It’s the beginning of tomato season.. and only one or two tomatoes are ripe while the rest wait patiently to ripen in little clusters of reasonable quantity.
The very first tomato that ripens you will probably eat and comment on how amazingly sweet your tomatoes are compared to the shop standard. But what could you do with the small clumps afterwards? They aren’t enough to make a meal just yet so you’d be forgiven for keeping some shop tomatoes in the fridge still.
Well this year I’ve decided to dry a few in my dehydrator. It’s sunny, so for fear of flies I didn’t want to leave them out in he sun – but if you have good weather and appropriate netted racks this would be ideal. You can also choose to pop them in the oven on a low heat.. say around 50 degrees c and this will do the same job as your dehydrator.
Cut the tomatoes at least once to expose the gooey centres and line them up on baking paper. It helps if they are all roughly the same size as this provides an even drying process.
Make sure they are thoroughly dry throughout to prevent spoiling later on. When completely dry, you can store them in jars and keep adding more as and when they ripen.
These dried tomatoes are full of flavour and make great additions to soups, risotto/paella, tapas, sauces and more. You can use them up now, or wait until tomato season is over to get a bit of extra seasonal milage out of them.
This is a fun little activity I discovered recently while looking for things to do with my foraged flowers. I had a variety of wonderful edible flowers and I already had more teas than I knew what to do with. It was then I came across the traditional fun and creative Victorian activity of flower crystalising. This is a really easy way of storing flowers and doing a fun and creative activity with the kids. It’s also very easy – you don’t have to be a whizz at cake decorating to get this one right.
Step one is to to pick a bunch of edible flowers to use. Try to avoid going for ones from the shops, as these can often have harmful chemicals on them. Picking from your own garden is best – where you know exactly what they have been exposed to (or hopefully not exposed to!). Many flowers will also throw out extra blooms when a few are picked so you don’t have to worry about impacting your garden display.
Make sure you check out a reputable list of edible flowers and identify your flowers beforehand with absolute certainty.
I tried a range of flowers at first including hawthorn, daisy, geranium, poppy, forget me not and ground ivy. Not every flower will taste of anything but sugar – but it is worth noting you feel much less impatient when doing the larger flowers – although the forget me not were definately worth the strain!
You then need one egg. Just one egg will do a large amount of flowers so you shouldn’t need any more than this. Separate off the egg white – this is the bit you want to keep for once! Give the egg white a good whisk – quality eggs will be a bit thick and will need breaking down to be more easily usable.
Next get a clean (preferably unused or specifically kitchen based) fine paintbrush. Dip it in the egg whites and proceed to “paint” your flowers. Make sure to paint each petal on both sides and paint any parts of the flowers both showing and hidden (getting under any leafy bits and between petals etc).
Next get out some sugar. Castor sugar is preferred as it is finer and more delicate, but I used granulated sugar and it worked out just fine really.
Dust both sides of the flowers being careful to cover as much as possible. Then place face down on greasproof paper and leave to dry. Once dried the flowers will go hard and will store easily. You can pop them in a dehydrator to speed up the process. You can then pick them up and place them delicately on top of fairy cakes… or whatever you please. They will retain thier shape and form and vibrance.
Pick the flowers whole and leaves to soak in cold water. Change the water to ensure no soil or bugs remain. Leave to soak for a couple of hours and then dry out using a dehydrater or oven on a low setting.
Pack into a clean dry container such as a glass jar. Your camomile is now preserved!
To brew the tea simply add a few flower heads into your cup of boiled water and leave to stew for a few minutes.
There are two main ways to Store carrots for future use out of season and both are pretty good. Carrots are one of those wonderful vegetables that just keep on giving.
Store the carrots in soil or sand.
– Storing in the ground may not be wise, as slugs and other critters will gobble them up. However, if you planted them in a tub you can simply keep them in there above ground and they will last and last as fresh as they ever have been! If you need to uproot them, store them in sand to have the same desired effect.
Store them in brine (salt water).
– Use a mixture of salt and water ( as below) to store these carrots by lacto-fermentation. I use this second method when it’s carrot planting season again so I can store the leftover carrots for even longer while I grow more.
- Water (2 cups)
- Salt (2 tablespoons) – You can source this from the sea to avoid extra expense! See our post on making salt for more info.
Gently dissolve the salt in the water on a low heat and allow mixture to cool.
Peel and chop the carrots into sticks that fit easily into your jars.
Fill each jar with carrots and pour the liquid into the jar so that it is full. Shake or tap the jar a little to remove trapped bubbles of air.
Leave for a few weeks and monitor the pressure build up in each jar. Let the air escape every so often for the first few weeks.
Ready to eat raw or steamed and packed full of flavour and probiotic goodness!
These little christmas treats are packed full of flavour and goodness. We received such a great response to these this year I thought I’d share the recipe I use.
Fruit pastes are densely packed with fruit you may otherwise be unable to eat raw (like Quince), and even better than this they store up to a year because of the sugar content. Quince pastes may be a bit sweet on their own for some people, but are excellent additions to your christmas cheeseboard or game meats.
Use baking paper or silicon mats on a tray to ensure you can easily peel off the paste after cooking.
- 500ml water
- 2 Tablespoons Lemons Juice
- 2kg Quinces
- Sugar (Check method for quantity)
- Chop and core the Quinces. Don’t worry about peeling. Coring I found was also very tricky as the cores are larger than apples are, I ended up just roughly hacking away at the middle and getting all the seeds out.
- Add to a pan of 500ml water and the lemon juice and cook for 30-40 minutes.
- Cool, then blend with a processor.
- Press the mixture through a fine sieve to create the puree.
- Weigh the puree and add the same weight in sugar. (e.g. If the puree weighs 1kg, add 1kg sugar). The sugar is key here to ensuring preservation.
- Stir the sugar in over a low heat until dissolved and the mixture is thick and coats the spoon (around 45-60 minutes).
- Spread into trays and spread evenly. Allow to fully cool. Cut into small bite size portions.
- If the paste “sweats” too much, further reduce the water content by dehydrating.
Store in a cool, dry place preferably in paper or foil tins.
Making fruit leather is one of the easiest and cheapest methods of storing fruit over winter. If you have ever had sticky coils of fruit flavoured roll before you should definitely try making it for yourself.
All you need to make fruit leather is a bunch of fruit, and some sugar. However, unlike jams and cordials that require a high percentage of sugar to preserve the fruit, fruit leather is dried out so only requires as much sugar as you want in order to stop it tasting bitter or sour.
First of all take your chosen fruit of any quantity and mush it together in a pan. Taste the fruit and decide how much sugar you want to add to the mixture. Simmer for 5 minutes or until thoroughly mushy and the sugar is completely dissolved.
If you do not like skins and seeds in your fruit leather, now is the time to sieve them out. Spread the mixture thinly onto greaseproof paper. Use a second piece of paper on top if necessary to roll it out with a rolling pin.
Remove the top layer of grease proof paper and place into the oven at around 75 degrees, or into a dehydrator machine.
Wait for about a day and test the leather to make sure it is no longer sticky, and dry enough to touch. Remove from the machine and gently peel off the greaseproof paper, cut into strips and roll. To store for any length of time dust with icing sugar to prevent the rolls from sticking to each other.
Now that the Wild Garlic is springing up again this season take advantage of it and try to store as much of it as possible to last you until your next garlic harvest.
A simple and easy way to store wild garlic is to create a garlic paste. All you need is some high quality oil such as Olive Oil and a bunch of wild garlic leaves/bulbs. SO long as the wild garlic isn’t flowering, you can use the whole thing for this paste.
Step One: Add a touch of lemon juice, a dash of salt and pour a tablespoon of olive oil to your Wild Garlic. Then, blend them together, a handheld blender works best.
Step Two: Add more love oil if necessary to make a strong garlic paste to the thickness you desire and mix well.
Step Three: Pour into a jar and top with a layer of oil to seal it in and stop air exposure.
You can keep this paste in the pantry or in the fridge, so long as the oil layer is maintained it shouldn’t go bad. You may find in the fridge the oil layer becomes hard, that’s normal! Just scoop underneath it and reseal after use. You should only need a teaspoon per meal to replace your usual garlic cloves as it’s reasonably strong flavoured.
Preserving and Storage
Set your oven on 50-70 degrees (or the lowest possible setting). Lay out the jelly ears evenly, preferably on some kind of rack or grill to allow air flow beneath them. Leave them in the oven until completely dried. When almost done you may turn off the oven to allow the remaining heat to finish them off.
Store in GLASS, do not use plastic containers and ensure they are dry and no longer sweat. They will keep until you wish to hydrate them again. Personally, I keep a jar on my kitchen shelf and label them by mushroom type, location found and date.