Thursday, July 8, 2010

Living a Homemade Life

Thomas Edison said "the more to do, the more to be done".  I've thought of that quote often in the last couple of days.  Vegetables and fruits are in high season and I have been burning the candle at both ends.  Working full-time and living a homemade life means putting in extra hours this time of year.  The garden needs attention, both weeding and harvesting, the fruit stands are bursting with fresh fruit and the farmer's market is open and offering anything I didn't have room to plant.

We were away from home over the weekend again and this time on our way home we stopped at an amazing fruit stand.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to preserve some of the wonderful fruits available.   Fruit is so nutritious, but around here in the winter fresh fruit needs to be shipped from quite a distance.  The cantaloupe was amazing, but drying and canning are not recommended and freezing would take up more space than we have available, so we will enjoy our melons fresh.  Freezer space is the reason I chose dehydration as the method of preservation for much of the fruit we purchased.

Drying is one of the earliest known means of food preservation.  Food can be sun-dried in the open air; I did this last year with jalapeno peppers, the birds and neighbor animals left them alone.  I hang dry herbs, this method works well with mint, taking very little time to dry.  With fruit, however, I choose to use a dehydrator.  I put apricots, cherries, strawberries, and blueberries in the dehydrator at the same time.  I set the drying temperture around 120 degrees so that the nutrients are not destroyed in the process.

After drying, two pounds of strawberries fill one pint jar (the photo above is one pound of strawberries).  I will use the fruit I dried for adding to the granola I make or for snacking.

Besides drying, I also canned some of the sweet cherries we bought.  When canning cherries leave the pit  inside, that way they stay nice and firm.  After washing the cherries be sure to place them in a bowl of cool water, if any cherries float discard them, they may be wormy. 

I made a light honey and water syrup to pour over the cherries and canned them in a water bath.  It looks so nice to have these pretty jars on the pantry shelf.  I love the feeling of stocking the pantry for winter.