Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vegetables for Food Storage

When I first started working on food storage, I was mostly concerned about wheat, powdered milk, honey, beans, salt and water. I was pretty focused on the basics and not really concerned with anything else.

Over the years I have started to think more about vegetables and fruits in my storage. Imagine what it would be like to live off your food storage and only be able to have vegetables or fruits a few times throughout the year. Pretty nasty I’d say.

There is a lot of talk about how healthy wheat, beans and the other basics are but still, I can’t imagine being deprived of veggies, especially fresh veggies. Now I know that ideally, we have stored garden seed and will grow our vegetables, and we have canning supplies to can our vegetables but seriously, if I have to survive on what I can grow, I’m in big trouble.

As I have pondered this over the years, I’ve read tons of information on storing vegetables. One article that I read recently suggested buying a can of vegetables per person for every other day, or for every third day, for children. That’s a good idea – in theory - but in reality, that is 183 cans per person per year or 1100 cans for a family of 6. This same article also suggested buying 1 can of fruit per person per year to store. Nice thought right? That is another 2200 cans of fruit. Is that crazy or what?

Maybe the person who wrote that was thinking that was only for 6 months or less, I’m not sure, but still I can’t even imagine it. I don’t know about you but, I’d need a much bigger house. I can’t even fathom trying to store that much fruit and vegetables. There is a way that makes more sense to me.

I love the idea of drying fruits and vegetables for food storage. If you have not tried this, you seriously should. Not only is it more practical but the amount of space dried food takes up is minimal compared to canned food. I know many people have stored dried vegetables in #10 cans and that is great. Anything to incorporate vegetables into storage is a winner with me.

I have experimented with many different variations of drying. I have probably spent as much time reading about how to successfully dehydrate as I have actually doing it. I know there are other methods that may work as well or even better than what I post here. I want to have the different methods and processes that I have used cataloged here for reference in the future. If you have recipes or ideas you have used, feel free to share. Here are some basic instructions for different vegetables and how to dry and store them and some different ways to use them.

One important thing to remember: Almost any dried vegetable can be ground to powder and used to add extra flavor and nutrition to almost any sauce or soup. *Important: Dry pack or vacuum seal any dried product for long term storage or it will lose it's color and texture.

Asparagus – Wash, cut off woody stems and remove tough skin. Cut stalks into 1” pieces. Dry tips separately. Blanch in boiling water 3-5 minutes or steam blanch for 5 minutes. To use, rehydrate and serve as usual or pulverize dried asparagus into powder for use in sauces or soups.

Beans (Green) – Wash, snip off ends, remove string if necessary and cut into ½ to 1” pieces. Steam blanch beans for 3-5minutes. Dry until brittle and no moisture remains. Green beans will toughen when placed directly in boiling liquid. When adding to soup or stew, turn off heat, add beans and let stand at least 5 minutes (maybe more). Beans will swell and lighten in color. Resume cooking Beans will fully rehydrate as the cooking completes. Use as a vegetable in casseroles or add to soup or stews.

Broccoli – Trim broccoli head, remove yellow bud clusters, cut florets from stems. Peel tough outer skin from stems; cut stems crosswise into ½“ pieces. Water-blanch stems 2-3 minutes or steam-blanch stems for 3-5 minutes. Dry florets and stems separately. Interesting note: Broccoli leaves can be washed and dried then ground into powder and used for flavoring like celery powder. Use broccoli (rehydrated) in cream soups or as a vegetable side dish with cheese sauce or lemon juice or butter and salt and pepper. To rehydrate: Add broccoli to water or chicken broth and let sit for at least 1 hour. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. Prepare soup.

Cabbage - Remove outside leaves and core. Shred cabbage; steam blanch 2 minutes. (Cabbage can be dipped in lemon juice for 5-10 minutes to help retain color, if desired. Spread on trays and dry until crispy. Rehydrate in hot water; use in soups, stir-fry or egg rolls.

Cauliflower - Wash and trim well; cut into florets. Steam blanch 4-5 minutes. Spread on trays and dry. Pulverize or rehydrate for use in soups or stews. Pour hot water over cauliflower and soak 5-10 minutes. Cook as desired. Great in Cheesy Cauliflower soup

Celery – Slice or dice celery. Spread on mesh lined trays and dry several hours until no moisture remains. Use in soups or stews in place of fresh celery. Dry celery can also be blended to make celery powder. Combine equal parts celery powder and your favorite salt to make flavorful celery salt.

CarrotsShredded – Peel and shred carrots. Immerse in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Immediately immerse in ice cold water. Drain well; spread on mesh lined trays, dry 4-6 hours until brittle. Use in soups, carrot cake or as an addition to casseroles. Carrots can be blended to make carrot powder to add extra nutrition to any dish. To rehydrate, pour boiling water over carrot shreds, let stand a few minutes. They will lighten in color; use as desired. Carrots can also be sliced or diced and dried in the same manner. Carrots toughen when added directly in boiling liquid. When adding carrots to a soup or stew, turn off heat, add carrots and let stand at least 5 minutes. They will swell and lighten in color. Resume cooking. They will fully rehydrate as the dish finishes cooking.

Corn – Using frozen corn, spread on trays and dry until brittle, about 6-8 hours. To rehydrate: In a saucepan, combine ¼ c. dried corn with 1 .c. hot. Let sit 10 minutes for corn that has been blanched during the drying process or frozen corn, or 30 minutes longer for corn that has not been blanched. Bring corn to a boil and cook 3-5 minutes. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Drain; add salt and pepper and butter to what is now ¾ c. cooked corn. Prepared as desired or add to soups or stews. Corn toughens when added directly in boiling liquid. When adding corn to a soup or stew, turn off heat, add corn and let stand at least 5 minutes. It will swell and lighten in color. Resume cooking. It will fully rehydrate as the dish finishes cooking

Cucumbers – Peel and slice cucumbers. Dip into lemon juice to prevent darkening. Spread on trays; sprinkle lightly with salt or seasoning salt or any favorite seasoning and dry until crisp. Eat like chips or serve with dip.

Mushrooms – Clean well, slice, place on trays and dry. Dry the stems and caps separately as they will dry at a different rate. These store well and rehydrate quickly.

Onions – Onions can be dried if you have an abundance. Peel, slice or dice; spread or lay on trays and dry until brittle. Place dryer in an out of the way place to avoid the strong smell.

Peas – Using frozen peas, spread on trays and dry until they will shatter, about 4-6 hours. To rehydrate, cover with boiling water, let sit 15 minutes, use as desired.

Peppers – Wash and dice. Spread on trays and dry until brittle. To rehydrate, soak in hot water until soft or add directly to stews and soups.

Potatoes Slices – Peel and slice potatoes ¼” thick. Separate slices and rinse thoroughly to remove all the starch. Immerse in boiling water for 4 minutes. Immediately put into very cold water. Drain well and lay slices on dryer trays and dry until brittle when broken. About 1½ cup slices (loosely packed) will equal 1 large potato.

Potatoes-Shredded – Peel potatoes and shred or grate. Flush potatoes with cold water until all the starch is gone and the water runs clear. (This is the most important step, if starch remains in the potato, they will go dark when you dry them.) Immerse in boiling water for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately immerse in icy cold water; repeat in more cold water until potatoes are completely cool. Cover with cold water and add 1 c. lemon juice. Let potatoes sit in the lemon juice mixture for 45 minutes. Drain well. Spread on drying trays (with mesh liner or lined with nylon netting) and dry until brittle and no soft potatoes remain. Rotate trays if desired.

Spinach – Wash spinach leaves well. Remove any tough stems or damaged leaves. Spread on trays and dry till brittle. To use: grind into powder to add to soups or sauces or pour boiling water over leaves and let sit about 5 minutes. Cook as usual.

Tomatoes – Wash and remove core. Slice thin onto paper and let some of the liquid drain from slices. Lay slices on dehydrator tray and dry until slices are brittle, turning once during the process. To use, crumble into soups or stews, pulverize and use as tomato powder or use to make homemade sundried tomatoes in olive oil. Crumble dried tomatoes into softened cream cheese to make a great spread. Add onions or peppers if desired. To add tomatoes to a salad, put small pieces in the salad dressing to rehydrate.

– Wash and slice (for larger zucchini, halve, remove seeds and peel if skin is tough). Dip slices in lemon juice to retain color or for Soy chips, dip slices into a mixture of 1 part soy sauce and 2 parts water and soak for3-5 minutes. (Try substituting Braggs Liquid Aminos for the soy sauce for a healthier version without all the salt. Arrange slices on drying trays and dry 4-8 hours until crisp. Store in airtight container.

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