Keeping the Food Dryer Happy

As I write this Larisa and I have just finished the typical morning ritual of filling the solar food dryer. The sunny, dry weather we’ve had for the past 3 weeks, while not great for the potato, tomato, sweet potato, and leek plants, is terrific for drying stuff. But with this much sunshine the dryer is a hungry beast and lots of tomato halves, apple chips, zucchini slices, eggplant wafers, and pepper (both hot and sweet) chunks have been going into jars.

Tomato harvest is nearing its end, at least in terms of canning, since we are now pretty stocked-up on tomato sauce and juice. We’ve resorted to making pints of “salsa base”, which is finely chopped tomatoes, cooked to the point of juice separation. We then removed from most of its juice (which gets bottled) and we mix the solids with refrigerated cilantro (picked much earlier in the season) that was previously packed in cider vinegar. We drain the vinegar from the cilantro, mix it with the tomato solids, reheat it, then hot-pack and can it. When we are ready for salsa we can just add dried peppers and some dried or fresh garlic and onion. This gives us a less “vinegary” salsa that is nice and thick, all with minor preparation at the time of consumption. Not quite “instant”, but we like to can things that give us some freedom of expression when the jars get opened. For instance, you can always sweeten something to taste later instead of canning with sugar or honey when it’s not necessary for the preservation process.

Time to go harvest nearly the last of the dry beans. The sunny weather has also kept any mature bean seeds from sprouting in the hulls. BIG bean harvest this year. Best get to it, and all of today’s other projects, before the day is nearly done and it’s time to stick more dried foods in jars!

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