Blog_SustainablyPreservingtheHarvestDehydratingOfftheGrid_06.25.15_Shannon_1 Whether living off-grid, growing your own, frequenting the farmer’s market, or hitting the supermarket; preserving the harvest is paramount to eating well and eating frugally. When we lived on-grid we had a small garden, made friends with plenty of great farmers, and picked peaches and various types of berries to fill our larder. Now we’re the ones growing the food, slowly at least. We’re not growing enough to meet our needs year round yet but every once in a while a crop comes in from our own garden or from the gardens of our generous neighbors that needs preserving. I’ve water bath canned tomatoes and fruit, frozen oodles of berries and vegetables, and even pressure canned green beans and a few whole (or half) animals. After all of that, though, I still come back to fermenting and dehydrating our produce for the health benefits as well as the sustainability. Living off-grid with minimal solar power, I can’t run a big dehydrator. Thankfully, we’ve found another option that gets the job done and looks pretty cool hanging up in our kitchen. It’s called the Hanging Food Pantrie. Blog_SustainablyPreservingtheHarvestDehydratingOfftheGrid_06.25.15_Shannon_2 Dehydrating food is one of my favorite food preservation techniques probably because it’s super efficient and requires zero energy input. It’s also way simpler than canning in that it requires very little hands-on time. I’ve been using The Hanging Food Pantrie now for a few weeks for dehydrating bananas and the influx of zucchini that comes with this time of year. One thing I often come up against when I mention dehydration is “Yeah, but what do I do with all of that stuff?”. That’s a great question and frankly, what’s the point of dehydrating food if you’re not going to eat it. Here’s what I do with ours:

Blog_SustainablyPreservingtheHarvestDehydratingOfftheGrid_06.25.15_Shannon_3 Dehydrated Vegetables

There are two methods I use for preparing these. The first is a long, slow cook in a soup, stew, or chili. I’ve used onions, summer squash, zucchini, peppers, and eggplant in crockpot meals like this. Setting the crock pot or stock pot on low and allowing it to simmer at least half the day is the trick, along with using a bit of extra liquid in the pot. That long simmer helps the vegetable rehydrate and the end result is as tender as if fresh vegetables were used. The other option is to pour boiling water over the vegetables you intend to cook with. Cover them by at least a couple of inches in a heat-proof bowl and let them sit for at least 30 minutes – though longer is better – before checking to be sure that they have soaked up all of the water. After that they will cook much faster and can be used similarly to fresh vegetables.

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Dehydrated Fruit

My favorite use for this besides snacking, is actually to flavor fermented beverages like kombucha and water kefir. I simply throw slices of apple, peach, or berries into the jar for the second fermentation. The sugar content of the dried fruit coupled with its flavor makes for a delicious bubbly beverage. The other option is to simply stew the dried fruit in a pot with a little bit of water. Cooking and rehydrating the fruit makes a delicious compote to go over yogurt or can be used as a pie filling and no one will be the wiser. Blog_SustainablyPreservingtheHarvestDehydratingOfftheGrid_06.25.15_Shannon_5 I’m about to take the five trays of dehydrated zucchini out and seal them up into glass jars for winter storage. I’ve got a whole other basket full of zucchini that will go straight onto the easy-to-use trays and if our peppers and green beans keep it up, they won’t be too far behind.