Monday, September 21, 2015

Preserve Your Harvest with Hamilton Beach {review}

We're heading into the latter part of September now. The time when many gardeners are working hard on bringing in their harvests and preserving them for the coming months. Sadly my garden did not fare terribly well this year. The raccoons have eaten all of my eggplant, and I lost a number of green things when I was away in Newfoundland. There are lots of tomatoes though, and they are still ripening on the vines. Plus I have a lovely pumpkin to carve for Hallowe'en.

There are so many ways to preserve our garden bounty to enjoy during the colder months. When you have more produce than you can use before it goes bad, you'll want to keep that safe for later, right? This of course will cut down on your grocery bills this winter and allow you to continue to enjoy the fruits of your own labour, knowing exactly what you are feeding your family. Freezing, canning, and drying are the three methods I employ. I blanch and freeze carrots and turnip greens. I pickle beets and hot peppers, and prepare batches of tomato sauce. And I dry some herbs, hung upside down in paper bags.

But this year I have a new tool in my arsenal. Hamilton Beach sent me their new Food Dehydrator to try out, and it is so much quicker to dry my herbs this way than to hang them and wait weeks for the final result. I still have plenty of mint and parsley in the garden, so I started with those. Basil I'm growing in a pot will come next. And, with the help of this dehydrator, I can do it all quickly and easily. The operating manual includes guidelines for drying fruits. vegetables, herbs, and even instructions for making jerky. The dehydrator has a pause function so you can check on your progress part way through and adjust your time and/or temp accordingly.

I washed my herbs first, and dried them in a salad spinner before moving on to the dehydrator. I also picked through and removed any leaves that didn't look up to standards.

The mint leaves are big enough to go straight on to one of the regular trays. I plucked the leaves off the stems before placing them. The less overlap the better for even drying.

The parsley goes in with its stems just trimmed, since the leaves are smaller. I also used the special mesh sheet that comes with the appliance. The finer holes work to keep the dried leaves from falling though.

Done! You can see how much the leaves shriveled in drying.
Once the herbs were dried I crumbled them and put them in mason jars for storage. The parsley will come out as needed for recipes and the mint will be for tea. I've also dried some tomatoes, sliced to about a quarter inch. I'll use those in sauces and soups through the cold months. The herbs dried nicely with the temperature and time guidelines given. The tomatoes I found needed a little longer, but I may have sliced them a little thick. Next up - that basil I mentioned, more tomatoes and mint, and some hot peppers. I'm having fun!

The Hamilton Beach Food Dehydrator (MSRP $69.99) comes with 5 stackable trays, plus a fine mesh sheet for small herbs and a flat sheet for making fruit leather. The adjustable digital thermostat and 48 hour timer with auto-shutoff allow you to set it and forget it for a wide variety of foods, and 500 watts of power and continuous air-flow provide even drying without rotating the trays. 

I like that it is lightweight, a reasonable price point, and easy to clean (dishwasher safe trays, sheets and lid). My one quibble is that it is a bit noisy. Not dishwasher noisy or I can't hear the TV noisy, but I can hear the air pumping through, and it kind of sounds like a kettle just before it boils. The only problem is I keep thinking the kettle is on :) I would still recommend this dehydrator, as it has done a great job on everything I've tried and is really straightforward to operate. Now I think I'll go make myself a cup of mint tea!

Disclosure: I received complimentary product to facilitate this review. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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