The essential piece of equipment we used during the day was a dehydrator. It has 14 square feet of drying space, and is designed to run on a low heat (the temperature range can be set between (29 - 68 °C) whilst at the same time running a fan to dry the food out. So unlike dehydrating food in your oven its energy efficient and you can then store food in jars without the need to run a freezer. Food preserved this way will keep for at least 9 months, so you can be eating sun riped tomatoes that you've grown long after the UK tomato growing season has ended. If they are really really dry you can just jar them once they've been dehydrated. Or if they have some moisture remaining pack them into small jars and cover with olive oil.
|Vicki showing Claire, Dave and Roy how the tomatoes are coming along in the dehydrator.|
We also salted beans, which was quick and straightforward. Vicki explained that this isn't a technique that enables you to serve up green beans that will taste the same as those you cook freshly picked in the usual way (e.g. steam). Rather its one way of managing part of your bean glut that doesn't require freezer space or use of fossil fuels. Very simply, using a clean sterilised jar we packed sliced green beans (french or runner) in layers with salt. A layer of salt followed by a layer of beans, then another layer of salt until the jar was full. After the beans and the salt have been in the jar overnight you can top up the jar packing more beans and salt in, as the salt draws the water out of the beans which makes them shrink.
We tasted some salted beans that Vicki had de-salted earlier in the day and while they didn't taste like fresh beans adding them to soups, stews and chillis would certainly work... once you've rinsed them to remove as much salt as possible.
The session was funded by our Local Food fund grant for Orchard 49. Thanks to Laura for organising the workshop and to Vicki for sharing her knowledge with us.