Friday, 16 November 2018

Preserving what we grow

One of the joys of growing our own is knowing exactly what has gone into our food but one of the downsides can be the peaks and troughs of harvests, battling with gluts in the good seasons and lost crops in the bad - just 3 garlic bulbs this year despite full germination and a really healthy looking crop early in the year. Voles, mice or birds - you decide!! To counteract this and spread the bounty we use a mixture of methods - traditional freezing; jamming and our current favourite dehydrating. After several years of using the little round dehydrator we bought online for under £30 we invested in an large 9 tray Excalibur machine about 3 years ago and boy has it earned its keep. Onions, garlic, tomatoes, leeks, apples and plums have all been through the machines and given us homemade stock powders and crunchy fruit nibbles plus, with the addition of various berries, super delicious fruit leathers which have proved popular with friends and family too.

For those of you unfamiliar with dehydrators J made a video demonstration a few years ago for Transition Loughborough and it's up on Youtube for all to see:

Apple chips keep for years and are great for munching on and for adding to cakes as part of a dried fruit mix and even for re-hydrating for pie fillings. It's a great way to save freezer space for those things that really need it or for home made ready meals.

Fruit leathers are wonderful chewy treats that are incredibly easy to make and are really expensive to buy in the shops.  Simply make a fruit puree either with or without sugar or other flavourings such as vanilla or cinnamon and then spread thinly on the dehydrator sheets and pop them in for around 10-15  hours depending on the atmosphere. The longer you dry them the crunchier the finished product - we like them on the chewy side. You can then break them up or cut them into strips and roll them up. If you can keep them away from friends and family they will keep for a really long time in air tight containers for a zingy hit of summer sweetness throughout the dark months.


Vegetable and savoury fruits such as tomatoes dry easily and can be used for all manner of soups, stews, sauces and casseroles. The allium family dry really well and can be stored in jars as crispy flakes or ground into a powder to use as a flavouring. The garlic chips pictured here get popped into a pepper grinder so we always have just the right amount of garlic on hand without the hassle of sticky fingers and any waste.

Most of the time our beans can be easily dried in their pods on the plant, the dehydrator is also useful for finishing off the process or for using to dry off in particularly wet years. This gives us a ready supply of mixed beans for soups, stews, burgers and bakes throughout the winter and let's face it- nothing beats a nice warming stew on a crisp cold day!

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