What produce do you dry and how do you use it?
- greygarious Jul 10, 2009 04:35 PM
I am more and more drawn to buying dried ingredients. Other than when local produce is in season, I think I get better quality in the dried fruit I buy online than in the supermarket produce section. Considering quality and water weight, the cost difference is usually negligible. Recently I bought cheese powder, granulated shallots, and sour cream powder. I rarely finish a container of sour cream before it turns moldy - today I put a spoonful of powder into my tomato soup and voila', cream of tomato, no waste. Also, they store in less space and eliminate the need to lug heavier groceries up the stairs. We are often admonished to eat like our ancestors did - well, they did a lot of canning and drying!
I know that regardless of my determination not to, I will inevitably over-buy at this season's farmers' markets. I don't want to buy a dehydrator since my cookware and appliances have already taken over the linen closet and there's no more room, period. I know that thin-sliced tomatoes can be dried on low heat in the oven, on a rack over a cookie sheet, and then be ground into powder. The cool, wet summer in New England thus far precludes air-drying/sun-drying. Is it worth doing likewise with other produce and if so, do you grind, flake or keep in slices? Do you stew to rehydrate, or add the dry into other ingredients as is?
Oh, how I love cheese powder on freshly popped popcorn. Mmmmm...
I have dried tomatoes and rehydrated in olive oil overnight, in boiling water if I need them immediately, or just wing them into a pot of soup or stew and simmer for a bit. I have probably eaten almost every vegetable out there dried in some form due to my backpacking habit - carrots, zucchini, onions to name a few. The sour cream powder intrigues me. It is just me and my husband so it is hard for us to finish a container before mold sets in. I am also in New England, where did you find it? Granted I have never sought it out but that is a fabulous idea!
Last summer, the last farmer's market in our town fell on a day it rained, so I got a lot of great deals on produce. I dehydrated pounds and pounds of peeled, pitted peaches, and froze more of them. We ate the dehydrated ones first, because they were incredibly flavorful. We had them in yogurt, oatmeal, with cereal, in chicken dishes, and just plain out of hand.
I have also roasted tomatoes on low heat in the oven and frozen them once cooled. They slip right out of their skins once thawed and are ready to use, with concentrated flavor. Super easy--just split and place them cut side up, drizzle with olive oil, slat and pepper if you like, and roast in a 300 oven, until they look a little shriveled and very juicy. Let cool before freezing.
Thanks for the link to barryfarm.com, I think I'll order a few things.
I would buy or make a dehydrator. Yes you can dehydrate in the oven, but most ovens have 170degF as the minimum temp, and don't have a fan, and are not energy efficient at that low temperature.
None of the dehydrators I've found have stacking/nesting/folding trays, which is too bad. But since they tend to only come out in the fall, when the produce is best, you could buy it and keep it in the basement or the garage, instead of the overfull linen closet. They are a bit noisy and make the house smell like onions (or whatever you are drying) so once they are loaded up they might disappear into the basement or garage anyways, during the drying period.
You can also build your own dehydrator. The last plan I saw uses a lightbulb -- sort of like a Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven. It's just a frame and some screens, preferably a thermostat, a heat source, and a fan. You could probably make it fold up or stack. Or if you make it out of wood and window screen you could disguise it as a home improvement project and store it in the garage, instead of the linen closet.
My home-grown dried tomato slices are an essential staple, especially when backpacking. My dried fruits are also a hit, but buying pre-dried fruits is more economical than buying fresh fruits and drying them, at least up here where it's too cold to grow most fruit.