OK, I’ll come clean about this page. I just made lavender jelly and it is so pretty, I need an excuse to put the photo up. It is a page that will be necessary at some point, but now that I’ve made the jelly and taken some shots of it, I want to show it off.
The real reason for the page, though, is that I need a parent page for the ‘preserving the harvest ‘section of the blog. I want to be able to share recipes when I find particularly good ones. So, what this page will eventually do is be the parent page for all sorts of ‘preserving the harvest’ recipe pages and posts as I come across good ones and work on creatively putting up the harvest for the year. Be sure to check back here for more food preserving ideas and recipes.
Fit for a Queen:
Apparently, Queen Elizabeth I loved this jelly and made sure her chef always had it on hand. The story goes that she tasted it on a trip to Provence where the lavender fields abound. When I made it I was alarmed at first by the color of the lavender water. It turns an ugly purple-ish grey. Don’t worry, it will come light pink when the sugar is added and the mixture is cooked. No, I don’t know why; I just know that it does and it’s pretty. I haven’t tasted it yet, so can’t rave–yet. Right now, I’m happy just to look at it.
This year, we bought two Excalibur dehydrators to augment our food preservation options. I’ve not done a lot of dehydrating to date, but I have tried the Excalibur dehydrator and found it worked for me. This year, I plan to dehydrate more food than previous years. For one thing, it cuts down on the need for storage space, which is at a premium in our small two bedroom home. Another reason for dehydrating that is perhaps more important from a preservationist point of view is that it makes you less dependent upon electricity. It is all well and good to keep things in a freezer, but if you lose power for a few days you may well lose a lot of your food as well.
As much as I LOVE fresh black cherries, I simply cannot eat all the cherries that our two old trees provide us during the short season they are ripe. With the harvest this year, I made a bunch of cherry pie filling, froze some of them fresh, and dehydrated them till I was sick of hearing the dehydrator at work. We now have several quarts of dried cherries to be enjoyed all winter long.
Worth their weight in gold: having seen a very small package at the local organic grocery store for sale at nearly $18 per 100 grams, I now feel good about our stock! The way the stock market is going these days, I’m better off to have my holdings in organic dried cherries. These really are fit for a Queen–she’s about the only person who could afford to eat those cherries at that price! Seriously: this is an unforeseen benefit to growing my own food: I could not afford to eat as well as we do, if I had to go buy it!
Apples & Pears:
We also dehydrate a lot of our apples and pears. We slice them into rings and dehydrate them without sugar. I use the dried apples when making muesli, and enjoy the dried pears on their own. I find them to be a really nice, sweet snack.
Zucchini, Carrots, Cabbage, Peas, Green Beans:
This year I am trying to dry peas for the first time. I have done the zucchinis and carrots in previous years, and thought the addition of the cabbage, peas and green beans would make a nice soup or stew mix. I find it handy (when I’m feeling lazy) to just be able to reach for the dried veggies and toss them in to a meat curry or stew while it’s cooking.
We have a riotous spearmint grove among our blueberry bushes. When we moved in and there was no garden, I thought that having meandering mint was a good idea; now that it’s a burgeoning forest, coppicing and dehydrating it has become a time-consuming, but necessary, job. Still, the smell is nice while you pick blueberries, and the same aroma fills the house while it’s being processed. The resulting tea is much richer and fresher than store-bought, and the sealed plastic bags make great, light Christmas gifts for sending through the mail. A friend drinks green tea because it’s good for her, but looks forward to her Christmas package to sweeten the taste!
This year I dried my own oregano. Compared to store-bought, it is a different thing altogether. Gone is the pallid, wheat-like colour of even the organic variety; mine retains its colour and pungency, so much so that I was shocked at the difference. You can see what I’m saying from the photograph–no you can’t, because I realize I threw out the store’s “oregano” in disgust. One wonders what has been done to the poor thing, though.
In the interests of diversifying our food stores, we dehydrated some of our own chicken meat. The Excalibur machine came with a package of jerky seasoning, so we experimented this year with seasoned chicken jerky. We tried three different strengths of seasoning. The length of drying time was difficult to get right; our tendency was to overdo it, so that the meat texture was almost brittle, but I was concerned about food safety and spoilage. This year we’ll calibrate it all more carefully, so that more than our dog will enjoy the fruits of our labours.
Processing Meat and Game
I have found a great link for safely butchering meat, with video instruction: http://www.welcometohunting.com/video/CWD/dsl/cwd.html