Tag Archives: Holidays

Looking for a Gift that Keeps Giving? Try a Dehydrator!

Trays with fruits and veggies

For your “foodie” friend or family member, a dehydrator might make a great gift. Effective and efficient at drying apple slices, chili peppers, figs, fruit leathers, jerky and more, food dehydrators are a favorite appliance of avid home food preservers.

Why not just use an oven? Using an oven may be reasonable option, but not all ovens maintain a temperature low enough to dry without baking (140 degrees F). Oven drying also requires leaving the oven door cracked open with a fan blowing to provide circulation, requiring a substantial input of energy and time. Dehydrators are small, counter-top appliances designed to dry foods quickly using an electric element for heat and a built-in fan and vents for circulation.

Dehydrators w copyright symbol

There are two main types of dehydrators: units with horizontal air flow and units with vertical air flow. Horizontal air flow design places the heating element and fan on the side of the unit, whereas vertical air flow design contains the heating element and fan at the bottom of the unit. The limited capacity of horizontal flow models can be a disadvantage, while most vertical flow models allow for more trays to be stacked on top of one another. The height of food pieces is more limited with the vertically stacked trays, however, as compared to some horizontal flow cabinets.  Also on the plus side, models with horizontal flow reduce flavor mixture if you are drying different types of foods at the same time, and heat is distributed evenly across all trays.

You can find dehydrators in natural food stores, the small appliance section of department stores, and mail-order catalogs. Costs vary. Before buying the first one you come across, consider this list of dehydrator features to look for:

–          Enclosed heating elements

–          Fan or blower

–          An enclosed thermostat

–          Double wall construction of metal or high grade plastic

–          Four to 10 open-mesh trays made of sturdy, easy-to-wash plastic

–          UL seal of approval

–          One-year guarantee

–          Convenient service available if needed

–          Dial for regulating temperature

–          A timer that can be set to turn unit off (very helpful when drying lasts into the night)

–          Availability of tray liners to purchase for making fruit leather if desired

Dryer with Liner

© Andress, E.L., Harrison, J.A., eds. (2006). So Easy to Preserve, 5th ed. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Advertisements

Spice up the season

If you’ve had enough sweets, but you’re still looking for a way to brighten up the winter days, try mixing together a spicy red hot sauce! This recipe is easy to follow and uses ingredients that are available no matter what the season. Easy Hot Sauce is great for stirring into vegetables or cheese dips and spicing up soups and chili.

Easy Hot Sauce

You’ll need:

  • 8 cups (64 ounces) canned, diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1½ cups seeded, chopped Serrano peppers
  • 4 cups distilled white vinegar (5 percent)
  • 2 teaspoons canning salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole mixed pickling spices

This recipe yields four half-pint jars. Wear gloves when handling, cutting and seeding hot peppers or wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.

Start by washing half-pint canning jars; keep hot until they are filled. Prepare lids according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Next, place mixed pickling spices in a spice bag and tie ends firmly. Mix all ingredients in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.

IMG_0936IMG_0180

Press mixture through a food mill. Return the liquid to the pot, heat to boiling and boil for 15 minutes.

Fill hot sauce into clean, hot half-pint jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids.

Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes if 1,000-6,000 ft. altitude; 20 minutes if over 6,000 ft.). Allow hot sauce to cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check seals. You can remove screw bands after the food has cooled if the lids are sealed.

P1010090

This entry is an edited version of an article originally written by April Reese Sorrow and Elizabeth L. Andress.

A sweet spread for your sweetheart

Jelly jars

The spring and summer months allow a wealth of fresh canning possibilities. Tomatoes, corn and green beans from gardens can keep you canning or freezing until you wear out. But by winter, you may be ready to try some different types of preserves. Perhaps you’re also looking for ways to sweeten the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday with home-preserved gifts for your loved ones.

Elizabeth Andress is the Director of the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which is hosted by the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia. She said recipes available from the Center using juice concentrates and canned vegetables enable canners to preserve in winter. “There are recipes perfect for people yearning to can in the winter,” Andress said. “You don’t always have to can with fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of those preserves also make nice holiday gifts.”

Orange Jelly from Frozen Juice

This recipe calls for frozen concentrated juice and powdered pectin and creates a delightful, flavorful orange jelly for toast or biscuits on dreary winter mornings or late afternoons.

For five or six half-pint jars, you’ll need:

  • 12 ounces concentrated orange juice, thawed
  • 2½ cups water
  • 4½ cups sugar
  • 1 box powdered regular pectin

Begin by sterilizing your canning jars. To sterilize jars, boil empty, washed and rinsed jars for 10 minutes in water. The easiest way to do this is to stand empty jars upright on a rack in a boiling water canner filled with clean water. Keep jars hot until they are filled.

Measure sugar and set aside. Mix juice and water in a saucepan and stir in powdered pectin. Bring to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Once boiling, stir in all sugar. Stir and bring to a full boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.

Skimming foam (1)

Remove from heat; skim off foam quickly. Pour hot jelly immediately into hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes (10 minutes if 1,000-6,000 ft. altitude; 15 minutes if over 6,000 ft.). Allow jelly to cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check seals. You can remove screw bands after the food has cooled if the lids are sealed.

This entry is an edited version of an article originally written by April Reese Sorrow and Elizabeth L. Andress.

Lots of Leftovers?

The notion of abundance seems to permeate the holiday season. In preparation for guests or as a contribution to a potluck gathering, you might prepare enough food to feed 12 or more people…and sometimes only 6 people show up, or there are so many other dishes to choose from that only small portions are taken from each dish. So then, what do you do with the leftovers?

First of all, perishable foods that have sat at room temperature (higher than 40°F) for over two hours need to be discarded. It’s also handy to note a few particular foods don’t generally freeze well: celery, cucumbers, parsley, radishes, and lettuce are vegetables that don’t freeze well due to water logging; mayonnaise, sour cream, milk sauces, and cream and custard fillings are likely to separate; fried foods, meringue and icings with egg whites will lose their desired consistencies.

If you plan to eat a food within three to four days, then cover that food with plastic wrap or seal it in a reusable container and refrigerate. Check that your refrigerator is set to 40°F or below.

If you don’t think that you’ll get to it in the next few days, then freeze the food at 0°F or below. For best quality, get it in the freezer sooner rather than later. Also consider portion sizes when you package food for freezing. Avoid creating such large portions that you repeatedly thaw and refreeze- thawing and refreezing leads to water loss, and therefore a drier final product.

Package foods in freezer bags or tightly sealed glass or plastic containers. You may also use butcher paper, heavy-duty aluminum foil, or plastic wrap. Regular plastic wrap will allow air to reach the food and cause it to deteriorate overtime, so wrap with multiple layers of plastic wrap and consider placing it in a rigid container as well. The material of freezer bags, glass, thick plastic, and butcher paper is impermeable to air.

If using a bag or rigid container, remember to leave enough head space for the food to expand while freezing. Adequate headspace is important so that the package doesn’t break. The actual amount of headspace required depends on the food you are freezing, but leaving one inch is most likely enough unless you are freezing a liquid, in which case leave 1½ inches.

Be sure to label packages with the name of the food and date, as color and appearance may change in the freezing process, or you might just not be able to see through the packaging.

For quickest freezing, spread the items out against the surfaces of the freezer, then rearrange packages closer together once frozen. This more rapid freezing prevents ice crystals from forming, which are likely to damage food cells. Also, freeze only about two to three pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer space. That’s the amount that can freeze within 24 hours.

Information in this entry comes from the Freezing and Food Safety Factsheet by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service, Preserving Food: Freezing Prepared Foods by The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and So Easy to Preserve.