Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Food Preservation Q&A: Part Two

More Q & A on food preservation (canning and dehydrating):

Q: What variety of apples do you think makes the best applesauce? What do you consider a good price for apples? I've always thought about making applesauce but wondered if it actually saved money in the long run.

A: Last year, I bought Macintosh for apple sauce, and Jonathons for dehydrating and canning apple rings. If you go to the farmers' market (I loooove farmers' markets), the farmers are usually very helpful in guiding you to the right variety for your needs. You should get the same level of service and expertise at the apple orchard.

A good price is free and sometimes you can find such deals. Perhaps you have a friend whose apple tree is heavy with fruit and in need of picking. I've gotten pears this way. Our homeschool group goes on an apple orchard field trip each year and everyone comes home with free apples. But this is not the norm.

I paid $10 a bushel and got 14 quarts of applesauce out of it. Not a huge, huge savings but nice enough, and difference in quality is huge.

Q: I have not been able to find a tomato or barbecue sauce that we liked so if you would be willing to share your recipe, I would really love it!!

A: I just use the recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. The key is, I think, in making any tomato-based sauce is to stir OFTEN. One year my barbecue sauce was a total flop because the sauce burnt on the bottom of the pan and it ruined the flavor of the whole pot. Ick! So, in reducing your sauce, cook it on low, slowly, checking it often.

Another tip is to use plum or roma tomatoes. They are more expensive and harder to find, but they are meatier and the sauce is thicker to start with. Juicy tomatoes are great for sandwiches and salads but they make thin sauce and as a result you have to cook it forever!

Also, make sure to use the freshest vegetables and cut out any bruises.

Q: When you have a moment, would you be willing to share your recipes for pineapple/papaya salsa and mango salsa?

A: I got my recipe for pineapple/papaya salsa from The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest (Your library may carry this title). For the mango salsa, I used the Spicy Tomato Salsa recipe from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving and added two chopped mangos to it. I've also found recipes in the past by searching the Internet.

For the most part, I use my Ball Blue Book, but it doesn't always have exactly what I want. For example, one year I made garlic jelly and red pepper jelly (Both great on grilled chicken breast! And makes a pretty gift.) because I had an abundance from the garden -- I found the recipes searching the Internet. (See previous post for links.)

Q: I'd like to know what brand of dehydrator you use.

A: I did a lot of research before making my purchase. I asked friends and searched the Internet. You can make your own, which I think is a really neat idea, but in the end I figured that wasn't going to work for my family. If you want to try it, do a search on the Internet for free directions.

My husband and I decided to stay away from cheap dehydrators as we didn't want to spend money on something that wouldn't last a long time. Plus, we have a large family and would be using it more than the average family. On the other hand, we couldn't afford the top of the line Excalibur that I coveted.

We went with the top of the line American Harvest (Nesco). It has eight trays and we use them all! So far, I'm happy.

Q: How do you make fruit leather?

A: It's pretty easy. Wash your fruit, cut out any blemishes, peel and pit. Puree in your blender until smooth. If it's too thick, I add a little water or juice. If it's too tart, add some corn syrup or honey. Then I pour it evenly over the tray and set the dehydrator for 135 until leathery. You can also do this in your oven -- search the Internet for how-to or check out a book on dehydrating from the library such as The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest. Unlike canning, you can use overripe fruit for this, which is very nice.

Q: My Pampered Chef apple slicer/peeler/corer broke after two years. Yes, it was guaranteed but was a pain to get replaced. Where did you buy yours?

A: I got mine from Meijer, which is sort of like a Super Walmart. You can usually find them at restaurant supply houses or any place that sells cooking equipment.

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