Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle


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Lemon Curd with the Ladies’ Preservation Society

Waffles served with butter, lemon curd, and a little powdered sugar. Pure heaven!

Waffles served with butter, lemon curd, and a little powdered sugar. Pure heaven!

Oh yes. This is a real winner, let me tell you. You know the delicious lemony part of a lemon bar? That’s what this is, but you can put it on anything! Waffles! Popovers! Ginger snaps! Toast? I’m sure you could, but it might be a bit much for me, it’s quite sweet and rich.

We made this lemon curd for LPS in March (once again, I’m super behind.) It is a perfect recipe to do with friends. It’s one of those recipes (like many I post on here) that isn’t hard but has a lot of little steps. It’s great having helpers! And, frankly, I love sharing it at the end. The recipe is for freezing or refrigerating, not canning, so there’s a limited amount you can keep yourself.

Zest-ah zest-ah zest-ah!

Zest-ah, zest-ah, zest-ah!

We took the recipe from Saving the Season’s lime curd recipe, but we left out almost all the aromatics and spices, except ginger (and replaced lemons for limes, obviously.) Here’s our version:

Lemon Curd

Makes 6 quarter-pints

1 lb lemons
1 inch ginger root – peeled and chopped into large chunks
5 egg yolks
1 ½ cup sugar
2 sticks (8 oz) chilled unsalted butter, cut into chunks

The lighting was really cool back in March, and I just liked the way this lemon was backlit.

The lighting was really cool back in March, and I just liked the way this lemon was backlit.

Zest the lemons, to get about 3 Tbsp of zest. Juice the lemons, to get about ¾ cup juice. Strain. Combine zest, juice, and ginger in a bowl.

Juicing the lemons. After this, pour through a sieve, to remove seeds and pulp.

Juicing the lemons. After this, pour through a sieve, to remove seeds and pulp.

Using a double boiler on medium heat (I use a glass bowl over a pot of water), whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in the mixture of lemon and ginger. Add the butter, and whisk, one piece at a time, until melted.

 

Ok, here we go. This part took the longest for sure, I'd say at least a half hour. You have to melt all the butter slowly, then cook for 10 minutes. But I'd say it took more like 15-20 for us to get to the consistency recommended.

Ok, here we go. This part took the longest for sure, I’d say at least a half hour. You have to melt all the butter slowly, then cook for 10 minutes. But I’d say it took more like 15-20 for us to get to the consistency recommended.

Stirring constantly, cook the curd for 10 minutes in this way. (Don’t let the curd boil, or the eggs will curdle. If that happens, pull off of heat and whisk vigorously.) The curd is done when it is as thick as heavy cream and coats a wooden spoon. Or, use a candy thermometer and cook until it is 170. You can also test the consistency by testing on a frozen plate. I think we got impatient on all these fronts so ours is a little runnier than may be ideal, but it’s still quite wonderful.

Filling jars.

Filling jars. Also – you can tell from the background this was Manhattans night. I had just been offered a job, so we were celebrating! Sadly, I was long since out of the brandied cherries I made last summer. I’ll be making those again as soon as I see cherries in the market!

Pour the curd through a fine sieve into a measuring cup, or something else you can pour from (this will make it easy to fill the jars.) Pour into 6 quarter-pint jars, or 3 half-pint jars that have been sterilized and kept warm. Seal and cool on the counter overnight. Then, store in the fridge and use within a month, or freeze for up to a year.

Now, how to use it? Well, my favorite thing was actually on waffles. It turned an already treat-like breakfast into straight-up dessert.

We dipped ginger snaps into the warm curd for an after-project treat. Nice!

We dipped ginger snaps into the warm curd for an after-project treat. Nice!


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Ramps for Breakfast

Spring veggies on display at Pike Place Market.

Spring veggies on display at Pike Place Market.

I have heard a lot about ramps in the last few years. These wild oniony garlicky beasts are darlings of chefs around the country. But I don’t feel like they grow wild here like they do out east. If they do, I’ve never heard of it, anyway. But after hearing so much about them and their mellow garlicky flavor, I wanted to try them! I think of them like this: Leeks are to onions as ramps are to garlic. Or something. Anyway, alliums are the best, and they are all welcome in my home!

Ramps washed and ready to cut.

Ramps washed and ready to cut.

My SIL and BIL were in town for a short weekend visit, and they’d never done the Pike Place Market. Now, Pike Place is one of the few tourist attractions that even Seattlites enjoy. And why not? We’re all about local fresh foods. We planning on wandering through the market and window shopping, but it’s hardly ever that simple. We ended up with some beautiful purple asparagus, ramps, some dried strawberries (yum!) pastries, yogurt, and salami.

Chopping. I love the rainbow effect on the stems! And you can see the purple asparagus in the background.

Chopping. I love the rainbow effect on the stems! And you can see the purple asparagus in the background.

Never having cooked ramps, I went with the standard for fresh veg – lightly sautéed and then scrambled with eggs. Throw a little cheese on top, and even the blandest veg are made super! Start with delicious veggies, and holy smokes, what could be better?

I sauteed the stems with the asparagus for a minute or two first, before adding the leaves. Then I wilted the leaves just so before adding the eggs.

I sauteed the stems with the asparagus for a minute or two first, before adding the leaves. Then I wilted the leaves just so before adding the eggs.

To top things off (because I like to pretend I run a B&B when I have house guests) I made popovers, which we ate with homemade jam (of course.) Voila! A perfect spring breakfast.

Now, don't you want to come visit?

Now, don’t you want to come visit?

Now that I’ve sampled them, next year I’ll look for ramps again. Any ideas how I should prepare them?


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Spicy Pickled Carrots with the LPS

These are my taco truck's spicy carrots. Oh heavens, they are phenomenal. I've been trying to copy them for years now.

These are my taco truck’s spicy carrots. Oh heavens, they are phenomenal. I’ve been trying to copy them for years now.

I keep trying to make spicy pickled carrots. I just haven’t found the perfect recipe yet, but I feel like I’m honing in on something. I’m learning, at any rate, and it’s totally fun to keep trying! I think pickled jalapeños and carrots was the first thing I ever pickled… maybe? It’s been awhile.

I don’t know if you go to taco trucks, but they are the original food trucks in Seattle, and have been around forever. We used to hit Tacos El Asadero on Rainier about once a week for a great cheap meal. We’re a little further away now, but we still go just about every month.

Beautiful fresh carrots. Too fresh for this recipe, if you can believe it! They were thin and softened quite quickly. Ahh well...

Beautiful fresh carrots. Too fresh for this recipe, if you can believe it! They were thin and softened quite quickly. Ahh well…

They have the most delicious pickled carrots. They’re served free as a condiment, next to the limes and jalapenos and radishes. We try to put them in every bite of burritos. But lately they’ve been making them too spicy for me! I’m not one to shy away from spice, but I do prefer it medium hot rather than hot-hot. And lately they’ve been hot-hot. So I’d love to be able to make the same recipe but just leave a few of the peppers out. Then I could have spicy pickled carrots whenever I want! On burgers? On salads? In a quesadilla? Yes yes yes!

The pickling liquid: cider vinegar, water, and spices.

The pickling liquid: cider vinegar, water, and spices.

So this recipe was taken from a friend’s book, Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry, and we made it for LPS in February. I like the flavor ok, and I think the heat is just about right. There is too much cinnamon, though, and it takes away from the carrotiness. Also, we were using small local fresh carrots, and those took less time to cook than suggested, so they are pretty soft. I like a good firm carrot, almost crunchy, in my burritos!

Prepping the jars - in sterile and still hot jars, add garlic, thyme, and red chili flakes.

Prepping the jars – in sterile and still hot jars, add garlic, thyme, and red chili flakes.

Spicy Carrot Pickles
Makes 4 pint jars

2 pounds carrots, trimmed and scrubbed
5 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
8 dried hot chilies, stemmed
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 sprigs thyme, kept whole
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

Peel or scrub the carrots, cut into sticks 4″ long and about 1/2″ thick.

Combine the vinegar, 1 C water, the salt, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook until just crisp-tender. The recipe says 8-10 minutes, but that was much too long in my opinion. Remove carrots from water. We weren’t quite ready with the jars here, so I the carrots cooked even longer! Not cool.

Loading carrots into jars. This is hot business!

Loading carrots into jars. This is hot business!

While the carrots are cooking, divide the chilies, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns among the jars. Put the still-hot carrots into the jars (do not pack them too tightly) and fill the empty spaces loosely with slivers of onion. Ladle the hot pickling liquid into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace at the top. Use a chopstick to remove air bubbles around the inside of each jar. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel, then put a lid and ring on each jar.

Add onions and pickling liquid, leaving 1/2" head space.

Add onions and pickling liquid, leaving 1/2″ head space.

Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and cool on the counter overnight.

As I said, this isn’t quite what I was looking for. But it’s still tasty, and very very pretty! I’ll keep trying, but in the meantime, enjoy!

Gorgeous! Here they are ready to be sealed and processed.

Gorgeous! Here they are ready to be sealed and processed.


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The Bloedel Reserve – or – why I haven’t been blogging lately

The Bloedel residence. This is the scene that opens before you after a lovely wooded walk. The first time you turn out of the woods and see it your heart stops. And every time after the first, it still takes your breath away.

The Bloedel residence. This scene that opens before you after a lovely wooded walk. The first time you turn out of the woods and see it your heart stops. And every time after that, it still takes your breath away.

I haven’t been writing much lately. I miss it! But over the last month I’ve been working on a different project, one that I’ve finally completed. I have a new job! It’s at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, my dream. My year of unemployment was a good one, giving me time to focus on myself and my plans, but I was getting a little stir crazy. This job came at the perfect time.

Erythronium (trout lily) and primroses growing along the path. Displays like this feel so natural, like they could happen in any woods. But it's all intentional, and very well tended.

Erythronium (trout lily) and primroses growing along the path. Displays like this feel so natural, like they could happen in any woods. But it’s all intentional, and very well tended.

The Bloedel Reserve has long been my favorite public garden, and it’s only an hour from my house. It is incredibly beautiful and peaceful, and the experience of walking through the garden is one that is hard to explain and impossible to forget. You feel taken to another world, one where you own a fancy estate and forests and fields. It’s basically been my goal to work there since I first visited over 10 years ago. I am still pinching myself that I get to be there every day.

The Japanese Garden at the Reserve.

The Japanese Garden at the Reserve.

My commute is long, but most of it is on a ferry. For you non-locals, Seattle is on a large salt water sound, and there are a lot of communities on islands in the Puget Sound and on the Olympic Penninsula to the west. Bainbridge Island is the nearest island to Seattle. Our ferry system is quite good, and tons of people commute on them every day. I go in the “opposite direction” from most of the traffic, so there aren’t many people on my ferry. It’s a beautiful ride, and it will give me time to write and read and relax.

Looking back to Seattle from a half empty ferry. The return ferry will be filled with commuters.

Looking back to Seattle from a half empty ferry. When this ferry returns to Seattle it will be filled with commuters.

I’ve been at the Reserve for a week, and already feel like it will be a great fit for me. I like the people a lot, and the location is killer. Plus, check out my view!

Here's the view from my desk! I've been thoroughly enjoying the daily changes, watching spring appear before my eyes in the little green buds on the Camperdown Elms (that the deer are also enjoying).

Here’s the view from my desk! I love watching spring appear before my eyes with little changes every day, like the little green buds on the Camperdown Elms (which the deer are also enjoying).

If you haven’t visited before, I can’t state strongly enough how you need to go soon. It’s beautiful every day of the year. And now I’m a part of the team that keeps this amazing resource open for everyone to enjoy. If you happen to be planning a visit, let me know!

 


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Ladies’ Preservation Society Pickles Beets!

Pickled beets, canned and ready for storage.

Pickled beets, canned and ready for storage.

I have made pickled beets many times but never canned them to store. I’ve always just made refrigerator pickled beets. The recipes aren’t different, much, but whenever you can something it’s best to go with a real recipe from a trusted source, so that you know the acids and sugars are in balance and will properly preserve your food. My other recipe is sort of made up, which is just fine if you are refrigerating and eating within a few weeks.

Trim leaves to an inch or so, and wash the beets well.

Trim leaves to an inch or so, and wash the beets well.

For the Ladies’ Preservation Society in January, we pickled beets. I didn’t write about it sooner because we had to wait 3 weeks for them to be ready. Then, you know, I got a case of the lazies and haven’t been writing much this winter.

Cooking the beets. 7 pounds of beets is a lot!

Cooking the beets. 7 pounds of beets is a lot!

But boy oh boy, eating beets and cottage cheese for lunch is one of my favorite things. It’s nostalgic and really wonderful. Do you ever eat cottage cheese this way? I know people seem to fall on one side or the other, eating cottage cheese with sweet foods (like canned peaches – which I made but forgot to blog about!) or savory, like with salt and pepper. Eating it with pickled beets is the perfect marriage of the two sides. That’s me; unable to choose a side so I tiptoe down the middle. Yup!

After beets have cooled enough to hold, remove the skins. Here my friend is rubbing the skin off with a paper towel.

After beets have cooled enough to hold, remove the skins. Here my friend is rubbing the skin off with a paper towel.

We got the recipe from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich (another Christmas present!) and I really like it. I don’t know if it’s as great as my mom’s recipe, but what could ever be? Next time I make them I might reduce the allspice or cloves slightly to let the beet flavor shine.

This little beet was shaped like a heart! Also - check out those pink fingers. I made my friends do all of the peeling and slicing because I had an interview the next day, and beets can stain for a day or so. For that reason, wear dark colors or an apron.

This little beet was shaped like a heart! Also – check out those pink fingers. I made my friends do all of the peeling and slicing because I had an interview the next day, and beets can stain for a day or so. For that reason, wear dark colors or an apron.

Here’s the recipe: (Makes 7 pints)

7 lbs beets, cleaned (ok to leave on roots and a little of the stem, you’ll cut those off later.)
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
1 Tbsp whole allspice
1 tsp whole cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 quart cider vinegar
2 cups water

Sliced beets.

Sliced beets.

Cover beets with boiling water, in a large pot. Cover and return to a boil, then boil for 15 to 35 minutes, until they are just tender – this will depend on the size of the beets. They will be processed for 30 minutes later, so you don’t want them soft at this stage. Drain and then cover with cold water, to stop them cooking.

Filling jars with beets, using tongs. A wide mouth funnel would be useful, but we found we didn't need it.

Filling jars with beets, using tongs. A wide mouth funnel would be useful, but we found we were fine without it for this step.

When the beets are cool, remove their skins. This can be done by rubbing with a paper towel, or a vegetable peeler, or a knife. Some beets will peel easily, some won’t.

Slice all the beets ¼” thick.

Tie up all the spices in a cheesecloth bag.

Tie up all the spices in a cheesecloth bag.

Tie the spices into a cheesecloth bag. Put this into a pot with both sugars, salt, vinegar, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. (The smell of boiling vinegar is very harsh! I recommend leaving the room while it boils, or opening windows and doors.)

Cooking the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices.

Cooking the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices.

As the liquid is simmering, pack the beets into sterilized pint jars. When the liquid is done cooking, pour over the beets, leaving ½” headspace from the top of the jar. Run a chopstick around the inside of the jar, to remove air bubbles. Add more liquid if needed. Wipe rims, put on lids, and process the jars for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Jars filled with beets, ready for the hot vinegar mixture.

Jars filled with beets, ready for the hot vinegar mixture.

After processing for 30 minutes, let cool. Label, and store. They need to sit at least 3 weeks before they are ready to be eating. The waiting is the hardest part, as they say. I like to label the lids with the “open on” date so I can remember.

At last, after at least 3 weeks of waiting, I was able to have beets and cottage cheese for lunch. Yay!

At last, after at least 3 weeks of waiting, I was able to have beets and cottage cheese for lunch. Yay!


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Cleaning and Sharpening Your Tools

My pruners before cleaning and sharpening. They worked just fine - not very dull or chipped, but not as well as they work when properly cared for.

My pruners before cleaning and sharpening. They worked fine – not dull or chipped, but not as well as they work when properly cared for. Aside – when they are open like this I think they look like an excited bird. Or bad joke eel.

I haven’t written about the garden lately, because there isn’t much “happening” out there these days, plus, um, brr. However, yesterday was gorgeous, so I wanted to get out and do some pruning. Late winter is a great time to prune! And like most gardeners, I love love pruning, it’s so fun and satisfying.

Taking the pruners apart. Felco pruners are the best, and all parts come apart easily and are replaceable. However, all pruners have some kind of screw holding them together at the pivot point. Take apart as much as you can (that you can tell you'll be able to reassemble later!)

Taking the pruners apart. Felco pruners are the best: all parts are easily removed and are replaceable. But all pruners have some kind of bolt holding them together at the pivot point. Take apart as much as you can (that you can tell you’ll be able to reassemble later!)

We had a few nice days earlier this month, but I didn’t get out in the garden. In part, that’s because I didn’t clean or sharpen my tools last fall, and I wanted to do that first. I haven’t done that in a couple years. Ideally, I would have cleaned them at the end of the fall, and stored them in the basement so they would stay dry. I didn’t do that, so there’s a fair amount of gunk and rust on them.

When you disassemble your pruners, do it on a towel or something that will contain the mess and also make it easy to find all the parts later.

When you disassemble your pruners, do it on a towel or something that will contain the mess and also make it easy to find all the parts later.

Back in the day, I was a gardener for a living. I cleaned my pruners seasonally, and sharpened them at least once a year. I’m not a professional gardener anymore, and I don’t think I’ve sharpened my tools since I was. I had to buy a file and stone! It can be a project to clean and sharpen your tools, particularly if you are new or it’s been awhile. But it’s important to do. Sharp tools reduce the work for you and make cleaner cuts. Also, keeping your tools clean makes them last longer.

I didn't get a picture of me cleaning! I guess I was all soapy. Ideally you'd use warm soapy water and some steel wool to scrub away the shmutz. I didn't have steel wool, so I used a green scrubbing pad. It worked ok but not as well as the steel wool. In addition to soap and water, sometimes you should dip your tools in a bleach solution, particularly if you've been working on diseased plants.

I didn’t get a picture of me cleaning, but here they are cleaned! I guess I was too soapy to grab the camera. Ideally you’d use warm soapy water and some steel wool to scrub away the shmutz. I didn’t have steel wool, so I used a green scrubbing pad. It worked ok, but not as well as the steel wool. In addition to soap and water, sometimes you’ll want to dip your tools in a bleach solution, particularly if you’ve been working on diseased plants.

Tools can spread diseases from one plant to the next, or around on one plant. I don’t have huge concerns about this in my garden, other than black spot on the rose, but I still don’t want to create problems where they weren’t before by spreading disease.

I’ll be doing the rest of this post as a photo essay, because a picture tells a thousand words, right?

Here's the cutting edge before sharpening. My pruners are bypass pruners (the blades move past each other). There is only one beveled edge on the cutting blade, so I only sharpen one side. If you have anvil pruners, you sharpen both sides of the blade, like you would with a knife.

Here’s the cutting edge before sharpening. My pruners are bypass pruners (the blades move past each other). There is only one beveled edge on the cutting blade, so I only sharpen one side. If you have anvil pruners, you sharpen both sides of the blade, like you would with a knife.

File the blade first, particularly if it's been awhile or you have large chips in the blade. File in the direction you cut (see the red arrow), life the blade, and file in the direction again. Don't rub back and forth.

File the blade first, particularly if it’s been awhile or you have large chips in the blade. File on the same angle as the bevel, and file in the direction you cut (see the red arrow). Lift the blade, and file in the same direction again. Don’t rub back and forth. Try to keep the angle of the bevel even throughout the process.

Now do the same with a stone. I got this stone for $2 at a hardware store, they are worth having. The stones in kitchen stores are more expensive (and the saleswoman tried to talk me out of it, thinking I was sharpening my knives with a stone. I have a knife sharpener for that!) Working with a stone on your knives is a skill you probably don't have, and you can mess up your knives if you don't know what you're doing. Pruners are less precise.

Now do the same with a stone. From the striations you can see I did run the back side of my blade on the stone, to clear off any burrs from filing. I got this stone for $2 at a hardware store, they are worth having. The stones in kitchen stores are more expensive.

Ta-dah! Look at the cutting edge, so sharp!

Ta-dah! Look at the cutting edge, so sharp! You can also tell I was working with a pretty good angle, since not too much else got shaved down.

Before reassembling all the parts, lubricate everything you can. If it moves, spray it. When I was a gardener, I also used grease in the pivot point, but I don't have any laying around the house.

Before reassembling all the parts, lubricate everything you can. If it is a place where metal sits on or moves against metal, spray it. When I was a gardener, I also used grease in the pivot point, but I don’t have any laying around the house.

Reassemble all the parts. Sometimes it takes a couple times flipping the pieces around, they don't fit intuitively. You might want to take a picture of it at the start. (This is the photo of me reassembling after cleaning, I took a few days in between steps, that's why it doesn't look sharpened.)

Reassemble all the parts. Sometimes it takes a couple times flipping the pieces around, they don’t fit intuitively. You might want to take a picture of it at the start. (This is the photo of me reassembling after cleaning. I waited a few days in between steps due to time constraints, that’s why it doesn’t look sharpened.)

In the above photo, you can see my initials carved into the handle. These are pruners I got over 10 years ago working at an Arboretum in Philadelphia. Pruners for a gardener are like knives for a chef, they are personal. People don’t share (usually). I’d rather buy replacement parts for these than get a new pair. (Felco is the best, they will sell any single part individually. You get the blades in any store that sells them, but online they have everything.)

Here she is, reassembled. Again, this is post-cleaning but pre-sharpening.

Here she is, reassembled. Again, this is post-cleaning but pre-sharpening.

In action! I did a lot of pruning on my pear tree yesterday. With my sharp pruners, it was a cinch!

I did a lot of pruning on my pear tree yesterday. With my sharp pruners, it was a cinch!

Not only was it easier to cut with sharpened pruners, they were easier on the tree. Look at that, no jagged edges, no squeezing the branch while you cut. I still got it :)

Not only was it easier to cut with sharpened pruners, they were easier on the tree. Look at that, no jagged edges, no squeezing the branch while cutting. Yup, I still got it 🙂

I’ll be cleaning all my tools soon, and sharpening a few, too. My loppers definitely need it, but also my shovels. Soil and rocks are so hard on the edge of a shovel, and sharpening will help with ease of digging and cutting through roots.

Once you get this “housekeeping” done, your gardening experience will be much easier. Happy gardening!


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Anyone Need Any Banana Chips?

Have a banana chip, please! (I will be storing any I don't eat soon in plastic bags inside the jars, but they are so much prettier this way for now.)

Banana Bonanza! (I’ll keep the ones I plant to eat soon in jars, but most of these will be put into will be plastic bags inside the jars. But they are so much prettier this way for now.)

So get this. I went to the fruit stand the other day, looking for a snack. I was buying smoothie fixins at the sale fruit table, when I saw it: a box of about 30 bananas for $0.99! A dollar? Sure, they were ugly, but even if only half were edible, that’s still an insane price. I had to stop myself from buying 2 boxes.

Box of bananas for a buck!

Box of bananas for a buck!

If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’ve done this kind of thing before. You see a great sale on something, buy too much, and then have it coming out of your ears for months. It’s the same with gardening, you love tomatoes so much you plant 6 plants, and then are finding ways to eat tomatoes with every meal. No? Come on, be honest, we’re all friends here. Learning food preservation has enabled my habit, because now sale food isn’t as likely to go to waste.

It turned out the bananas weren’t as bad as they looked. They were actually slightly under-ripe, with only a few bad spots on the flesh. My guess is that they were unsellable because the peels were covered in brown spots, or were the onesies left over by people breaking off a few from a bunch. I think there was only one that was actually mush.

Letting bananas sit in cool water with lemon juice, to keep them from browning.

Letting bananas sit in cool water with lemon juice, to keep them from browning. But don’t let them sit in there too long, they go soggy.

And as it happens, D doesn’t like bananas. So here I had 30 bananas that I needed to use up all by my lonesome, and I knew just what to do with them… dry them!

I got a wonderful gift this year for Christmas from my S-I-L, a food dehydrator, (plus a great book called The Dehydrator Bible.) I’ve wanted a dehydrator for a year or more, but never felt like shelling out the money for something my oven or the sun could do just as well. But of course, the oven is too hot, and I never use the sun, because I’m not that on top of it. I’d probably forget them outside.

There she is! I keep the dehydrator in the basement, even though it's nice and quiet. It's just so big and I don't have many outlets in my old kitchen.

There she is! I keep the dehydrator in the basement, even though it’s nice and quiet. It’s just so big and I don’t have many outlets in my old kitchen.

My dehydrator has been great so far. I’ve dried apples, blueberries, pineapples (my favorite!), and bananas. They haven’t all been hits (I don’t recommend Pink Lady apples for drying, they turn into something not unlike Styrofoam), but even when they weren’t great, it was always fun or unexpected. I didn’t dry the blueberries correctly, but I still thought they were really good on oatmeal, little bursts of flavor.

My dehydrator is definitely making it so that I’m seeking out the cheapest fruits, because I know I can extend their life and create lots of great snacks.

I think I dried a total of 8 trays, each holding about 3 bananas. Try to keep them spaced so they aren't touching, to allow for better air circulation and also so they don't dry stuck together.

I dried a total of 8 trays, each holding about 3 bananas. Try to keep them spaced so they aren’t touching, to allow for better air circulation and also so they don’t dry stuck together.

The last time I did bananas I got those tiny bananas and sliced them length-wise. This time they were full sized, so I sliced them in rounds (more or less) about 1/3” thick. I let them sit in a bowl of water mixed with lemon juice to keep them from browning while I chopped (and chopped, and chopped). Then I dried them for 8.5-10 hours at 135 degrees.

Here they are finished. You can see they stick a bit to the tray, so do remove them while they are still warm.

Here they are finished. You can see they stick a bit to the tray, so do remove them while they are still warm.

And now I have banana chips. Lots and lots of banana chips. They are slightly chewy, they should be firm and almost leathery when done, not like those rock hard ones you used to get in trail mix. Some slices took longer than others, but that was easy enough to remedy. I pulled them all off the trays and any that were very squishy got put back in for another hour or so.

When they are done they should be a little flexible. However, you don't want them to be "juicy" anymore. A fine line, perhaps? I did notice that the bananas that weren't as ripe dried faster and have a chalkier texture, although they are still quite tasty!

When they are done they should be a little flexible. However, you don’t want them to be “juicy” anymore. A fine line, perhaps? I did notice that the bananas that weren’t as ripe dried faster and have a firmer texture, although they are still quite tasty!

Also, I learned from my book that bananas should be removed from the trays when still warm, or they stick. I can attest to this! Also, things the book won’t tell you: my basement smells like bananas, and I’ve had that song lyric “this s**t is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s” in my head all week.

If you want some banana chips, come on over, I’d be happy to share!