Dehydrating

Dilly Beans and Drying Dill

DSC02203Depending on the maturity of your green beans right now, this recipe could be exactly the diversity you’re looking for with a surplus of beans… or it could be a few weeks late, as is the case with MY green beans.  Doh!

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Actually, as cute as this teepee turned out, I’ve discovered that I don’t love pole beans.  They seem a little stringier and tough than bush beans…anyone else feel that way too?  I will use the teepee next year for a different climber or perhaps even flowers, and plant bush beans.

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Anyone know the correct spelling of “teepee”?  According to Wikipedia, it can be spelled “tipi”, “tepee”, or “teepee”.  Spellchecker likes “tepee”, but I always thought it was “teepee”.

You know, once I spelled it out so many times, I don’t think any of them look right…

Anyway, fortunately for me, my in-laws planted more bush beans than the two of them could consume, and gladly handed me a large shopping back of green and wax beans!  (And I didn’t even have to pick them!!  Bonus!)  They also passed on a recipe I’ve been salivating over for a year now.  I’d never heard of “dilly beans” before I was given a taste last year, and WOW!  Mind. Blown.  They are like combining my favorite flavor – dill pickles – with my favorite vegetable – green beans.  What’s not to love?

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Nothing.  That’s what.  There’s actually a recipe for Dilled Beans (what a boring name!  Not nearly as country and cute as “dilly”!) in the Ball Book of Home Preserving.  I kind of combined Ball’s recipe with my in-law’s recipe, because Ball calls for red bell peppers, which I NEVER have at home, but also called for peppercorns, which I thought sounded like a nice addition.  I’m going to give you my combined recipe, and I’ll mention substitutions as we go along.

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Dilly Beans Makes 4 pint jars

What you will need: 

  • 2lbs green and/or wax beans, washed and trimmed
  • 1/4 cup canning salt
  • 2 1/2 cups vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (Here Ball calls for 2 small red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into thin strips)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, divided
  • 4-8 sprigs of fresh dill* (see notes below)
  • 12 whole peppercorns, optional

Directions:

Prepare canner, jars, and lids.  Combine salt, vinegar, and water in stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt.  You can trim the beans to “jar-length” or into “grocery store style frozen cut green beans-length” like I did.  Personal preference trumps aesthetics!

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Place 3 peppercorns, 1 or 2 sprigs of dill (or 3…), cayenne (or one strip of red pepper), and one clove of garlic in each hot jar.  I wussed out on the cayenne here and only used a “smidgen”.  Seriously.  My measuring spoon says “smidgen”.  Isn’t it cute?

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Pack beans into jars to within a 1/2 inch headspace.

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Ladle hot brine into jars to cover beans, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace if necessary.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar, tighten ring with normal pressure.  Do not over-tighten.  Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.   Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

A few notes:

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*Dill sprigs are the smaller “flower” of the entire dill head.  You can use scissors to cut the sprigs from the head.

I never seem to have enough brine, no matter how much the recipe calls for.  I went ahead and tripled this recipe because I had more like 5lbs of beans, but couldn’t fit all the pints into my canner.  So I simply refrigerated the last jar of dilly beans.  This worked, but give them a week to really pickle correctly!  I kept trying them every day, and by about 7 days the two remaining beans were nice and pickly flavored!  Ha!  I do think the flavor is best canned, though.

Drying Dill:

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If you were lucky to be given several giant heads of dill from your parent’s garden like I was, hang them up to dry!  Once the seeds are dry, you can harvest them and store them in a jar for future recipes!  I just store mine in an old “dill seed” spice jar because it’s already labeled, and it fits on my lazy susan.  So far I haven’t had an issues with molding, although if you store them before they are completely dried, that may happen.  In the above picture you can see the difference between a head of “completely dried” dill, and one that still needs a week or so.  In the meantime, it makes me look all productive and stuff with the dill hanging there, doesn’t it?  Ha ha!

For easier printing:

  • 2lbs green and/or wax beans, washed and trimmed
  • 1/4 cup canning salt
  • 2 1/2 cups vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (Or 2 small red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into thin strips)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, divided
  • 4-8 sprigs of fresh dill*
  • 12 whole peppercorns, optional

Directions:

  1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids
  2. Combine salt, vinegar, and water in stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt.
  3. Place 3 peppercorns, 1 or 2 sprigs of dill, cayenne (or one strip of red pepper), and one clove of garlic in each hot jar.  Pack beans into jars to within a 1/2 inch headspace.  Ladle hot brine into jars to cover beans, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace if necessary.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar, tighten ring with normal pressure.  Do not over-tighten.
  4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.   Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

One more thing… great taste buds think alike, apparently!  Just yesterday, as I was working on this post, my favorite sister-in-law, Erin, posted this Japanese green bean stir fry recipe!  It looks DELICIOUS, and I think I’m going to go pick some beans this weekend at my mother-and-father-in-law’s garden just to try it!

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Categories: Canning, Dehydrating, Pickles, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Yet Another Plug for Kale Chips. Worth It!

kalechips

Check me out!  I made one of those fancy pictures-with-words button thingies!  It took way longer than it needed to, but I couldn’t decide on the font I wanted to use, and then I REALLY couldn’t decide on the COLOR of the font I wanted to use.  I’m still not super content with it, but eventually you just have to say to yourself, “Chelsea, it’s a picture.  Going on a blog.  You have children who want lunch.”

My new camera took this shot!  Cool, huh?  I'm still amazed by some of the stuff this thing can do all on it's own!

My new camera took this shot! Cool, huh? I’m still amazed by some of the stuff this thing can do all on it’s own!

Anyway, I know, I know.  KALE.  Sigh.  It’s all the rage.  Everyone is talking about it.  I’m supposed to rise above the commonplace recipes of the world and post about canning salmon and other interesting things that people aren’t going to find all over Pinterest.  But darn it, kale is good!  And this is totally relevant because I’m using my dehydrator instead of an oven like everyone else…  heh heh!

Actually, the first 10 times I made kale chips (which, by the way, is the only way I’ve ever eaten kale…) I used my oven.  I followed a few suggestions I found online at various degrees of temperature for various amounts of time.  The results were always the same:  One third of the chips were still soggy, one third were burned to a crisp, and the remaining third was edible and addicting.  So finally my husband actually suggested the dehydrator to me!

Folk, we have a winner!  THIS is the best way to make kale chips.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, it’s time to invest in one.  Go on craigslist and get a used one.  You’ll use it for lots of things, but for now you’ll be running it all week making kale chips!  These are just as good as everyone says they are – unlike the crunchy chickpea scam!  (Anyone else disillusioned by those?)

Dehydrated Kale Chips

What you will need:

There’s lots of variations to make these, but the best that I’ve found is salt & vinegar.  You can use regular vinegar, cider vinegar, or leftover sherry vinegar from your preserved garlic experiment!

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Vinegar
  • 1 tsp fine salt or 2 tsp coarse salt

Directions:

Tear leaves away from stems, wash and pat dry with paper towels.  In a gallon-sized resealable bag, add kale, oil , vinegar and half the salt.  Press air out of the bag, and massage the liquids into the leaves.  No need to be gentle!  These leaves are tough!

Tear leaves away from stems, wash and pat dry with paper towels. In a gallon-sized resealable bag, add kale, oil , vinegar and half the salt. Press air out of the bag, and massage the liquids into the leaves. No need to be gentle! These leaves are tough!

Spread the kale onto two trays, sprinkle with remaining salt.

Spread the kale onto two trays, sprinkle with remaining salt. Set dehydrator to Fruits/Vegetables (135*F), turn on.

After about an hour, they should be done!  They should be perfectly crispy, no sogginess at all.  Enjoy!

After about an hour, they should be done! They should be perfectly crispy, no sogginess at all. Enjoy!

And here's the top picture without the text mussing up our view.

And here’s the top picture without the text mussing up our view.

Categories: Dehydrating, Vegetables | Tags: , , , ,

Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say “Banana”?

Knock knock…  Who’s there?

Banana.  Banana Who?

Knock knock…  Who’s there?

Banana.  BANANA WHO?

Knock knock…  WHO’S THERE?

Orange.  Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say “banana”?

I’m sorry.  I have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old.  This is my life, people.  And for two days, so was bananas.  My Dad dropped off an entire case of bananas the other day, and they were so ripe that I had to immediately address them, otherwise I was going to be reduced to making 10,000 loaves of banana bread.  Not that I don’t love banana bread as much as the next housewife…  I just don’t need a year’s supply of it.  After all, zucchini bread wants some attention too.

Anyway, I had a lot of bananas, so I got online and looked up as many recipes for bananas that intrigued me as I could.  I’m going to share just the recipes and pictures of the finished products because both you and me have lives outside of bananas, regardless of what the bananas want you to think.

Let’s begin:

Canning

Banana Butter 

This is really delicious and I plan on giving these as Christmas gifts!  I thought it was tasty on toast, and I think it would also be delicious in a peanut butter sandwich!  Here’s a link to the recipe and canning instructions:  Banana Butter Recipe

Dehydrating

Honey-glazed Banana Chips

These were really good!  And very easy to make.  Simply whisk up a glaze with 1/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of water.  Slice the bananas 1/4″ thick into the glaze, stir them around a bit and lift them out with a slotted spoon.  Place on trays and dry for 6-10 hours.  You could also sprinkle a little cinnamon into that glaze!

Banana Leather

Here’s the key ingredient to making fruit leather:  GREASE THE SHEET!  Sheesh.  That little tidbit was kind of hidden in my book of dehydrating recipes, and that kind of knowledge doesn’t come naturally to me, so this is what I got the FIRST time I made this:

Uh, yeah.  My fingernails hurt so bad by the time I finished peeling this off!  The SECOND time I made this, I used a dab of coconut oil and spread it around the Fruit Roll Sheet with a paper towel.  Then I pureed the bananas in a food processor until they were liquified, then spread it over the Fruit Roll Sheet.  It took about 8 hours to dry (until there are no longer any sticky parts).  Then it peeled right off!  I forgot to take a picture of that, but you can see it all rolled up and wrapped in plastic in the top picture.  (For the record, no one in my house was that excited about “banana leather”.  If I ever make it again, I think I’ll add a few other fruits to it.)

 

Freezing

Banana Smoothie Cubes

These are super easy to make.  Just slice bananas into about 1″ chunks, lay flat on a baking sheet, and pop the sheet into the freezer until the bananas are completely frozen.  Then transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container and label them!

 

What to do with these?  Add them to any smoothie!  Start with frozen banana chunks in the blender with a little milk.  Add other fruits for a fruity smoothie, or some peanut butter for a good workout recovery smoothie, or some chocolate syrup, whipped cream and a cherry for a dessert!  Thanks to my sister-in-law, Erin, for that last one!  Yum!

Baking

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

As it turns out, I made this last and then found myself wishing I’d made 10,000 loaves of it and that lifetime supply!  *Ding ding diiiiing!*  We have a winner, folks!  This was, hands down, the BEST banana bread…wait…the best BREAD I’ve ever eaten (or made) in my life.  I took it to a family get-together this week and it received rave reviews from everyone!  (Click on the link above for the recipe!)   I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of this, but Linda’s pictures are better than mine could ever be anyway.

 

Well, there we have it.  Enough uses for a banana to fill your week!  (How many times did I write the word “banana”?  I’m tired of that word!)

Categories: Canning, Dehydrating, Freezing, Fruit, Leftovers | Tags: , , , , , ,

Dried Minced Onions

I’m not really an “onion person”.  I mean, I’ll eat them if they’re cooked in butter and nicely concealed in whatever dish they’re a part of, or if they’re deep fried or of the bloomin’ variety… ok, maybe I am an onion person after all!  I just don’t really care to eat them raw.  I’m not a huge fan of cutting them up, either.  But onions do add a little somethin’ somethin’ to most dishes, and so they remain a staple in my kitchen.

Recently, I happened upon a recipe on Pinterest that sparked my interest.  Remember when I made the condensed cream of chicken soup?  Well it’s good and all, and fairly easy to make, but anything frozen that has to be thawed isn’t really all that convenient for this meal-planning procrastinator.  And then the Heavens opened, a ray of light shone down on my computer screen, and angels began to sing!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  An easier way!  (Is any this blasphemous?  Forgive me, Lord…I only meant to spread chuckles!)

What I’m saying is, I’m all over this idea.  Cream of “Something” soup MIX, that you can keep in your pantry and substitute canned condensed versions when called for in recipes.  It’s too cool.  WAY cooler than this post about dried onions. 🙂

I digress.  Anyway, this super cool Cream of Something mix called for dried minced onions.  I had no dried minced onions, but I did have a big bag of non-dried, non-minced, actual onions.  The synapses fired in my brain and I recalled a dehydrator that I own (well, technically I don’t OWN it, but since the owner seems to have forgotten it’s existence…), put two and two together and the rest is history.  Herstory.  Mystory.

I’ve had a lot of coffee today.

 
Dried Minced Onions

What you will need:

  • About 8 medium onions, yellow or white
  • a Dehydrator (you could do this in your oven if your oven will go low enough, 135 degrees)
  • a Food Processor
  • Goggles, face mask, contact lenses, a strong fan, willpower to live
  • some unfinished hobbies or small children to busy yourself with while these are drying

Directions:

  1. Peel onions and slice them into 1/4 inch slices.  This where the goggles et. al. would come in handy.  My kitchen got so unbearable with onion fumes that even my poor husband who was innocently trying to do dishes teared up.  It was bad.  We had to get a fan out, and I was practically sobbing by the time I finished slicing.
  2. Place the slices on the dehydrator trays and turn it on the fruit and vegetable setting, 135*!  You don’t need to separate the rings, unless you have the space to do so.  They might dry quicker if you separate them.
  3. I had to move the dehydrator from the kitchen out to the back porch because of how much it was stinking up the house!  After several hours the back porch started smelling like a burger joint, so that was kind of fun, but initially the fumes were just too strong to bear inside the house. 
  4. The dehydrating book says 8-10 hours for onions.  Well, after 10 hours I wanted to go to bed, and only a pieces were even close to being done.  I removed those pieces, turned the dehydrator down to the lowest setting (95*) and went to bed.  In the morning, they were in the same state as the night before.  So I turned it back up to 135* (fruits and vegetable setting), separated the rings, piling them on top of each other, and it still took about another 10 hours for them to be completely dried.  Phew!
  5. As pieces dried, I removed them from the dehydrator and set them in a bowl to wait for the others.  Once they were all dried, I broke out my food processor and chopped them up.

    When I minced these, it left a huge ridge in my food processor that completely freaked me out! I thought the onions had somehow scratched the bowl of my processor and I was so bummed out! Turns out it was just onion powder that caked up quickly on the sides. A little soaking in hot water; it washed out perfectly clean and all was good in my world again.

  6. After I minced the onions some of the pieces felt a little moist so I poured out the minced pieces on a fruit leather tray and returned the onions to the dehydrator for another half an hour. 
  7. Once they seemed completely dry, I put them in a jar, labeled it with the date and contents, and it’s ready to store or use in a recipe!  It yielded me about a half of a pint jar, so about 1 cup out of the 8 onions.  That was kind of disappointing.  (In the picture below I had already used some of the onions in the cream of something soup mix, which is why there is only 1/4 of the jar left!)

Cream of “Something” Soup! The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of whatever flavor bouillon granules you prefer (hence the “something”). I don’t like to use bouillon granules because I’m a “Better Than Bouillon” girl, (and that stuff has to be refrigerated) so I omitted that part and will use a teaspoon of BTB when I’m mixing it all up.

The Verdict

I paid about $1.50 for a cheap-o bottle of dried minced onions from Wal-mart.  I paid about $3.00 for a bag of organic onions, also from Wal-mart.  The whole bag of onions amounted to about double the bottle of dried onions, which means besides the organic factor, I didn’t really save much money by drying the onions myself.  So, counting the time it took to dry them (30+ hours…hello, electric bill!), the tears I spent slicing the onions, and the fact that I really didn’t save any money…  I highly doubt I will be making these again.  I will say that the flavor of MY dried onions is better, and they smell like French’s Fried Onions (but do NOT taste like them!  Bummer!) but I’m still a little unimpressed with this project.  I have better things to do with my time, like finish projects, or play with my kids, or eat bloomin’ onions. 😉

If you try this, let me know what YOU think!

Categories: Dehydrating, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Bacon Jerky, Bacon Bits, Smug Satisfaction

Your mouth just watered, didn’t it?

Saturday, my Dad offered me a piece of store-bought bacon jerky and changed my life.  Bacon, any time of the day?  Bacon you could eat without getting your hands (too) greasy?  Well, okay!

So I immediately went home and took some bacon out of the freezer.  Except I couldn’t wait a whole day for it to thaw, so I defrosted it in the microwave.  It was still partially frozen when I stuck it in the dehydrator…

This bacon came from an impulse buy at the IGA a few months ago.  It was like 14lbs for $10.00, or something ridiculous, and naturally, you get what you pay for.  This is terrible bacon.  I hate cooking it because it makes my house smell like some strange chemical, not delicious bacon.  As you can see from the above picture, it’s also really fatty, and looks more like ham than bacon.

Anyway, I though “Hey!  Maybe it will taste good like this!”  So I trimmed off all the excess fat, and diced all of the smaller pieces into bacon bits.

You’ll need a fruit leather tray for bacon bits, so they won’t fall through the grid.

Turn the dehydrator on the hottest setting, and check back in 2-3 hours!

I actually over-dried mine slightly.  I think they would have been a little chewier a half an hour prior to when I remembered them.

The bacon bits turned out really good though.

The Verdict

This is a total game changer!  I can’t believe I never thought to make bacon jerky before!  I’m definitely going to do this again soon with some GOOD bacon, because the underlying chemical taste was still present, unfortunately.  I recommend starting with good bacon, and not cheap discount boxed bacon that you have to sort into 1-lb increments.  Go figure.

I will say that I’m pretty pleased (aka, “smug”) to have made my own bacon bits.  What a money-saver!  I feel like I just freed myself a little from the grocery store.  (Never mind that I still have to get the bacon there…)

And both of my children loved it, so that’s a huge score to have a handy protein snack on hand for them.

Note: While I think it’s probably fine to leave the bacon jerky out on the counter in a baggie or jar since most bacon is cured with preservatives, I have been keeping mine in the refrigerator and it has not affected it’s quality or texture.

 

Categories: Beef, Dehydrating, Leftovers, Venison | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sun-Dried Tomatoes Vs. Dehyrator-Dried Tomatoes

I stumbled upon a book a few weeks ago that immediately intrigued me.  The title alone drew me in:  Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation.  I mean, come on, any book that completely summarizes it’s contents within it’s own title has to be a quick, easy read, right?   As it turned out, most of the recipes in there were a little far-fetched even for me.  It is a pretty interesting book, and I do recommend borrowing a copy from your library.  It’s basically a cookbook with a collection of authors almost exclusively from charming French provinces.  While I can appreciate the nutrients saved by not subjecting foods to extreme heat or cold to preserve, most of the recipes were obscure enough (chestnuts in vinegar and a bucket?) that I simply couldn’t see myself actually consuming the products.  And who has time to put up food they won’t ever eat?  The different methods of preservation NOT involving the ones that are so common and available to us today (canning and freezing) are pretty cool though.  I mean, this is hard-core Prairie Mama stuff, and normally I’d be all over such adventures.  But as I said, I just cannot see my my family passing oil-packed cottage cheese that’s been stored in my basement around the table.  Ick.

There was one recipe I did immediately try, however.  Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil.  Easy-peasy, right?

Sigh.

Nothing is ever easy-peasy for this Prairie-Mama-Wannabe.  I probably would have starved my 14 children if their existence depended soley on my food preservation skills.  (That and the fact that my husband wouldn’t shoot a deer if the darn thing was foaming at the mouth.)  Although at least we’d all be skinny…

I digress.  Let’s get to the point of the post, shall we?

Sun-Dried Tomatoes packed in oil

What you will need:

  • Small tomatoes, like cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Gauze or cheesecloth (or a old window screen, if you’re a hillbilly)
  • Coarse salt
  • Oil

Directions:

Wash your tomatoes and slice them in half the long way.  I was able to catch my daughter’s nap and prepare mine while watching repeat episodes of “The Nanny”.  I will subject you to Dagny’s perfect baby cuteness now:

Don’t you just want to pinch those sweet chubby thighs?

I placed my halves on one of my dehydrator trays, but any platter will work.  Next, sprinkle the halves liberally with the salt, cover with the cheesecloth and set in the sun.

Yeah, that’s a window screen you are seeing.  I didn’t have any cheesecloth and I live out in the middle of nowhere and wasn’t about to drive 30 minutes just to have a classier picture to post.

Not that I didn’t seriously consider it…

Ok, what really happened was that I assumed I had cheesecloth or at least something that would have worked and went ahead and cut up all the tomatoes and salted them before confirming that fallacy.

Can I get some props for creativity?  It actually worked to my advantage anyway because we had some pretty intense wind the days I had this outside, and I think it would have created a problem with anything lighter than my window screen.

Anyway, this is the tricky part of drying foods in the sun:  They actually need to BE IN THE SUN.  Not the dark, not the rain, and definitely not the hail.  Seems pretty common sense, but common sense and Chelsea Daniels have very little in, well, common.

The directions say to turn the tomatoes twice a day and to bring them in at night ‘lest the dew undo the day’s drying.

The first flip

You know what else completely undoes a day of drying?  A storm.  A big, country-style, tornado-looking storm, complete with hail.

That’s right.  I thought to take pictures of The Storm, but didn’t think to Bring In The Tomatoes.  Doh!

It’s okay, the next day was sunny and warm.  I was kind of starting from scratch again, but by the end of the day they were shriveling nicely.

At the start of Day 3, I left to go grocery shopping, remembered my tomatoes and texted my husband (at the store, not on the road 🙂 ) to please set them out in the sun for me.

At the start of Day 4, I remembered my tomatoes and realized they spent the night outside.  In the dew.  Oh, and the rain.  Of course.

Let’s just skip forward to the “done” part.  What should have taken 2, maybe 3 days of attentiveness took ME 7 days.  But sun-dry they did finally do, and NOW we get to the true easy-peasy-ness of this recipe.

Slap those time-sucking shells of what once ’twere tomatoes into a mason jar, fill it to within 3/8 inch headspace with olive oil, screw the lid on, set it in your pantry and stop wasting any more time on them!

Except I couldn’t quit thinking about them.  I was irritated that they had proved to be such a task for me, and I was irritated with myself for being irritated.  I decided to see if there was any true benefit to sun-drying them as opposed to sticking them in the dehydrator.  Do they taste better from the sun?  Sun tea does have a slight advantage over stove tea.  Suntans have a serious advantage over tanning bed tans.  Surely true sun-dried tomatoes have a magic in them that the dried bits from my dehydrator cannot match.

Of course I tested this theory:

Dehydrated Tomatoes

The brand name is kind of ironic, since I used these in the dehydrator…

What you will need:

  • Small tomatoes
  • A Dehydrator
  • Coarse salt (optional, but recommended)

Directions:

This truly is easy-peasy.  Slice up the tomatoes, lay them on the dehydrator tray, (I only used one tray because we just don’t consume many dried tomatoes) salt them, turn it on the “fruits and vegetables” setting, and in about 6 hours (depending on how packed your dehydrator is) you’ll have dried tomatoes!  Pack them in a glass jar with oil to 3/8″ headspace, seal them with a lid tightly, and store in a cool place.

The Verdict

If you aren’t as flighty as I am, sun-dried is the way to go.  The sun-dried tomatoes had a richer, fuller-bodied flavor than the dehydrated tomatoes.  I actually forgot to salt the dehydrated tomatoes (I said I was flighty!), too, and the salt on the sun-dried ones was really a nice touch.  If you are prone to forgetfulness like someone else I know, the good news is that the dehydrated tomatoes are still quite tasty, and absolutely worth it.  I was pleased to discover that I really liked the oil-packed tomatoes, and can envision myself wrapping them in basil leaves for a snack, or scattering them over a fresh salad.  I will be making these again, and I will most definitely be using my ditz-proof dehydrator!

Even Dagny wants to try one!

 

*Note* This recipe did not say how long these tomatoes will last.  Use your discretion and inspect the tomatoes for any spoilage before consuming.

Categories: Dehydrating, Fruit, High-Acid, Leftovers | Tags: , , , , , ,

Beef Jerky

The first post!  I have to admit, it’s a little intimidating, starting a blog.  I chewed off most of my nails just trying to come up with a snazzy name for my blog, and then discovered I only had one nail left to work on while I wrote my About page!  Fortunately, I have a very good, very underpaid editor at my disposal.  (Thanks, Erin!)

But one thing I did not need to lose nails over was my first post.  First of all, there’s no doubt in my mind that beef jerky is one of the best inventions out there.  Secondly, and not quite as important, I’m still waiting for my super cool new pressure canner to arrive;)

So let’s dive in!  I’ve decided to do a comparison between using a dehydrator and using an oven.  I happened to have free access to a dehydrator (aka, stole it from my Mom…) and I’ve been making jerky and dried fruits for years in it, so had never thought to use my oven.  But my sister-in-law, blogger, homesteader, and podcast-extraordinaire, asked me in our interview if there was any way her listeners could get started preserving foods now, even if they don’t own canners or dehydrators. Well, I’m a gadget-girl, a marketers dream-come-true, but I do have an admiration for the back-to-basics and I love to learn all the ways of doing things.  So I figured, while I am learning new things, why not be a guinea pig?  Let’s see what the difference is between a dehydrator and an oven:

Dehydrating Beef Jerky Using a Dehydrator

What you will need:

  • A Dehydrator, I have my Mom’s 20-year-old American Harvest Snackmaster, and it works like it was purchased yesterday.  
  • A Jerky Gun or children to use as slave labor. (or you can always roll out the strips yourself, I suppose.  But that goes against my lazy Gadget-Girl grain.)
  • Spices, either homemade or store-bought.  I like this all-in-one spice pack from Nesco.  (Note:  See What I Learned below)                                            
  • Ground Beef, Turkey, or Venison.  GROUND BEEF?  I can hear you protesting already.  But truly, ground meat makes the most delicious and tender jerky!  Trust me, and more importantly, try it!  If you don’t like it, send it to me.  I can fit 2 lbs at a time in my 4-tray dehydrator.  So, about 1/2 lb per tray.  If you have more trays, you can use more beef.  (Or less trays, less beef.  You get the picture.)

(I know you know what a lump of ground beef looks like.  I don’t know why I felt the need to include a picture)

Directions:

Mix the spice pack and cure into the ground beef.  If you’re like me, you’ll have a 4-year-old hovering over your shoulder asking to help, and when you offer to let her mash her fingers in there, she’ll stare at you like you’re insane so you’ll end up being the only one in the kitchen with dirty hands.  Once the spices and cure are all mixed in, you’re ready to load your gun!

Aww, even the beef is excited to become jerky!

You can fit about 1/4 lb into the gun at a time, or you can be smart and invest in a bigger gun which claims to hold a whole lb of ground meat.  I wasn’t smart enough to get the big gun, and I let my daughter help, so it took about 4 times as longer than needed to prep the trays with strips                                                  .

She did have fun though…

And how many 4-year-olds can say they’ve made beef jerky?  Anyway, my gun came with two attachments.  One makes the strips flat, and the other makes them into little ropes.  Each works perfectly well, so it’s really a matter of preference.  I will say that the long attachment is better for saving space on the trays.  You can fit more of the rope-style pieces on a tray than you can with the flat pieces.  My husband likes his jerky spicy, and I prefer the “original” blend, so I use the flat attachment for my jerky, and the long attachment for his.  (Gee, Freud would have a field day with that, wouldn’t he?)

Once your trays are loaded, set your dehydrator to the “meat” setting.  On mine it’s the highest setting, at 145 degrees.

Now we wait.  Let me tell you, women: if you are trying to entice a man, invite him over when you’re making beef jerky.  He will walk into your house and propose right then and there, it smells that good!  My husband practically renews his vows every time I make it.

Back to the jerky.  Depending on how full your trays are and the humidity, it takes about 4-8 hours for the jerky to dry.  Every 1-2 hours, turn off the dehydrator, blot the pieces of jerky with a paper towel to soak up the grease, and flip them.

They’ll start turning dark and will shrivel a little.  Once you start suspecting they’re done, tear one in half.  If the inside is still wet, “glistening” or pink, they’re not done.  If the inside is the same color as the outside, take a big bite and pat yourself on the back.  They’re done!  Now pull all the pieces off, wrap them in a few paper towels and let them sit on the counter while you do the dishes and clean your trays.  After 30 minutes or so, they’re ready for storage.  You can leave them out on the counter in a container or Ziploc bag if you know you’re going to inhale them (or are having a football party or something), or you can keep them in the fridge if you want them to last a little longer.  I keep mine in the fridge and they taste just fine cold.

Learn from my mistake:

The first time I made jerky, I used ground turkey.  It turned out delicious!  I did not realize, however, that the gun disassembles as much as it does.  I thought, “Wow, this thing is really hard to clean” and went about my merry way.  The next time I made jerky, I made venison jerky that we never got to try because I discovered, after wondering what that smell was the whole time, rancid turkey trapped behind the plastic thing.  Duh!  The white tube unscrews!  So don’t be a Chelsea.  Unscrew the white thing and WASH THOROUGHLY.  Otherwise you will have to waste venison jerky, and that will make you cry.

Dehydrating Beef Jerky in an Oven

What you will need:

  • An oven…
  • 2 spice packs, or this recipe:
    1/3 c. soy sauce
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1/8 tsp. salt
    1/8 tsp. pepper
    1 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2lbs ground beef

Directions:

I’m going to do a test here.  I’m going to use one of my spice packs for 1 lb of the beef, and the recipe above for the other lb.  At the end I’ll let you know my verdict on which spices make the best jerky (Nesco’s premade pack, or homemade spices), and which method of drying makes the best jerky (a dehydrator or an oven). 

You’re pretty much going to follow the same steps as above, substituting dehydrator racks with oven racks.  I wrapped my oven racks in aluminum foil to give the jerky some security.  They were afraid of falling between the racks to certain doom.

One con I noticed right away with the oven method is that it offers me less space.  I was going to do my usual “flat for original spices, long for the test spices”, but discovered immediately that I didn’t have enough room.  So I used the long attachment on my gun for both flavors, but made the last bit into a “T” for “test” and a “C” for “control”, or the original spices.                                                        

It was kind of funny, because my husband, came in and laughed when he saw the T and the C because he thought they were for “Ty” and “Chelsea”.

The directions from this recipe say to “Dry in 150 degree oven with the door ajar for 4 to 8 hours”.  My oven will only go as low as 170 degrees (it’s a very small electric oven).  I let it bake for about a half an hour with the door ajar, but when I stuck my hand in there to test a theory, discovered that it was rather cold.  Plus one of my cats was making me nervous… 

I decided to play it safe and closed my oven completely.  I checked it every hour, turning the pieces and blotting with a paper towel like you would with a dehydrator. It needed it!  The foil on the racks collected a lot of the grease.  I also rotated the racks every hour  because I do have an electric oven and I know from experience (mostly bad experiences) that it cooks unevenly.  It took about 6 hours at 170 degrees for the jerky to dry.  The same amount of beef took about 4 hours in the dehydrator at only 145 degrees.                     

Again, when you break open a piece and it’s no longer moist inside, it’s done.  Layer the pieces in paper towels and set them out for a little while so the grease will absorb.  I had to hide mine in the microwave because of all the furry thieves in my house.

What I Learned:

My spice packs I’ve used for years will kill you.  I never thought to look at the ingredients at the beginning of this post, because that’s something I started doing recently and I’m not totally in the habit yet.  But while searching the internet for a good recipe for ground beef jerky (there’s a lot of recipes for marinades for sliced beef jerky, not a whole lot for ground beef), it occurred to me that I never read those ingredients.  Sure enough, the spice pack is laced with MSG and nitrites, which according to a friend of mine who reads all that stuff, will kill you.

The Verdict:

Well, I can’t think of any pros to using the oven.  If you don’t own a dehydrator and an oven is your only choice, then at least you can still make jerky.  But a dehydrator is definitely a good investment if you plan to do a lot of dehydrating. The oven took 2 hours longer, had less space, and while the jerky tastes fine, it is not as savory.  (I do not deny the fact that the extra work I put into using the oven may be tainting my opinion of oven jerky…) A dehydrator takes all the mystery out of dehydrating, too.  You prepare the food, put it on the trays, turn it on, check back every now and then.  With the oven, I think laying foil on the racks may have added to the time it took to dry the jerky, and it was kind of a pain to have to switch the racks every hour.  So my official recommendation is to go scour your mother’s basements and steal her unused dehydrator.

The Taste-Test Verdict:

Truthfully, the jerky with the Spice Pack of Death tasted a little better.  Perhaps because I’m more used to it, but also perhaps because it also turned out a lovely shade of red whereas the homemade spiced jerky just looks like commercial jerky.  (You can kind of tell from the above picture) I think the next time I make jerky, I’ll play around with that homemade recipe some more and add paprika, onion powder and maybe a little curry too.  Ty really likes the homemade spiced jerky, though, so I would definitely recommend trying it over buying the spice packs!

Well that is all for today!  In the time it took me to make 4 lbs of beef jerky we’ve already consumed 1 1/2 lbs of it, and I cannot stress enough on how delicious it is!

Categories: Beef, Dehydrating, Leftovers | Tags: , , , , ,

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