Friday, July 18, 2014

Drying Peas Three Ways With and Without a Dehydrator

We have been having a very mild summer here this year, so we are just now finishing up our pea crop in July! We have been bringing in bowls full of peas to freeze and blanch. However, towards the end of pea season we start switching to drying peas to put in soups and to seed save for next year. I have been growing some beautiful heirloom purple and yellow peas that I wanted to seed save for next year. The yellow pod peas (Golden Sweet) are the best peas I have ever tasted!

To dry my peas, I either leave them in the pod and allow them to air dry in a cool dark place or I place them in my dehydrator. Dehydrating is not every exact like canning. Canning is very exact. When the directions say to process for 10 minutes, you process for 10 minutes not 8 minutes or 12 minutes. When you dry food, the amount of time needed depends upon how much moisture is in the food and how much moisture is in the air. My peas air dried in 3 days, but yours might take 2 or they might take 5. If you live in a very humid area, then you will need to take care to place your peas in an area without a lot of humidity. Basically, you just have to learn by trial and error. The peas are ready to removed from their pods and stored in an air tight container when the pods make a crackle noise when you press on them. They should be crunchy. When you break open the pods to remove the peas, you should not feel any moisture left in the pods. For seed saving, I only use air drying methods since adding heat will affect the germination of my peas next year.

If you have lots of extra garden space, you could just let your peas dry on the vine. I am usually impatient and want to plant something in their place long before the vines dry out, but that is an option if you have ample garden space. Simply let the vines and pods dry out until brown and crunchy. Then you can remove the peas from their pods and save them in an air tight container. 

To dehydrate my peas in a dehydrator, I use an Excalibur dehydrator. According to the book, Dehydrator Bible by Jennifer MacKenzie, Jav Nutt, and Don Mercer peas should be dehydrated at 130 degrees for 8 to 10 hours F after a 3 minute blanching period. According the manufacture's instructions for my dehydrator, vegetables should be dehydrated at 125 degrees F, so I use this setting for my peas, and I have had wonderful results using this temperature in my dehydrator. I would recommend using the temperature recommended by the manufacturer of your dehydrator over outside advice for your first time dehydrating. I do blanch my peas before dehydrating in a dehydrator. Blanching kills off any enzymes in the peas that will cause the peas to break down over time. In a dehydrator, my peas take 8 hours. At the end of the dehydration period my peas are slightly shriveled and brittle when cut open. If you take a handful of dehydrated peas in your hand and shake your hand, then it sounds like a handful of little pebbles rattling around inside in your hand. I have also found that some varieties of peas shrivel more than others when dehydrated due to differing water content of different types peas. For example, my Blue Podded peas shrivel much less than the Golden Sweet peas.

Directions for Air Drying Peas not on the vine

1. Place the pods on a single layer on a cookie sheet or plate. Paper plates do not work well for drying because they hold moisture which can cause your peas to mold during the drying process. 
2. Place the peas in a cool dry place until dry.
3. Drying can take anywhere from 48 hours to 1 week.
4. Store dried peas in an air tight container.

Directions for Air Drying Peas on the vine

1. Leave the peas on their vines in the garden.
2. When the vines and pods turn brown and crunchy, harvest the dried peas and store in an air tight container.

Directions for Drying Peas in a Dehydrator

1. Remove the peas from the pods.
2. Bring a pot of water to a hard boil.
3. Submerge the peas in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Do not start timing the peas in the boiling water until the water is boiling again. Ideally, your pot should be hot enough that the boiling only stops for a few seconds before resuming. If you are having trouble getting the pot to go back to a boil quickly, then try small batches of peas.
4. Submerge the peas in a bowl of ice water to stop the boiling. The peas should remain in the ice water until cool, about 3 minutes.
5. Drain the peas from the water and place in a single layer in your dehydrator.
6. Dehydrate the peas at 125 degrees F or the temperature recommended by your dehydrator.
7. After 8 hours check on the peas. They should be wrinkly and brittle when cut. If they peas are still too moist, then place back in the dehydrator for another 1 hour.
8. Check the peas hourly until they are done.

Cooking with dried peas

1. Rinse the dried peas and soak for 6 hours before cooking.
2. Dried peas will burst and make a puree when cooked. This makes a lush silky soup. The exact amount of time of cooking will depend on recipe.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

An Easy Way to Preserve Mulberries: Freezing Mulberry Puree



I am very fortunate to have a delicious mulberry tree in my backyard. I loves these fragile purple little fruits. They taste like a cross between a blackberry and a Concord grape. The fruit will stain you hands easily, but you can rub your hands against mulberry leaves to help fade the color away. I usually make a delicious mulberry jam, but this year I needed a quicker method to preserve the mulberries.

At first I considered flash freezing the mulberries like I do strawberries, but this seemed like a lot of work to wash the fruit then gently place them on a cookie sheet without touching one another and freezing each one individually. In fact, this seemed rather silly when I considered that my end use for the mulberries was going to be smoothies. There was no point in having perfect little mulberries since I am going to puree them anyway. Then, I had an obvious epiphany to just puree the mulberries first then freeze them in an ice cube tray for smoothies later. I have no idea why I did not think of this the first time through since I already do this for other things like pesto. I pureed the mulberries stem and all since the little stem does not come off without making a mess. Inside a smoothie, I do not notice the little bits of stem, so this was a quick and easy solution. After the puree is frozen, I pop the mulberry cubes out of the ice cube tray and transfer the cubes into a bag in the freezer.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Freezing Rhubarb


Preserving season is in full swing! I am so excited about spring and rhubarb! Rhubarb is the first thing I preserve every season. While I do can rhubarb and dehydrate it, I do freeze a few quarts every spring when I am pressed for time and want to get outside and work in the garden. I do not blanch my rhubarb because it falls apart so easily when cooked.  I have had rhubarb last up to 1 year frozen. I flash freeze it on a cookie sheet so the individual slices do not get stuck together over time in the freezer. Do not preserve rhubarb leaves. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so only the stalks can be eaten.

Ingredients

rhubarb

Directions

1. Wash the rhubarb and dry it well. Dry food freezes much better than damp food, so I make sure to dry it really well.

2. Slice the rhubarb to your desired size. I slice mine into 1/4" to 1/2" slices. Remove any tough parts. Some varieties of rhubarb have a tough outer layer that peels off easily.

3. Place the rhubarb on a cookie sheet leaving a small space between the slices.

4. Place the cookies sheet in the freezer for 3 hours.

5. Remove the rhubarb from the cookie sheet and place the rhubarb in its permanent home in the freezer. I find Pyrex containers work well for rhubarb because they stack easily in the freezer and you can pull out a few pieces at a time as needed. You could also use repurposed containers like yogurt containers as well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tour of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company Review



Back in December I went on a long road trip, and I was able to fit in a side trip to Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company in Mansfield, Missouri. Winter time is not the best time to visit a farm because plants are not in their full glory, but the seed store was still amazing. There were row after row of seed packets. This will make even the largest seed displays at your local nursery look pint size.

The old town displays were cute. My kids enjoyed going inside the model shops and seeing the homemade soaps and candles. My kids also enjoyed seeing the animals on the farm which surprised me a little since Baker Creek sells a vegan cookbook, The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook, by Jere and Emilee Gettle. The other thing that surprised me was that very few seeds are actually produced on the farm in Missouri. Most of the seeds are grown by hand selected growers around the world where the seeds originated. If you are coming to the farm to see lots of different types of plants all growing in one location, then you will be disappointed. The demonstration garden was not producing anything when we went because it was winter time, but I am sure during summer you will be able to see at least a decent variety of plants growing but do not expect to see a sample of every plant they sell seeds for being grown on the farm. I am bummed that we did not show up on Friday to be able to eat at the on site restaurant.

Here are some photos from our trip:
Farm animals
Canning jars
More farm animals
Old town demonstration stores
Fields where some seeds are produced
The restaurant is open daily expect during winter when the restaurant is open only on Fridays

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Canning Cranberry Orange Sauce


Winter time is when a lot of canners slow down for the season, but I can't help but can a few jars of food with special winter produce like my beloved cranberries. I adore tart fruits. Some people get excited about sweets or salty foods, but I love lip puckering tarts foods like fresh cranberries, limes, or Myer lemons.

The sad thing is that cranberries have a relatively short season, so every year I can a few jars of cranberry sauce. I love to eat this special cranberry sauce flavored with orange and lemon with Brie and crackers. The pretty tart sauce makes a nice compliment to creamy mild Brie.

Cranberries have a lot of natural pectin in them, so there is no need to add extra pectin to make this sauce firm.

Note: 1 pound = 16 ounces

Ingredients (makes about 4 pints)

4 lbs cranberries
1/2 cup water
2 oranges
2 lemons (I used Meyer lemons)
2 cups sugar

Directions

1. Add the cranberries and water to a large sauce spot.
2. Zest the orange and lemon. Add the zest to the cranberries.
3. Juice the oranges and lemons. Add the juice to the cranberries.
4. Add the sugar to the cranberries. Stir well.
5. Heat over medium heat stirring occasionally until the berries burst and sauce starts to thicken, about 15 minutes.
6. Add the sauce to hot, sterile jars.
7. Remove any air bubbles. This sauce does have a tendency to build up bubbles, so do not skip this step.
8. Leave 1/4" headspace. Add the hot lids and adjust the 2 piece caps.
9. Process pints in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Garden Prep That You Can Do During Winter


If you are anything like me, then you get anxious to start your yearly garden when new shiny seed catalogues start tricking in from the mail. However, my garden is sitting under several inches of snow and there is a winter storm advisory in effect right now, so there will be no digging on in the garden right now, so what is a girl to do? I have been brainstorming things that you can do in the middle of winter for your garden.

1. Read garden books: I read all types of gardening books to expand my knowledge. Some of my favorite gardening books include How to Grow More Vegetables, Seed to Seed, and Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. I am currently searching my public library for good books on growing squash, melons, composting, and companion planting. I already have a baseline knowledge of these topics, so I am looking for more advanced information. If you have recommendations, then please leave me a comment below.

2. Write seed reviews: Gardeners love sharing their experiences on what seeds work well in their garden. I really love it when a reviewer tells me what zone they are located in, what type of soil they have, anything special they did to germinate the seeds, and how the fruit/vegetable tasted. I use seed reviews from other gardeners to help me plan my own garden. I have been working on putting up my seed reviews on suppliers websites and my Pinterest board. I do not write negative seed reviews until I have tried a seed 3 times to account for potential growing errors on my part.

3. Build trellis, spacing templates, insect houses and other building projects: Now is the time to complete all of your building projects for next spring. During winter time is on your side before the hustle and bustle of planting and harvesting season starts.

4. Plan your garden for next year and order seeds: Now is a good time to get out the graph paper to plan your garden beds for next year. During this time of year I look back at what we grew, bought, and ate over the past year to assess what we need to grow more or less of to accommodate our changing family. I also decide if we should invest in some new crops in our garden. Some of my favorite seed companies are Seed Savers Exchange, Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds, and Kitazawa.

5. Gather gardening supplies: During this time of year I gather recycled items that can be used in my garden like citrus bags, glass and plastic bottles, and pots. My local hardware store also give generous rebates on anything in the store during the winter months. I use this time to stock up on gardening tools and materials for seed starting.

6. Sharpen garden tools: I hate when I stick my shovel into the ground only to realize that I forgot to sharpen the edge. Now is a good time to sharpen your garden tools so you do not have to stop and do it as you are about ready to take on a new gardening project.

7. Set gardening goals for the year: This year our family wants to increase our vegetable sustainability. We also want to germinate enough seeds to have plant starts to sell to other gardeners. Our final goal is to increase our winter gardening.

8. Eat the current harvest: Right now we have lots of peas in our freezer, and I have plenty of winter squash, onions, and potatoes that need to be eaten before the spring season.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Canning Slow Cooker Cranberry Applesauce


I have not experimented with a lot of flavored applesauce, but I really wanted to try cranberry applesauce this year because the problem with cranberry sauce is that you have to add a lot of sugar to the beautiful tart little berries to take some of the sour edge off the berries. I love tart foods, but even raw cranberries are a bit much for me, so I wanted to make an applesauce that highlights the flavor of the cranberries without bowls full of sugar.

The cranberry applesauce came out with a nice pale red color. The sauce was tart from cranberries and Fuji apples that I gathered from my storage apples. The cranberry flavor was muted compared to regular cranberry sauce but still present. This cranberry applesauce makes a nice snack or side for brunch. Surprisingly, my family enjoyed this tart applesauce. I was expecting rebellion against this cranberry sauce due to the tart flavor, but the family decided that this sauce was a nice change of pace from regular applesauce.

I decided to make this cranberry applesauce in my slow cooker, so I would not have to baby sit a pot of apples all day long on my stove. I used an 8 quart crockpot for this recipe, but if you do not have a crockpot that large, you can always make this cranberry applesauce on the stove over low/medium heat and the occasional stirring. The cranberry applesauce is ready when the apples and berries can easily be smashed with a potato masher or pureed with an immersion blender.

Ingredients (makes about 3 quarts)

6.5 pounds apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
24 ounces cranberries
2 tbsp bottled lemon juice

Directions

1. Add the apples, cranberries, and lemon juice to the crockpot. Cook on high for 4 hours with the lid on.
2. Puree or smash the cranberry applesauce with a potato masher or immersion blender. If the apples are too hard to puree, then cook for another hour. At this point, the applesauce will be too liquidly.
3. Cook the applesauce on low with the lid off for 2 hours or until the applesauce is the desired consistency. I did not stir my cranberry applesauce, but you may consider stirring your applesauce if you know your slow cooker has a hot spot.
4. Transfer the applesauce to a large pot. Bring the applesauce to a boil (212 degrees F.)
5. Ladle the cranberry applesauce in hot, sterile jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
6. Remove air bubbles and adjust 2 piece caps.
7. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails