Monday, April 9, 2012

How to Dehydrate Morels

If you are ever lucky enough to have more morels than you can use, you can preserve some for later use. Dehydrating them is a good choice because you are not reliant on a power source to keep them safe if you freeze them and they don’t take up valuable space in your freezer this way either. 

Morels come out of the soil with some of the dirt still on them plus whatever you might pick up in the harvesting process. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly before you preserve them. Use care though, because these little morsels are fragile and will break easily. Let them air dry on a paper towel while you set up the dehydrator. Use 135 as your temperature setting.

With any batch dehydrating, you want the pieces to dry evenly. The best way to accomplish this is to make sure your pieces are all of comparable size. Slice the mushrooms lengthwise once or twice and compare them to one another as you go. Trim where necessary. 

Place the pieces on your trays evenly, in a single layer and so that none of the pieces are touching one another. IF they are touching during the drying process, they will likely stick to one another when you try to remove them. This will contribute to further breakage of your morel pieces. 

The process takes between four and eight hours, depending on the size of the pieces and the humidity in the air. After fours, check every hour so the pieces don’t become over-dried and unusable. When they are finished, slip them into mason jars, zippered plastic bags or vacuum sealed bags. Store them in a cool, dark place and use them within a few months of processing. Label the containers with a date and the contents to make using them before they expire easier.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dehydrating Blackberries

Blackberries are not yet in season but due to the overly arm and premature spring we are having, I notice they are already blooming where I live. This means in about 8 weeks, give or take a few and barring any mid-to-late spring frosts, I will be out and about collecting blackberries. 

I have made jam with blackberries. I have frozen them by the bagful and used them from smoothies, cobblers and crumbles. I am now interested in finding other uses because my homestead is packed with wild blackberries. This year I will be dehydrating them. Dehydrated berries need only be rehydrated and they can be used in any recipe just like fresh berries.

Pick enough berries to fill the trays of your dehydrator. Rinse and pat them dry. Remove all the stems and any imperfect berries, then spread them evenly on your dehydrator trays.

Set the dehydrator to 100 degrees allow berries to sit for 10 hours. They should be brittle when finished. Pour them into labeled mason jars and seal tightly, then store the jars in a cool, dark place to avoid discoloration of the fruit. 

When you are ready to use them, soak them in hot water for about 15 minutes and pour off the excess water. These can now be used to make muffins, pancakes or any other blackberry recipe.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Air Drying your Food

Ancient civilizations air dried their foods and many cultures still do today. Air drying is the simplest form of food preservation because it relies on nature and very little in the way of equipment. The method is a good choice for drying herbs, flowers, carrots, onions, peppers, celery, apples, Swiss chard and green corn.

Onions air drying

All you need is good air flow in low humidity place. If you don’t have a natural breeze, a fan will do. Just make sure no dust or other contaminants are blown onto the food.

You can set up your drying area almost anywhere – outdoors in the sun, in a clean garage, I the backseat of your car or on enclosed porch for example.

You can set anon-toxic screen across two chairs or saw horses and dry food on that. If you are worried about insects, you can cover it with another screen, clear plastic or piece of glass.

If you choose to dry your food outside, in addition to the risk of drawing insects, you have to watch the weather. The screens have to be brought in at the first hint of rain and every night so they are not rehydrated with the morning dew. 

To get even drying, cut all the pieces about the same size. Make sure none are more than ¼ to 3/8 inches thick. Store them in air tight containers like zippered plastic bags, heat sealed bags, mason jars or metal containers.

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