Dehydrating tales

Laura describes her first experience of using the dehydrator featured in the Low Carbon Preserving workshop held on 10th September 2011.

"I began using the food dehydrator last week and am very pleased with the results so far. I already have a tin full of dried apple rings which should see us well into the winter. They're so delicious that I have to make myself eat fresh ones and save the rings for later! I'm particularly pleased that these are all local Old Trafford apples given to me by allotment neighbours so there are no food miles involved and the cost was to happily pick apples in the autumn sunshine - what a bargain!

Tomatoes dehydrated
There is a satisfying, therapeutic effect from coring and slicing dozens of apples to neatly arrange on the dehydrator's trays. It offers the dual luxuries of daydreaming while also feeling very productive. Apples rings are first dipped in a solution of water and lemon juice to keep their colour, then dried on a clean tea towel before going into the dehydrator. It does take some time but the result is worth it. If we can manage not to just eat them all I plan to make cakes with them in a few months time. 

Tomatoes are particularly rewarding to dry (and less time-consuming than apples) as it's impossible eat all that my plants produce. I really prepared for this tomato season by abstaining for months beforehand but there are still only so many variations on tomato-based dinners one can eat!! In addition, they shrink massively so I have 40 or 50 tomatoes stored in one small jam jar. When I've done the lot (they are still ripening) I'm going to store them in olive oil  and they should keep until this time next year; although I expect we'll scoff them long before that. My tomatoes are small so I have just cut them in half which was quick and easy.

How it works
Elderberries are a faff to handle as they're so small. They're tender when fresh and then even tinier when dried. However I enjoyed foraging for them and will enjoy making biscuits with those delicious little fruits later.

The rose hips that I found when I was getting the elderberries will make a lovely infusion throughout the winter. Rose hip tea is excellent for warding off colds (full of vitamin C) and looks really pretty in my glass tea pot!  

I have just put in a load of damsons to dry, which were also given to me by an allotment neighbour. These I washed, dried on a tea towel and slit up the side. I'm hoping they will dry ok - so far they seem to be turning leathery and prune-like. I couldn't face destoning them as they are so small and I've already dealt with 2 gluts of plums this summer. A friend has a gadget for destoning damsons which I may borrow next time.

I'm really pleased with my turn with the OTAGS dehydrator. I urge anyone with a glut to consider borrowing it. It's fun and productive and the end result is very satisfying. I haven't really started using my dried produce yet, besides a few cheeky nibbles, as the point is to store it for a while and concentrate on all the fresh stuff there is still about. Anyway I love seeing it on my shelves as a reminder of all that happened this growing season; it's comforting to know too that it'll be a while yet before I resume shopping in Unicorn or the Manky Superstore."

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