. Repeat steps until all the figs are on the dehydrator trays.



4. Dehydrate at 135 degrees F. until figs are completely dry, but not hard and brittle. Test a larger piece by biting into it or breaking it in half with your hands. If any liquid oozes from the fruit, it's not fully dehydrated.

5. Store dehydrated fruit in glass jars with air tight lids in a cool, dry, dark location. Dehydrated figs are best used within a year.


How to Dry Figs in the Oven

1. Follow steps 1 and 2, above.

2. Place a wire cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet and place the fig quarters on it.

3. Dry the figs using your oven's coolest setting. If you have an oven warming drawer, I recommend using that instead, since it will usually go to a lower setting than the oven itself. Test fruit doneness, using the method described in step 4, above.

4. Store dehydrated fruit in glass jars with air tight lids in a cool, dry, dark location. Dehydrated figs are best used within a year.

 

Aug 6, 2016

Weekend Links

We're getting apples by the laundry basketful!
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

* UPDATE on our well: The well guy - the most experienced and talented one in our area - has been coming late at night to work on our property. He put the pump on the well last night, between 10:30 - 11:30 PM! Today, my hubby and dad-in-law started the work to connect the two wells...so, perhaps soon I'll be able to do laundry at our own place, and we won't have to bang on the holding tank to see if there's enough water for showers!

* Why it's so important to pray for persecuted Christians.

* A month worth of dinners for $200? I think that would depend upon where you live. (Groceries are more costly in some areas than in others.) But the premise is still an appealing one! Now if I just had room in my freezer...

* Canning tips for beginners.

* QUICK TIP: When dehydrating sticky, juicy fruits like plums, peaches, and apricots, place them skin side down on the dehydrator's trays. This will keep them from sticking to the trays - which can make them very difficult to remove.

* How to Avoid Silly Fights with Your Husband.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Teaching Kids Not to Covet
* Homestead Skills to Learn NOW - before you head to the farm
* How to Make Brownies Without a Box 
* Bluelight - It's Everywhere and it may damage your child's vision
 

Jul 30, 2016

Weekend Links & Updates

Meet Loki - the cat who came with our house :)
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.


"I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life."
Psalm 119:93


* UPDATE on the well: We had to wait until this Wednesday, but the well guys finally started drilling! Thank you to those who prayed for the new well to have good, abundant water. Both the well guys and my hubby witched the location (I tried, but alas, I cannot water witch at all), and yesterday, after drilling, the well guys said there would be plenty of water in the new well - in fact, more than the original well ever had! So we are praising God for once again taking care of our needs.

Diurnal Tiger Moth in my garden. There are so many native bees, butterflies, and moths here!
* Recall expanded on flour products.

* Car seat recall.

* I didn't know you could avoid a bad reaction to poison ivy, oak, or sumac just by knowing how to wash it off.

* The yellow plums are all harvested. Now the prunes are on!



* Don't have fruit trees but want to harvest some fruit? Check out this website, which finds public areas where you can forage for fruit for free.

* Our electric company sent us an interesting flyer the other day, detailing how much it costs to use certain appliances and such. According to them, running a food dehydrator for 4 hours costs only 18 cents! I think we can now safely say dehydrating food at home is worth the electricity.


 * I love drinking my morning tea, reading my Bible, and seeing these regular visitors out my kitchen window.


Oldies But Goodies:

* 10 Was to Get Your Kids Playing Outside 
* An Introduction to Raising Rabbits for Meat 
* His Grace Is Revealed Through Parenting 
* Easy DIY Steak Fries 
* Getting Children to Listen During Devotions
 


Jul 25, 2016

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

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

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 18, 2016

What to Do With a Bumper Crop of Plums

A few days ago, I finally got around to counting the trees in our orchard. We have nine apple trees and eleven - yes, eleven! - plum trees. Fortunately, they don't all ripen at the same time, but currently I have two trees that need daily harvesting. We can't possibly eat all those fresh plums before they rot, so I'm planning ahead: What else can we do with all these plums? How can I preserve plums for winter? Here's what I've come up with:

Canning Plums

* Plain canned 
* Mulled plums
* Plum Sauce
* Plum Butter (a really thick jam)
* Spiced Plum Jam
* Low Sugar Plum Jam 
* 2 Ingredient, No Added Pectin Plum Jelly 
* Simple No Pectin Plum Jam
* Plum Pie Filling 
* Pickled Plums

Dehydrating Plums

* Basic Instructions
* Plum Fruit Leather 

Freezing Plums

* Basic Instructions

Other Plum Recipes

* Plum BBQ Sauce
* Savory Plum Sauce 
* Plum Glazed Pork Ribs
* Plum Salsa, Sorbet, Chutney 
* Plum Lemonade
* Oven Roasted Plums
* Chocolate Plum Cake 
* German Plum Cake
* Plum Crumble 
* Plum Cobbler 
* Plum Cobbler with Cake Like Texture
* Plum Shortcakes
* Plum Tart 
* Upside Down Plum Cake 
* Sugar Plum Jelly Candies 
* Plum Kuchen 
* Plum Oat Muffins 
* Plum Coffee Cake Muffins
* Plum Bread Pudding 
* Plum Bread
* Plum and Banana Bread
* Plum Popsicle
* Plum Ice Cream 
* Plum Kombucha
* Plum Wine 
* Plum Vinegar 
* Lacto-Fermented Plums

BONUS: Plum Pie Recipe

This recipe is from my cookbook Easy As Pie: 45 From Scratch Pie Recipes - which is only $2.99 for the Kindle or $6.99 in paperback. It's got just about every fruit pie recipe you could want, plus recipes for vegetable pies, cream pies, and much more.



Pastry for 2 crusts

7 fresh plums (about 1 lb.), sliced, skins intact
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca
1 tablespoon butter

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out one crust and place in a 9 inch pie plate. Refrigerate. Keep the remaining pastry in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and tapioca. Add the plums and gently toss. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

3. Spoon the filling into the prepared pie plate. Cut up the butter and scatter over the top of the filling. Roll out second crust and place over the filling. (If desired, make a lattice top crust, as pictured here.) Seal and cut 4 slits into the crust.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 - 50 min. or until the filling is bubbly and the crust golden. Transfer to a wire cooling rack.


* Title image courtesy of Michelle Tribe.