Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Putting Food By

I love the expression "putting food by." It is a somewhat outdated saying, one that our grandparents and great grandparents would have been more familiar with than we are. Before the age of refrigeration it was crucial to know how to properly prepare and store the summer's bounty for the upcoming winter. Failure to have enough food on hand could threaten your very survival. The literary illustration that comes to mind is The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Part of the Little House series of books, it is the gripping story of a community shut off from the rest of the world due to a series of blizzards that rage, one after the other, for the entire winter. The Ingalls family barely make it through to the next spring when, at last, a train with relief supplies is able to make it through. When my kids were younger we read the whole Little House series out loud several times over. I especially loved pulling this book out when we were in the midst of our own snow storm, cuddled up warm and cozy together on the couch, reading about the hardships Laura and Mary were having to endure.

Perhaps it is the impression left by the many readings of that book, or possibly just my own eccentric nature- that I will leave for the reader to decide- but every year I spend time putting food by. There are several ways I do that, but in this post I want to highlight one in particular. I have an Excalibur food dehydrator that is in almost constant use from the middle of summer right up to the end of October. It is a fairly easy process to dehydrate food. I will use my garden carrots to illustrate the steps.

These get used in soups and stews throughout the fall and winter. Without going into as much detail here are a few other examples. First up are some Italian plums, followed by cranberries.

The cranberries get put into cookies, breads, muffins and bowls of hot oatmeal. They are so much better than the sugar laden ones you buy in the store. The plums get eaten by the handful straight out of the jar! Finally, here is a sample line-up of this year's winter supply. We might have a long winter in store for us here north of 49, but I think we'll be okay.


  1. I am so enjoying your blogs. Our family have also loved the Little House books. Wow, your food looks gorgeous. Thanks for posting how to preserve our garden goodies. I am planning to look for a dehydrator at garage sales this year.

  2. I might just try cranberries this year. You've inspired me!

  3. I tend to can more than dehydrate, but when we had an Italian plum tree I did more dehydrating. I do apples as well.

  4. Any thoughts on the importance of the quality of dehydrators? Can I get by with one from Canadian Tire, or would that be an exercise in frustration or a waste of time?

  5. Thanks Peg for the compliment. I am glad you are enjoying the blog!

    And Aneta, I recommend the dehydrator I linked to. It has 9 huge stacking trays so you can do lots of food at once, plus it is designed for proper air flow so things dry out evenly.

  6. I like the idea of dehydrating food--I don't trust myself (or anyone who lives with me!!!) to can/perserve food safely any other way. But so far I am only a consumer, not a producer. Over the years, did your children enjoy helping you with the dehydration project?

    My parents grew a lot of vegetables and fruit, but we didn't put much real food by. My mom made grape jelly and apple sauce. We froze corn on the cob and stored yams and butternut squash for use during the holidays. Everything else we ate as it ripened.

    My grandfather talked about either salting or smoking meat in the fall for use during the winter--he didn't enjoy the salted meat. And his family did a lot of canning.

  7. Hi. I'm Danica. I found you through Aneta's site. You caught my eye at first because I am a fellow NaNoWriMo-er. (How's it going with that, by the way?)
    Look at those pretty jars all lined up with goodies! I love dehydrated produce, but I've never tried doing the work myself, aside from drying apple rings in the oven for my kids. Maybe one day I'll have to try it.
    Thanks for reminding me about the Little House series. My eight year old is suddenly into novels and I've been wracking my brain trying to remember old ones I enjoyed as a girl that I can pass on to her now. I think she'd love those.

  8. Oh this just made me miss my little food dehydrator! I put almost everything electric into storage before we moved overseas. Which is a huge shame since there is such wonderful produce here that I'd love to dry up. And apparently it's not a thing here because I've never seen them in stores.

  9. Becca- could you use your oven to dry things? I haven't tried it myself, but know others have had success. That way you could take advantage of all that great produce!