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Preserving Garden Produce

One of the biggest challenges gardeners face. What to do with all the produce? We can’t eat it all while it’s still fresh! I don’t yet own a canning setup, but I do have mason jars.

I had heard about sun drying tomatoes but had nowhere convenient to try this. Between the wind and rainy days lately, it wasn’t possible. So this was the next best thing. Oven dried tomatoes. I put it on the lowest setting, 200° until they were pliable but not sticky or wet. They can be added to sauces once dried, or chopped and sprinkled on salads or breads.

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Here is that batch, put in a sealed bag. They turned out sweet and flavorful. But a bit more browned than I’d like.

20130902_194433Next, it was onto making sauce from more tomatoes. I blanched them first to get the skins off. Then cooked them up in this pot.

20130910_144623Once that was done, I ran them through a food mill to sort out the seeds. It worked just perfect! I made gorgeous looking and tasting tomato sauce. Poured all of it in BPA-free screw-top plastic containers in the freezer.

And then my most current batch of tomatoes, I froze whole, skin and all.

In the midst of all this, my husband made a bunch of pesto. We popped it in several ice cube trays, froze it and stored it in plastic bags in the freezer. I took out a few to show here. It’s so dark because it’s purple, from our red rubin basil. We love the stuff!

20130915_102505So I finally got a dehydrator, because I want to dehydrate my next round of basil and tomatoes. Did I mention we have a LOT of tomatoes? haha I also wanted to dehydrate other things, like our squash and kale (into chips). And maybe make some of our own healthy banana chips that haven’t been fried before dehydrating.

The dehydrator I really wanted was three times the price, so this is a really good compromise.

I got this model because it has a temperature device. No timer, but that can easily be remedied fairly inexpensively. This L’Equip has six trays, but shown here was only three of them.

20130914_005223So my first batch for dehydration was our red rubin basil!

20130914_004917Altogether, we dehydrated three big bushes of it, which turned into nine dehydrator trays. That stuff takes forever to dry at 115°. Yes, I could’ve used a higher heat setting, but that temperature retains enough nutrients, almost as if it were still unheated. And here it is, dried.

20130915_102449Isn’t it pretty!? It smells wonderful. It would probably do well in potpourri! I should mention that I was able to compact it all in two quarts of mason jars.

And now for the summer squash. We sliced up enough to fill all six trays. We still have some left to dehydrate, but this was a great start. I experimented by soaking half of them in salt water and only sprinkling salt on the others. To tell the truth, I can’t tell the difference in taste.

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Here are four summer squash, packed in a jar. They’re semi-crispy and very flavorful. No fats or oils were used, but they weren’t needed because they have such a great flavor. They’re sturdy enough to dip in things, or good enough to eat just as they are. They can also be rehydrated, used to make a layered veggie lasagna instead of noodles, or added to soups or other dishes.

20130916_133311Right now, banana chips are dehydrating. Then it’ll be on to more tomatoes. Those will probably take a good bit of time due to the water content. But I’m enjoying my new kitchen toy.

 

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