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How to pick the best preserving methods for you summer harvest for a year's worth of food, or if not a year's worth of food, how to preserve it to keep it from going bad before you and your family can eat it.
I invited back Carolyn Thomas of HomesteadingFamily.com to discuss how we go about choosing which method is best for which crops, why we choose one method over another, and our favorite recipes for each of the main home food preservation methods, including recipes!
I have readers and listeners of the show email me or leave a comment and say, “I really need some inspiration on ways to prepare all of this wonderful food that we've preserved, but how do I go about really turning that into meals and making sure we're using that food to feed our families?” The answers below!
Listen below to, How to the Best Preserving Methods for a Year's Worth of Food #149 of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we teach families how to grow, preserve and cook their own food using old-fashioned skill sets and wisdom to create a natural self-sufficient home, with, or without, the homestead.
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Carolyn: You have this moment where you're looking at the garden. If you're growing your vegetables or your produce, and you're like, “Wow, it's growing, it's growing,” and you're getting so excited, and then all of a sudden, you start seeing that produce come on and realize, wait a second. I have to preserve all of this. And you get that moment of panic almost, like, “Wow, I've got a lot of work to do.”
Pros of dehydrating food
We find is if you take something that is so filled with moisture that it's heavy and it's bulky, and you dehydrate out a majority of that moisture to leave it very light and very small. Which means packable in my family.
If you want trail food, you want travel snacks, you want anything that's light and easy to keep with you, and that really becomes where dehydrating shines in our family. They become shelf stable so they're easy to keep a little snack in your purse, in your diaper bag, on the go, they're really easy to grab and go.
Storage-But it also is really easy to store because of that. So when you have your pantry shelf, and I know a lot of us don't have huge pantries, or huge root cellars, or different places to store large amounts of food, but we still want a good amount of food storage, and that's another place that dehydrating really shines. You can get a lot of dehydrated food into a very small space, that rehydrates up pretty bulky.
Melissa: Fast prep work. I feel like the prep work up front to get food into the dehydrator is a really fast compared to the prep that goes in towards canning.
Cons of Dehydrating
You are limited to the size of the trays that you have for your dehydrator. And there's many options where you can buy extra trays or get a larger dehydrator.
Time factor on the back end. The actual processing time for dehydrating is longer than the canning time. Cherries are probably one of the ones that take the longest to dehydrate, so that can be a con if you've got 30 pounds of cherries, you're not going to be able to dehydrate all of them, because you're gonna have to be letting that first round go, and then bring in the rest.
Greens aren't really something that you're going to be able to preserve via canning. I mean spinach, and kale, and lettuce, and all of those items, those are not canning or fermenting candidates.
I can take some of those foods that I don't really have another way of preserving them, and then I'm able to preserve them to use them throughout the year. I think that's probably my biggest pro when it comes to dehydrating.
Powdered forms for extra storage and intensified flavor
Carolyn: We make green powder, our own super green powder out of them, and it takes these bulky, big, giant, big, bulky greens that would just take baskets and baskets in the kitchen, and it shrinks them down to almost nothing once you get them powdered. It just makes storage so much easier.
Melissa: I love to dehydrate my herbs, because I use herbs in cooking, I use herbs sometimes medicinally, depending on whether ... and it really does give you that storage capability. When it's in that powdered form, depending on what the herb is, you get that intensified flavor, so think about garlic powder and onion powder, you can take just a small amount, and it brings so much flavor to a dish.
Melissa: And one of our favorite things to dehydrate is my kids love kale chips. And I really like kale chips, and it's a great snack food, and a lot of times I'll do them in the oven but right now it's really hot out, and so I can do so much more bulk. I can dehydrate out the whole bunch, and then just have that snack food available for them, too. When you kind of said that prior, snacking and portability wise, it's so great with your dehydrating.
Carolyn: When I asked my kids this morning what their favorite dehydrator stuff was, they had a whole list of them one of them is this great little snack we make where we just slice up bananas, and we dip them in slightly melted peanut butter, and then roll them in coconut powder, and then dehydrate those. You can get rid of the candy store. The kids don't even miss it, when you do something like that. It is so healthy and it is so delicious, and just makes this nice chewy, salty, sweet snack.
That was right up there on their top but the fruit roll-ups were too. We love those. Any extra fruit, any fruit that's just barely past prime, that we don't wanna can or do anything else with, we just blend those right up and turn those into the fruit leathers. Those make for a great snack anytime.
I think for me the sun dried tomatoes, and of course, they're not really sun dried because I do them in the dehydrator and not in the sun, but I like to season them with just a little bit of salt and Italian seasoning before I dehydrate them. I have found that when I'm making pizzas in the winter, a little bit of olive oil brushed on and just a layer of those spread out, and we don't even miss the pizza sauce. So I can do away completely with the canned pizza sauce if I just have a really good supply of these dehydrated tomatoes on hand.
So sometimes it's useful to kind of think outside of the box, and say, "Now what can I use this for?" But then you have those guys on hand for pastas, for anything else that you wanna throw some dehydrated tomato slices into. It's really good, it's really handy to have.
Carolyn: the number one thing is how much time do you have right then. Because like we were saying, a lot of times, canning something you put a lot of work up front. And sometimes you have that time up front, that you say, "Hey, I can take a day and can this."
But other times you say, "I just, I don't have that time. I need to spend a few minutes now, get it into a dehydrator, and be able to leave it alone all day." And so, like you were saying with the time, that's where that dehydration can be really useful. So, I'll look at that, and say, "Do I have an overabundance, can I get that into the dehydrator?"
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Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.