DAILY FARM LIFE / IN MY KITCHEN / life on thomas run

Preserving Greatness

I'm dropping the ball.

If I look up from my laptop at this very moment, and cast my eyes across the kitchen, there is  a countertop overflowing with produce from our garden. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn….I've lost my canning and freezing mojo. Want to hear a few of my excuses?

It's hot.

I have only one working burner on my stovetop. (sometimes, two on a lucky day.)

I have no freezer space.

I needed some inspiration. So this weekend, I stood in front of my shelf of cookbooks and looked for the one I thought might provide it. I grabbed  The Joy of Cooking
, which rarely lets me down, and then reached for one I don't look at often enough, my More-With-Less Cookbook
. If you don't have this cookbook, it is worth adding to your library just for all the small words of wisdom tucked around the recipes. It's like having a book filled with your grandmother's notes. The book is filled with the mindset of using what you have, saving and preserving your bounty. It was just the inspiration I needed.

DSC_0044

It got me thinking that there had to be another way, besides heating up my little kitchen with pots of boiling tomatoes, to preserve some of this garden goodness that we've been waiting for all year.

That's when I decided to dig deep in my closet and pull out the dehydrator my mother-in-law threw on our moving truck when we left Wisconsin for Maryland, a few years ago. I've used it once. For a large batch of apples, that apparently I was the only one who truly appreciated. 

I read online that the small, sweet and meaty tomatoes are the best for dehydrating. So I went to the garden and picked every single ripe small and meaty tomato I could find.

DSC_0054

I washed and topped and sliced tomatoes, loading every single tray in the dehydrator and feeling quite proud of my little discovery.

I carried the dehydrator over to the only plug in the kitchen that I knew wouldn't blow the fuses in the whole house and plugged it in.

Silence.

I jiggled the cord. Smacked the lid down a few times. Banged it around on my counter. And searched for an "on" button, thinking maybe I'd forgotten how it worked.

When Dan came inside for lunch I was disheartened.

"I have this whole thing chock-full of tomatoes and it's completely dead. "

He got that glint of excitement in his eye, only a man can get, and went looking for a small screwdriver. While the girls and I sat the kitchen table eating our tuna fish sandwiches, he sat with the dehydrator across his lap, wires and fans and heating units hanging off in every direction.

DSC_0046

After testing it with that little beeping pen that announces the presence of electricity with it's squealing beeps, he knew it was losing power somewhere and there was only one more thing to do with it–take it to my uncle's shop. 

He came home an hour later empty-handed and said something about a "diode" and that it couldn't be fixed.

But…my uncle had the exact same one in his basement.

And so, my friends, long story longer, I have successfully dehydrated my first batch of tomatoes. This may be my summer of the dehydrator. I wonder what other things I can suck the juice out of?

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::


Winners of the giveaway from Friday:

Cooking Fun goes to:

Gen:

Fantastic books, thank you for the wonderful giveaway.


Crafting Fun goes to:

Sarah said…

Both books look great – always looking for new ideas!

Congratulations! Please send me an email (found on the About Molly page) with your contact information and I'll pass it on to the publisher!

I'm dropping the ball.

If I look up from my laptop at this very moment, and cast my eyes across the kitchen, there is  a countertop overflowing with produce from our garden. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn….I've lost my canning and freezing mojo. Want to hear a few of my excuses?

It's hot.

I have only one working burner on my stovetop. (sometimes, two on a lucky day.)

I have no freezer space.

I needed some inspiration. So this weekend, I stood in front of my shelf of cookbooks and looked for the one I thought might provide it. I grabbed  The Joy of Cooking
, which rarely lets me down, and then reached for one I don't look at often enough, my More-With-Less Cookbook
. If you don't have this cookbook, it is worth adding to your library just for all the small words of wisdom tucked around the recipes. It's like having a book filled with your grandmother's notes. The book is filled with the mindset of using what you have, saving and preserving your bounty. It was just the inspiration I needed.

DSC_0044

It got me thinking that there had to be another way, besides heating up my little kitchen with pots of boiling tomatoes, to preserve some of this garden goodness that we've been waiting for all year.

That's when I decided to dig deep in my closet and pull out the dehydrator my mother-in-law threw on our moving truck when we left Wisconsin for Maryland, a few years ago. I've used it once. For a large batch of apples, that apparently I was the only one who truly appreciated. 

I read online that the small, sweet and meaty tomatoes are the best for dehydrating. So I went to the garden and picked every single ripe small and meaty tomato I could find.

DSC_0054

I washed and topped and sliced tomatoes, loading every single tray in the dehydrator and feeling quite proud of my little discovery.

I carried the dehydrator over to the only plug in the kitchen that I knew wouldn't blow the fuses in the whole house and plugged it in.

Silence.

I jiggled the cord. Smacked the lid down a few times. Banged it around on my counter. And searched for an "on" button, thinking maybe I'd forgotten how it worked.

When Dan came inside for lunch I was disheartened.

"I have this whole thing chock-full of tomatoes and it's completely dead. "

He got that glint of excitement in his eye, only a man can get, and went looking for a small screwdriver. While the girls and I sat the kitchen table eating our tuna fish sandwiches, he sat with the dehydrator across his lap, wires and fans and heating units hanging off in every direction.

DSC_0046

After testing it with that little beeping pen that announces the presence of electricity with it's squealing beeps, he knew it was losing power somewhere and there was only one more thing to do with it–take it to my uncle's shop. 

He came home an hour later empty-handed and said something about a "diode" and that it couldn't be fixed.

But…my uncle had the exact same one in his basement.

And so, my friends, long story longer, I have successfully dehydrated my first batch of tomatoes. This may be my summer of the dehydrator. I wonder what other things I can suck the juice out of?

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::


Winners of the giveaway from Friday:

Cooking Fun goes to:

Gen:

Fantastic books, thank you for the wonderful giveaway.


Crafting Fun goes to:

Sarah said…

Both books look great – always looking for new ideas!

Congratulations! Please send me an email (found on the About Molly page) with your contact information and I'll pass it on to the publisher!

38 comments on “Preserving Greatness”

  1. This brings back memories of my parents canning spaghetti sauce in our house w/o air conditioning back in the ’70s. To my small self, it seemed like an awfully hot task when you could just go buy a jar of Ragu! Of course, now I appreciate the flavor of a homemade sauce and understand their slaving over the hot stove. Back then – not so much.

  2. I found you through a friend. I can’t believe the first post I read here featured the More With Less cookbook. That has been in the family for years and a treasure. So glad to find you!

  3. OK, so, last night I just made my first successful batch of yogurt inside our dehydrator. It is awesome. My mom bought me an Excalibur (apparently the “king” of dryers) and I felt guilty only using it to dry peaches, but now, I’ll be doing tomatoes, yogurt, blueberries, and anything else I can get my hands on . . .I’d highly recommend getting a nice dryer because they last a lifetime and I’m totally with you on not being so reliant on frozen foods. Our power went out for 5 hours last week and I was freaking out about having to “can” all the frozen things on our camp stove in order to salvage them. Thankfully, power was restored with my sanity. But I am really growing to appreciate dried foods! Cheers on the tomatoes. I heard you can preserve them in olive oil like sundried tomatoes.

  4. I am a huge fan of the More With Less cookbook – the recipes and philosophy behind them. And it looks like you are truly living this beautiful way. (Be sure to try the Oatmeal Bread sometime. It is our favorite!)

  5. We love our dehydrator. The one we were using recently died, so we bought a new one. It’s much smaller, but it came with a ton of recipes and ideas, so we’ll be expanding our food drying repertoire.

  6. try bananas, pears, and (of course)apples. strawberries get messy.you can also dry tomatoes in the oven – set very low, sprinkled with salt.

    have fun! thanks for the cookbook suggestion 😉

  7. I had no idea that you could dehydrate tomatoes… what do they turn out like? Sun-dried, sorta? Do you freeze them after they’re dried? I am just beginning to learn canning and freezing and drying from my mother-in-law. My mom knew how to do such things, but never taught me growing up. In just the last several years I’ve discovered the joys of making my own jams and canning my own fruits. I’ve dehydrated every kind of fruit there is. (Apricots did NOT turn out well… I don’t know what the heck happened.) I love feeling just a little like I can live off the land…

  8. I love to dehydrate apple slices. They are so tasty – I can hardly keep them in the house. I didn’t think of dehydrating tomatoes…I might be doing that soon!

  9. How odd it was the same dehydrator. Thanks for sharing the story. Dried tomatoes are always a favorite. Try kale leaves with some salt too.

  10. susan, i have fond memories of canning tomatoes and peaches in our farmhouse growing up–fans blowing on us to keep us cool. and i remember dreading it. gosh, i wish i would have paid closer attention!

  11. i’ve heard the same thing–that they can be packed in olive oil. i have just put mine in airtight freezer bags, w/o the oil. i can’t believe you made yogurt in yours. how interesting!

  12. hi suzanne. yup, i’m going to freeze mine, just in case i haven’t gotten out all the moisture. i have those freezer bags that you can suck all the air out of, which i think will work perfectly and keeps them from taking up a lot of space.

  13. I’ve been dehydrating everything this summer. I got my 1st real dehydrator this year, an Excalibur, it’s awesome. I cut zucchini real thin and sprinkle with onion salt and dill then dehydrate, they come out like healthy little chips.

    So far this year I’ve dehydrated watermelon, cherries, huckleberries, cucumber, bananas, apples, apricots, and my favorite, pineapple. Great snacks to pack in your bag and have on hand.

  14. That’s great! I wanted to dehydrate some stuff so I borrowed a dehydrator, but then the garden quit making any produce (it’s just too hot here – we’ll have another half-season in the “fall”) so I finally gave it back without doing anything :PGood luck getting lots done!!

  15. That’s so funny about men getting a glint of excitement when something breaks in the house. My husband is just the same. No matter what the appliance is, he runs off to get his toolbox and it’s all Christmas morning. 🙂

  16. Yes, you can use parchment or wax paper. Some model’s offer packs of fruit roll up paper that fits on top of the grates.

    I suspect that parchement does well. You can use your oven too, but who wants to heat up the kitchen to make a eventually cold snack?

    Good luck!

  17. SO JEALOUS seeing all of your great tomatoes….we had to pull all of ours recently because of Tomatoe blight…yuck. No tomato sauce for me this year. Thanks for all of the great inspiration, though 🙂

  18. Molly, I was up at the crack of dawn canning jalapeno salsa after reading this post.

    I can absolutely relate. Funny, we wanted gardens. We wanted that homemade freshness … but I’m feeling the same way this week, a bit like a slave to the upkeep of processing the yeild.

    One thing is for sure, I have a better understanding of my Grandmother’s need to maintain a weekly schedule: baking one day, canning the next, washing the next … and so on. Her garden put my little driveway side plot to shame. The nice thing is, I’m remembering her with new appreciation as I seed and slice peppers. She would be proud, I’m pretty sure.

  19. How fun! I had no idea you could dehydrate tomatoes!And, for what it’s worth, if you find yourself overflowing with produce and it’s getting ahead of you you might be able to donate some to your local food bank. Our food bank asks for peoples ‘leftover’ homegrown produce. Just a thought. 🙂

  20. I felt so good reading this. I have zuchhini, tomatoes (cherry, roma, yellow) and onions to overflowing and I just haven’t been able to get up the “umph” to do much. I’ve wondered what my problem was! I have made refrigerator pickles, spaghetti sauce and have grated the zuchinni, but not done much else… I saw an oven method of sun dried romas and may try that, I just don’t feel into right now!

  21. Oh, how I covet your dehydrator. I have packed so much CSA kale into my freezer that I swear a green monster may emerge at any moment and spray blanched leaves all over my kitchen. Do you ever cook from The Art of Simple Food? That’s another one that gets my creative juices flowing:)

    PS– my kitchen looks the exact same way, and I only have one excuse:the sun is shining:: I am at the beach.

  22. I dehydrated onions one summer when our uncle had planted more than the extended family could ever use. Then I put them in the freezer in case I hadn’t gotten all the moisture out. It was great that winter…just reach into the freezer and season away with my onions.

    You should try making your own raisins. Let the kids help. Just for fun!

  23. We don’t have a dehydrator, but we oven dry cherry tomatoes on a bed of kosher or pickling salt spread in a jelly roll pan, strewn with sprigs of thyme. On a low temp it takes an hour or two (keep checking). We pack them in jars of olive oil which we keep in the fridge, and toss them into various dishes all winter long. We save the salt and use it year after year.

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