Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 7...Whatever....

Are you as tired of this as I am? I mean, don't get me wrong, having beautiful jars filled with dried food is wonderful, but this ad nauseum daily posting is taking all the fun out of it for me! So here you go:

Dried Napa Cabbage:

Slice about 1/4" thick, blanch the thickest parts about 1 minute to soften a bit. Dry at 115 degrees about 8 hours....or was it 10 hours...see the real story is we put this in Desi and there was so much else going on today, that I totally forgot it was in there 'til just a little while ago. Needless to say, it was D.R.Y. Two cabbages filled two quart jars.

Quite awhile ago, we did Sweet Potato least, they were supposed to be chips. I think that if someone breaks in the house we could quite literally hurl them at the intruder like those little spinning disks, and they would be either sliced into bits, or they would run screaming from the house, never to return! See...they are too thick, and we left the peels on, so they curled up around the edges, which looks pretty, but makes it very difficult to actually chew them without hurting yourself. You be the judge. But I have a waiver around here somewhere that you need to sign where did I put that darn thing...

Oh, and did we mention plantains? Not the leaf you chew up and put on a bee sting, should you 'bee' so unfortunate to get stung (we have dried that too, by the way), but plantains...the tropical fruit, that is sliced, salted and dried...well, if you REALLY want to eat it, then FRY those puppies! The dried ones are fine...they are just bland like a seersucker dress at a summer picinc.

Oh, this is good.

I have these gorgeous purple basil plants out in my garden. I got them from different places, but they are so very pretty. I have been drying them and filling jars with the gorgeous leaves.

Then Wednesday, the President of the Ladies Homestead Gathering (the PRESIDENT, mind you) was at my house with two of her board members for a meeting. A meeting where I was going to become the president of a new chapter for LHG...excitement was running high, anticipation was building...and she said:

"Oh, you have Parilla growing! You better watch that or it will take over!" "Parilla," I asked, stupidly..."you mean this plant?" (pointing to another swap meet plant I had gotten earlier). No, she was talking about my "purple basil"!! Parilla: "The medicinal uses of perilla include treatment of such ailments as indigestion, colds, malaria, coughs, and even cholera."

Yes, that Parilla. So if you come to my house for Thai food, and there is "purple basil" in the can be sure that you will go home without your cold, your malaria or your cholera!

Wait, that reminds me of a post from years ago about my parsley! Remember?!?! My gorgeous green parsley (which I was overly proud of) that turned out to be carrot tops! Oy! I can see I need to stick to chickens and leave the herbal stuff to someone who has a clue!

Real Basil...yes I am sure! I bought it at a cool aquaponics place, and the girl who picked it for me has a biology degree, so we can be pretty certain she knows what she is talking about!

Ok, so I think we can be reasonably certain that we are all caught up on our dehydrating adventures. If you want any more details (if you dare) on anything I mentioned here, just leave me a comment and I will shoot it to you!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Day 7 - Dried Mushrooms and a Story

From our guest blogger, Sweet Girl

Here's an exciting story about how we found mushrooms. My mom and I were at the store and we looked for mushrooms. There wasn't a single mushroom at the store. We went to a dozen stores and there were no mushrooms. So we packed a bag and went to Virginia, but could not find any. So we went to Colorado, but nobody had any there either. We finally just gave up and went to our refrigerator to make dinner. And guess what we found? Mushrooms! All the way in the back!

The End

Here's how you can make your own dried mushrooms:

Wipe off your mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Break off the stems and clean out the gills with a spoon.

Carefully slice to 3/8" thickness, spread out on the dehydrating tray and put in dryer.

Set temp for 115 degrees. They will take 3-7 hours. Ours took six hours.

We broke them in pieces and put them in a pint jar and air sealed them. Five large portabello mushrooms made about 1 pint.

Day 6 - Onion Rings, and Time

OK, by this time, you are very certain that we are living in an alternate universe, where days are not 24 hours long, and weeks turn into months (or so it would seem). I am here to say that we do realize there are 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 28-31 days in a month, 52 weeks in a year and 365 1/4 days in a year. There. Now that that is out of the way, we can move forward.

Here is our problem...we have been so busy in the kitchen making butter and yogurt and drying things every day and canning...that we (I) have not gotten around to posting what we are doing. Neverfear, faithful reader, I have enlisted help! Help in the form of my darling daughter, Sweet Girl, who is taking on the project of writing our blog posts. Now 'all' I have to do is find the time to sit down to post them!

So without further ado, I present to you my Sweet Girl!

Dried Onion Rings

A few days ago we dried onions in the dehydrator. First we brought a pot of water to a boil.

While we were waiting we peeled and sliced the onions on #4 setting on the electric slicer.

Then, we broke up the circles. My brothers and I were crying and our eyes were burning so bad! While our eyes were burning, we wanted to know why onions make you cry so we watched a video on Youtube. We found out when you cut into an onion, you break its cells and gas comes out and gets into your eyes. We also found out that if you refrigerate your onions you won't cry when cutting them open.

After that we dropped about 3 handfuls of onions in the boiling water for about one minute. Then we took them out and layed them on a dryer tray that was on top of a baking sheet with sides.

We put the dehydrator tray over the sink, then we rinsed the hot onions with cold water to cool them. Thankfully, nobody got sprayed! It is okay if the onions overlap a little bit.

The last thing we did was to put the trays in the dryer and set the temp to 115 degrees. We left the onions in the dryer for about 24 hours and we rotated them every few hours so they would dry evenly.

Then we put the onions in jars and sealed them with an air sealer.

We started with 8 pounds of onions and ended up with 0.67 pound!

(Note: We learned from Grammmie that either these are not really Vidalia oinions, or that they are from last year which makes them VERY strong!)

I hope you will have as much fun dehydrating as I do. :-)

And a bonus for everyone who made it to the bottom of this post! Here is a picture of our very first Roasted Rooster Stew! I got tired of the kids asking "is this is Ruffles?! (he was the only one we named) so I said, "Yes, this is Ruffles." Now Ruffles is gone, so we are just eating chicken. So glad to have THAT out of the way!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 5 - Granola - Oh, yeah Baby!!!

Wow! This turned out so good! I hope you like it!

I am trying to get this posted before I run out the door to Bible Study...see, I promised Jess of the beautiful face that I would get it posted tonight, and I would hate to dissapoint her! So here is the quick and dirty...well, not dirty, but the quick how to!

First, I rolled 2 cups of oat groats...this would equal about 4 cups of rolled oats from a can with a cheery man's face on it. To this, I added 3C of water and 1/4 cup of whey. You could also use milk kefir...just something with some active culture. What we are doing here is breaking down the bad guys in the grain a bit, so it is more digestible. You will let this sit out on the counter for 12-24 hours.

Next, you will use a slotted spoon to drain some of the liquid out...this will aid drying time in the dehydrator.

Now, spread out the oats on a drying sheet (the same one you use for fruit leather). We used a fork, so it was not smoothed down, just evenly distributed. Dry at 115 degrees.

After 3 hours, bring out the trays and break up the granola, spreading it evenly over the trays again.

Back in the dryer again for 2 hours, then I mixed up the granola mix: 3/4 of a banana mashed, 1/4 + 1/8 Cup maple syrup, 1/4 + 1/8 C almond butter, 3/4-1 tsp good vanilla, 1/2 tsp salt. (sorry for the wierd measurements...I had more oats than the recipe called for). Mix well, then mix in oats. Spread back out on trays for an hour and a half. This will get it dry enough to eat, but if you are going to store it, keep it in the dehydrator til it is crunchy dry.

Finished granola...we served it with the yogurt we made yesterday...see Day 4!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 4 - Yogurt

OK, y''s time to try something totally different! Time to try yogurt! I found some directions on line about doing raw yogurt (not heating the milk before hand). Since I was going for the biggest punch of live culture, that is what I decided to do.

I decided to start small, since yogurt can be tough to get right...two pint jars with raw milk.

I used my Greek yogurt for my starter culture...not the best option, but it should work.

I mixed two heaping teaspoons of Greek yogurt in each jar...I used a plastic spoon, because metal it usually not a friend in fermenting.

Then I loaded them up in Desi, temp set to 115 degrees. Did I mention I finally decided to call my dehydrator Desdemona...Desi for short? I used to have a cool old black Volvo wagon named Desi...great ride, that car!

24 hours is looking kinda creepy... I gave it another 6 hours and pulled it out at 30 hours, and popped it in the fridge.

The next night, I stirred in some dried elderberries and honey into one jar, and into the other I put some of the dried cherries I made the first day. I mixed them in and set them back in the fridge for 24 hours....make that 48 hours! I forgot I had a day of church and chicken killing in the middle of all that yogurt making. Not necessarily in that order.

Tonight I served the yogurt on granola for dinner. It was very runny, but as an add-on to granola, it was good. The kids (and I) preferred the elderberry...the cherries just did not give much of their flavor.

Two thumbs up from our Chicken Wangler...he even asked for it for his birthday! That is high praise!!

I would like to play with this some more, and see if I can get it to thicken up at all...any ideas?

Day 3 - Cranberries...or what NOT to do!

Cranberries...what could be easier, you ask?

You cut open the bag...

And dump them on a tray....

spread them all out nicely...

And end up with STYROFOAM?! What happened?!?

Oy! After 24 hours, we had these puffed up, shiny berries, no dried berries in sight. So we stuck them with a fork (the warm air phfizzed out) and put them back in for 12 more hours.

At which time, they were finally looking like they should, but OY! The flavor was HORRIBLE!! There is a reason they sweeten those buggars at the store!

So, ours went into the sink, and then into the trash. I did find a video with directions on how to do this right. Guess I will try again, once the fresh berries come into the store around Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 2 - Dried Cherries!

Day 2: Cherries...turned out to be more than a day! Who knew it would take so long! I am guessing that the more I do this, the more I am going to learn. I started a Drying Journal to keep notes of my projects so that I remember all that I am learning...all those darn scraps of paper wafting around the room like fruit flies just make me a bit batty!

This cherry project came about earlier this summer, when I happened into Wally World one Sunday after church to grab a quick something and discovered these luscious cherries on sale for...wait for it.... .75 cents a pound!! WHAT?!?!? I bought a bunch (as in 7-8 bags full), and spent the afternoon pitting them and freezing them. They have been hiding out in the freezer since then, well, most of them have been hiding out...I do LOVE to nibble on frozen cherries :-).

I have enlisted some help in my drying endeavors. Thankfully for me, she wakes up in a good mood most mornings and does not mind diving in and getting her hands dirty...or frozen!

OK, all the cherries quartered and spread out nicely, ready to go in the dehydrator. I put them in on high for 2 hours, then turned the heat down to 115 degrees (still trying out the raw food idea), then at bedtime, when they still seemed too sticky, I turned it down to 105 and prayed they would not get too dried out over night.

When I got up this am, the cherries were still I decided on a plan B. See how much sticky juice is in the spots where the cherries got moved?

I had the kids peel up the sticky cherries and move them to clean trays.

I reset the heat for 120 degrees and prayed it would work!

By 1:00 pm, they were FINALLY done!!

At which point, I jarred them and used my handy-dandy Foodsaver and sucked the air out of the jars and then tucked them into a nice dark cabinet. Now they are ready to be used for baked goods, porridge or to be tossed into trail mix.

Tomorrow....cranberries! Afterall, cranberry season is almost upon us, and we can buy bags and bags of fresh cranberries after Thanksgiving at a GREAT price!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Game ON!

Life on this little homestead is busy. So much to learn, so much to do. So much to learn. You get the idea.

A few months ago, I was so very blessed to score an Excalibur dehydrator from a fellow homesteader who is in the process of moving. In case you don't know, Excalibur makes the Holy Grail of dehydrators. The raw food people love it because it does not destroy the food enzymes. The Preppers love it because it holds a TON of food at once. Everyone else loves it because it cycles the temperature and so it dries food more evenly and thoroughly. I love it because, well, I am a gadget girl, and anything that makes food prep easier or more fun, well, I am all in!

Since I picked up said dehydrator (I think I am going to have to name it...hmmmm...) it has been ensconced on a shelf in the studio, waiting to fulfill its purpose in life. What is that purpose, you might ask? Well, it's made to dry things out, kinda like a bit of Colorado in a box! To get my feet wet, I tried drying some herbs, but got busy before they were done, then turned it off, and still busy, just let them sit there for a few weeks. As you can guess, this is NOT proper dehydrating protocol. I am quite surprised that the Excalibur people did not come and take the dehydrator away from me. I mean, there have to be protocols for things like that, right?!

Anyway, as I have been researching how to use this machine, and trying to figure out how to make it work for our family, I surfed across a blog from a woman who uses her dehydrator five days a week! "Wow", I thought "...FIVE days a week?!?" I kind of felt challenged. And being the competitive girl that I am, I decided to challenge myself to a "30 Day Dehydrator Challenge". Here are the rules. Dry something in the dehydrator six days a week for 30 days. That's it. Follow along, if you like. Or jump in and play along! It does not even have to be dehydrating...if you have a kitchen tool at your house you are not putting to good purpose...get it out and let's get's GAME ON!

Day ONE - Leeks

For day one, I chose something simple, with a short time frame. Leeks. I found them on sale last night and we love leeks in our soup all winter long, but can't always find them when we need them.

First, I rinse the leeks, and then I start at the first place the leaves split. I cut a very shallow groove all around the leek, and peel the upper leaf off and discard it.

I just keep working my way up the leek, until all the dark green leafage is off.

I then make a slit along the length of the leek to check for dirt. They grow leeks in sandy soil, and sometimes it gets down in the leaves. If I find dirt, I just rinse it out.

Next, I slice off the root end. Not too close (it won't separate during drying).

All ready for slicing!

Next, I chop the leeks into rings.

And then split the rings in half. Sometimes I will split the leek in half lengthwise first, and then cut half just depends upon how fast I need to move.

Next I took the split leek rings and spread them out on the drying trays. I tried as much as possible to separate the layers, so that they would dry more evenly. Lesson #1: Dry fewer trays at a time, and take an extra drying sheet and put it over the leeks in the tray, so that they don't blow out of the dryer all over the floor!!

Now, put the trays in the dehydrator. All loaded up and ready to go. I was following the raw food directions, so I put the fan on high (145 degrees) for 2-3 hours. I was then supposed to come back and turn the fan down to 120 degrees. When I went back, (prepare for Lesson #2) there were not only bits of leek all over the floor, but 85% of the leeks were dry!! "But wait! What about my 120 degrees! I'm not done yet!" So lesson number two is leeks dry fast.

Now this, THIS is God's gift to homesteaders and to anyone who loves to store food!! I picked this up for nearly nothing (I would have to truthfully say, she charged me so little for it, I should call it a GIFT!), from the same sweet homesteading lady who sold me the dehydrator. It works thusly: I took the dried leeks, and put them into the jar. I did not pack them in, but I did tap the jar to get as much in as possible. Then you put a lid on, put the gadget on the lid, and push a button. All the air is sucked OUT of the jar, and the lid is sealed on tight. How cool, I ask you, is THAT?!?! Especially in the moisture laden air that I now live be able to keep thins crisp and dry is a real bonus.

And this is the finished product. Two quart jars filled to the brim with beautiful, dried leeks! I see being able to use these for on the fly soup days, or maybe I will dry some celery and carrots and make some dried soup mixes...hmmmm...I do have 29 more days of drying to go!

So what are YOU doing?