Whew! Some 20+ Skookum members and friends were on hand this past weekend for year 2 of our Fall Fair cider-pressing/processing/vending presence, and we provided a very good show indeed! Not to mention delicious fresh, lightly spiced hot and cool cider, sold by the mug ($1) and by the 32-oz bottle ($5).
This Skookum fundraiser raised somewhere in the neighbourhood of $500 after expenses. We would like to thank all the apple donors as well as those folks and organizations (CJMP springs to mind) who let us use their materials and equipment. Very special thanks to Board member/taskmaster David (who organized the whole shebang this year, taking cues/tips from Jax), our president and chief im/presser Pete, Jacqueline herself, Jan (and husband Gary, both working behind the scenes to make sure we had the press, bottles and materials we needed), and former director Sharon!
Members Stacy, Annabelle, Connie, Patricia (and her husband John), Melissa (and her daughter Chelsea), Emma, Lyn, Dan, and many others I met for the first time worked so hard (many on both days of the fair!) and were so generous with their apples and materials/equipment to make the event a success. You can spot some of them on our Facebook page photo gallery (plus videos).
Remember that the press belongs to Skookum members, and as a member you can rent it for just $20/day (see details here).
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!
We haven’t been able to run this bulk-buying project since July 2010, so if you are interested in BPA-free reusable canning lids shipped from the US. This is a Members-Only project (Not a member yet? Click here to find out how to become one).
Click here to order via a simple online form.
Deadline to order EXTENDED TO MONDAY, JULY 16 at 9AM.
We need to reach a minimum order of 750 regular and 750 wide mouth lids+rings.
More info on the order form here.
If we do not as a group attain this number, there will be no order.
There is no waste like there is with conventional lids (where you throw away the lids each time)
Their Regular Mouth Lids and Rings are 70 mm and the Wide Mouth Lids and Rings are 86 mm.
Metal (reusable) screw-top rings must be purchased seperately but are available in town. Do you have a lot of extra ones? Let me know — we can share them amongst members who need them if/when they pick up their lids (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For hunters, homesteaders, craftsmen, seamstresses and those with a serious intent to learn the basics of home tanning leathers and furs
This second workshop will focus on the techniques used to “break” the tanned hide. We will also introduce you to working with larger hides, including: deer, goat and sheep. If you missed the first workshop “green” hides (untanned) will be available to practice fleshing, with instruction.
What: Part 2 of a 3 workshop series on tanning local hides
When: Saturday July 28th 2012
Where: 5905 Fraser Street, Powell River BC
Time: 11:00AM to 3:00PM
Fee: Free of charge*
(*donations to Skookum always graciously accepted)
We recommend: Tan Your Hide, by Phyllis Hobson (IBSN # 0-88266-101-9) if you want to preview some of the techniques we will be using.
Important: Bring your own tanning kit including:
2 old towels
Rubber gloves and apron
1 pair of utility scissors
1 skinning or fleshing knife or other tool i.e.
spoon, shell or something with a rounded edge
1 piece of plywood 3/4 ” thick 2 X 2
Your tanned rabbit hide from workshop 1 (if you attended this)
Participants should also bring lunch and a thermos
Kudos to the tanning workshop leaders Jacqueline Huddleston and Hana Turtle Granny for holding an amazing workshop on Saturday June 9th. Many thanks also to the generous participants who donated $83 to Skookum, and to Mark Huddleston for the excellent photography!
Hey there Skookum members (and other interested folks)! We want to let you know about some opportunities to get involved with a few projects that we will be working on this summer. If any one of these projects looks interesting to you, please contact us and we’ll hook you up.
Once again this year, we’ll be managing the local fruit-tree gleaning project. One of the tasks for this year is to figure out how we can combine gleaning with activities for members of Skookum such as canning, dehydrating, cider-making, and other processing. The basic model is that 1/3 of the gleaned fruit goes to the pickers, 1/3 to the homeowners, and 1/3 to the community; but we might need to look at ways that this project can generate some revenue to pay a coordinator and return some tangible value to Skookum. Interested? Contact us!
As we mentioned at our recent public meeting, we’re planning to start bulk-ordering non-perishables, as a way to increase people’s individual and household food security. Food storage, along with production and preservation, is one of the three pillars of food security, and it’s an activity that works well when people work together. We’re getting this project up and running and looking for someone interested in coordinating this project. There will be some payment in the form of food or money. Interested? Contact us!
Last year we set up a half-day work party to get people in the kitchen together canning tomatoes. This year we plan to do a lot more to help our members set up a well-stocked home pantry full of preserved food of all kinds. We’ll need to plan more work parties to learn and do canning, drying, freezing, pickling, and other preservation techniques. Interested? Contact us!
And of course, if there is a project that you would like to see happening — especially if you’re interested in leading that project — contact us. We want our members to step up and start running things!