As a cooperative, we want to know more about you: what your concerns are, what your skills and interests are, and what you feel you can do to help strengthen our cooperative and the larger community. We encourage each member to commit to initiating or participating in projects, joining a committee, serving on the board of directors, and helping with events and tasks as they arise. No pressure, though. Just take the short ‘n snappy survey now (2 minutes of your time) click here BY THURSDAY FEBRUARY 14 (yes, Valentine’s Day) and we will return the love via a random draw of two pairs of tickets for two, to the Powell River Film Festival (Feb 19-24, 2013)!
If you’ve already taken this survey, thank you! You are automatically entered in our random draw!
As you may have noticed in our recent Facebook posts, Skookum members are drying up a storm this year, preserving the local (and local-ish) harvest of peaches, plums, squash, tomatoes, peppers, apples, pears, berries and more.
A crack team of 6 members have been buying, picking and sharing in-season produce from Bernie’s Fruit Truck (a.k.a Vitamin Express), and attending dehydrating work parties at the Community Resource Centre (CRC), which houses two food dehydrators. Part of the bounty is always put aside for CRC client use, thus fulfilling our community share. Additionally, Skookum’s newest project is a bulk order of dehydrators, where members of our cooperative got together and saved on shipping/ brokerage fees to have five Excalibur dehydrators delivered, making at least five local families more food secure.
What is the buzz on drying food?
What can you dehydrate?
Does it replace canning, pickling, or freezing?
What are the advantages and drawbacks of drying?
What can you dehydrate and what do you do with the dried food anyhow?
How long does it take to preparea and dry stuff?
How much does it cost?
How do I get started?
Despite being an ancient form of food preservation, dating back to biblical times, dehydrating is coming into its own in our less-than-arid climate, through simple technology: a dehydrator. At its most basic level, this is a vented box with heat elements, fans and porous shelves upon which to place sliced, diced, shredded or even select whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, meat, fish, etc. The ‘devil is in the details’ though, as uniformity of dehydration and the ability to set accurate drying temperatures and lengths of time are attributes that only the better machines offer.
Dehydrating foods provides “living ” or uncooked foods. If done properly, only the water content is extracted, leaving much of the flavour and nutrients behind
They are easy to digest, rich in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and are highly nutritious
Many modern methods of preserving foods through refrigeration, freezing, canning, pasteurizing, and chemical or even natural additives like sugar, salt, pectin, Sodium Bisulfite, etc. reduce the nutrient content in food, or provide unwanted extra calories/sodium
Easily stored in air and light-proof containers, dehydrated foods weigh considerably less than fresh or food preserved any other way (useful in camping and backpacking: easy to carry!) and can sit on your shelf for up to 20 years making them excellent for disasters and hard times (think food security here!)
It’s cheaper than freezing, in the end: a few hours of drying at a few cents per hour, and you’re done. This frees up freezer/pantry space for other goodies that must be preseved in other ways.
See some seasonal food on sale or have a glut of local food? Pick it or buy it and dry it during any season. Dried pineapples and mangoes make great (if non-local) snacks; autumn is a great time to ponder dried chanterelles…
And you can mix and match your foods to create dried culinary delights like pear-apricot leather with embedded walnut pieces, a mixed dried vegetable soup mix (with a different vegetable on each tray of your dehydrator), an entire dehydrated spaghetti dinner, stews and chile, even jerkies of all kinds (salmon, chicken, turkey, beef); think of it as gentle ‘cooking’, in slow motion
Using dried food is a dream: either use it as is (as in fruit leathers) or mix it with wetter foods or soak to rehydrate dried food in water or broth to create flavourful concoctions with super-concentrated flavour
Dehydrators can be used to raise yeasted bread doughs, make yogurt, teas (out of leafy herbs or bits of fruit), cheese, seeds for planting, and even dry flowers and leaves for crafts – anything that can benefit from a low, sustained, dry heat (this includes me—Swedish sauna, anyone?)
As in freezing or canning food, there are some upfront costs, namely for the dehydrator (here is a review of some of the more popular types; they range from about $80 to $2,000+) and for containers in which to store the food (plastic bags, and even glass jars preferably with the air sucked out via a vacuum sealer); add to this the electricity use in the actual dehydration process
Time is of the essence: you need to be able to collect or buy food at the peak of freshness and ripeness to get the best results, and it does take some time to peel, pit, check (drop briefly in boiling water to remove some of the waxy coating on things like blueberries or grapes) and slice certain items like pears, peaches or cherries to prepare them for dehydrating. Also, getting the dried food off the racks and in air-tight containers is best done sooner rather than later because the dried food will act as a sponge and collect ambient moisture!
Certain foods just don’t dehydrate that well, such as:
whole items (be it fruits, vegetables, etc.); this reduces access to the moister parts; sliced or shredded food works best and fastest
fibrous food like sliced artichokes or carrots (unless they are sliced really thinly)
high-moisture foods like watermelon and cucumber that take a long time (but they are interesting just the same!)
foods with lots of fat/oil in them that can go rancid without other preservatives like salt/sugar, etc.
You need to make sure that foods are dried and stored properly, to avoid mold and spoilage, so home-made dehydrators are not recommended in our climate
You need to pay attention and respond to your dehydrating foods as needed; factors such as the type and variety of fruit/vegetable you are dehydrating, its ripeness and sugar level (both increase drying time), and ambient humidity, all factor in the final drying times. While you cannot really over-dry things at the recommended low temperatures, you don’t want to be wasting energy either or producing food that is overly dry for no reason; some moisture content is okay, depending on what you are drying.
Want to get started? Contact us (just comment below or use our contact page) and we’ll see what we can do to get you drying at least some food this year!
Just a little window into Nola’s special Skookum-sponsored Mushroom Log Workshop that happened within the last month or so. Nola bought the spores online in quantity (to reduce the cost for all) and presented the workshops. It was a BYOL (Bring Your Own Log) affair. Images of the oyster and shiitake mushrooms coming soon. Many thanks, Nola! Do you have a project you’d like to lead? Propose it here: http://skookumfood.ca/our-projects/suggest-a-project/
Want to wander into your yard to gather your own juicy oyster and shiitake mushrooms? You can! Mushrooms add a delicious earthy taste to your dishes, they don’t take up a lot of space and don’t require a lot of work to grow. Any shady, moist spot in your garden will do.
On April 10, 2011, from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, we will be offering a mushroom growing workshop. There are many ways to grow mushrooms, and many kinds you can grow. This workshop will focus on growing shiitake and oyster mushrooms using dowel plugs in hardwood logs. We will touch on some other methods very briefly, but the dowel plug method is easy to do, and provides an efficient and aesthetic way to grow.
All participants must pre-register and pay for this workshop. Each registrant will receive 250 spores of their choice of mushroom (one type) and you can order any more you like in sets of 250. So, for example, if you want to grow both oyster and shiitake mushrooms, you can register and select shiitakes, then order an additional set of oysters.
Things to bring:
For every 250 spores you want to harvest, you’ll need 5–7 rounds of hardwood (any kind) between 48 inches diameter, two to four feet long (to total about 20 feet of hardwood altogether). If you have more, please bring some for others who might not.
Your hardwood rounds must be no more than 6 weeks old; which is to say that they cannot have been cut more than six weeks ago on the date of the workshop;
Also, if you have a cordless drill, or even an electric drill, please bring it along. Waiting to drill holes can be the most time consuming part.