16 September 2011

Preservation society

Saturday 10 September saw OTAGS (Old Trafford Amateur Gardeners' Socety) hosting a preserving workshop in association with Cracking Good Food. The aim of the session was to show how you can manage gluts of produce without spending hours cooking chutneys! Vicki Leng (pictured below dehydrating tomatoes), local cook and preserving enthusiast, took participants through how to dehydrate apples, salt beans, pickle cucumbers and dehydrate tomatoes, all in the three-hour session.

The essential piece of equipment we used during the day was a dehydrator. It has 14 square feet of drying space, and is designed to run on a low heat (the temperature range can be set between (29-68°C) while at the same time running a fan to dry the food out. So unlike dehydrating food in your oven, it's energy efficient and you can then store food in jars without the need to run a freezer. Food preserved this way will keep for at least nine months, so you can be eating sun-ripened tomatoes that you've grown long after the UK tomato-growing season has ended. If they are really really dry you can just jar them once they've been dehydrated. Or, if they have some moisture remaining, pack them into small jars and cover with olive oil.

Similarly, apple rings are really easy to process with the dehydrator - simply core, thinly slice, dip into some water with lemon juice to stop them from discolouring, load into the dehydrator for three hours then pack into sterilised jars.

We also salted beans, which was quick and straightforward. We tasted some salted beans that Vicki had de-salted earlier in the day and while they didn't taste like freshly cooked (boiled or steamed) beans, adding them to soups, stews and chillis would certainly work... once you've rinsed them to remove as much salt as possible. Rather its one way of managing part of your bean glut that doesn't require freezer space or use of fossil fuels. Very simply, using a clean sterilised jar, we packed sliced green beans (French or runner) in layers with salt. A layer of salt followed by a layer of beans, then another layer of salt until the jar was full. After the beans and the salt have been in the jar overnight you can top up the jar packing more beans and salt in, as the salt draws the water out of the beans which makes them shrink.

The session was funded by the Local Food Fund grant for the Orchard 49 community orchard. Thanks to Laura for organising the workshop and to Vicki for sharing her knowledge with us.

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