August 22, 2009

Dried Squash (and other goodies)

Quart canning jar full of dried summer squashFlower asked about my dried summer squash. I have to confess that I've never dehydrated squash before. I've dried blueberries, tomatoes, bananas, mushrooms, apples, peaches, watermelon, and herbs, but never squash. I probably wouldn't have this year either, if I had a larger freezer. But I don't, so the ever-present problem of what to do with extra produce made the decision for me.

Preparing squash in 1/4 inch slices for drying.There are different approaches to drying foods. Some call for some sort of pretreatment, some don't. The booklet that came with my Excalibur gives complete instructions for drying every fruit, vegetable, and meat (as jerky) imaginable. It discusses pretreatments such as dips and blanching, but points out that these aren't strictly necessary. I always like the simplest approach to things, so I have never done any pretreating of the foods I've dried.

Anyway, in answer to the question about what I plan to do with my dried squash, my answer is -- experiment! Some folks dry squash and eat like chips. I plan to reconstitute mine and try either as a cooked vegetable or as an ingredient in soup. I've had success in reconstituting by soaking in boiling water until softened. This can take 5 to 20 minutes and works very well.

For soup, dried veggies could simply be added to the pot to reconstitute during cooking. Soaking for a couple of hours works too, as does a steamer.

I store all my dried foods in canning jars. The only time I had a problem was early on, when I didn't get some watermelon dried enough. It developed mold and the whole batch had to be thrown away. Now I probably tend to err on the side of too dry, but I don't want to chance that happening again.

The other new item to try drying this year is green beans...

Dried green beans, ready to store.My first garden at this house is small, so I've not been able to collect enough green beans for a canner load. Dehydrating shrivels them up quite a bit; I've discovered that two quarts of fresh green beans will make three cups dried. I plan to experiment with these too. I'll be curious as to how well they do in my favorite green bean recipe.

I've also been drying blueberries...

Drying rabbiteye blueberries... and figs (more on that soon.)

The biggest advantage to dehydrated foods is that they take up less storage space. The biggest disadvantage is that they need to be reconstituted and so are not as handy as canned foods. Another advantage is that it takes less energy to dry foods than to can or freeze them. I confess that I wouldn't consider the lowest energy option - sun or solar drying - because of our humidity. Still, the Excalibur folks claim that it only takes pennies to operate their dehydrators.

If you are interested in more info, here are a couple of websites with good information on drying foods: - How to dry your own fruits, vegetables, and other foods - Drying/Dehydrating Foods. Includes dried food recipes.

Dried Squash (and other goodies) is copyright August 2009 


Renee Nefe said...

When we went to Virginia a few years back to Williamsburg, Yorktown & Jamestown the recreated villages had examples of how they preserved their food. In one of the "kitchens" I saw that they had simply strung the dried foods and hung these "necklaces" in the kitchen. I know that these foods were dried just for display and wouldn't have ever been used but I have to hope they were doing things as they would have been done in the 1700's.

I really hope your experiment works well for I would like to try it too. I don't have a dehydrator though...yet! ;o) I know for sure that I saw green beans hanging in that should work out well for you.

bspinner said...

I've tryed a lot of dried foods but never squash. Hope you let us know how it cooks up. I dry almost all my herbs. I take a brown paper lunch bag put the herbs in it and set aside. The herbs dry nicely with no dust on them. It's humid here too but I've always been lucky with this method.

charlotte said...

How exciting to dry squash, I've never tasted this! We only dry mushrooms here, and for this purpose we use the clothes drying cupboard, and it works great. In Switzerland where I grew up, dried green beans is a traditional food, served with fried onions and garlic and simmered in stock. It is eaten together with sausages or ham and potatoes.

Theresa said...

I've never dried anything but clothes and critters, but that dried squash looks interesting! I'll be waiting to hear how it and the green beans reconstitute.

Woolly Bits said...

drying veggies is a bit difficult here in ireland due to the humidity (and lack of drying gadget:)), but I still remember when I was a child (in germany) and we made long chains of beans for drying! we had a piece of string and a needle and put green beans (not too large, the younger the easier to dry)onto the thread like beads. when they were thoroughly dry, they were stored in muslin bags! and we made a lovely and tasty bean soup out of them (haven't eaten this since my teenager years:(() - the only downside was the look of it, because the dried and reconstituted beans gave it a greyish look... sounds like you're already having a successful year, where storage for winter is concerned:))

Leigh said...

I've been really satisfied with the other foods I've dried, so I'm hopeful that the squash and green beans will do well too. I'm heartened to hear that drying green beans is an internationally time honored tradition.

Renee, it's really lots of fun to dry things. And very handy to have around the kitchen.

Barb, I've dried herbs that way but not in a bag. I'll have to try that. It would serve to save all the dried crumbled leaves that fell off too!

Charlotte, that sounds so yummy! I'm going to have to try that very recipe.

Theresa, I got a chuckle out of your comment! I'll let you know how they do for cooking.

Bettina, I wonder if that's why some recipes recommend blanching them before drying them. They look pretty green now, but I'll have to let you know about how they do after several months in storage.

Sharon said...

I've only dried fruit but that's because I had it in abundance. I know it was successful because by the time anything was really dry, the racks were empty. Why did the kids not realize I could tell they were sneaking??

Nick said...

They are not exactly food, but herbs are another easy thing to preserve by drying. I found this collection of tips for drying herbs . It seems like a good primer on how to get started.

Leigh said...

Sharon, glad to hear they loved it!

Nick,the clothes drying rack is an excellent idea, thanks for the link. Actually that website has a lot of good information on it.