Monday, October 26, 2015

Pears to Perfection

We picked pears a month ago, or more. Because you pick pears before they are fully ripe, I assumed we had a good long while before I needed to "do something" with them. They sat in paper bags in the refrigerator, and every so often I would take one or two out to ripen so I could eat them.

But the gardens have produce blackberries and more blackberries, watermelon, cantaloup and even a few red raspberries. The new apple crop came into the stores and the price hit its annual low. And now we've found cheap pomegranates.

So eating pears has not been a priority.

A week or so ago I went through the bags of pears to make sure none of them needed to be used. Not only did I have to throw out a couple of rotten ones, but all of them were nearly perfectly ripe and ready. What am I going to do with all of those pears?

Not pear sauce/butter. I have several jars of pear sauce I canned two years ago. I am not a sauce-eating kind of gal. Well you can freeze pears, but our two small chest freezers, as well as the freezers in our two refrigerators are full. Full. And kale and other freezable greens are coming in fast. The smaller freezer is already full of fruit and the other has just enough space for freezing greens -- if we eat some of the other stuff already in there.

Jalapeno peppers can be dried, but I prefer to freeze them. Cayennes dry better.
The only option left is to dehydrate them. Fortunately, we've had just enough sunshine for the solar dehydrator to work well. All I had to do was cut, core and slice the pears (cutting out those hard "rocks" that form in them for whatever reason), and then lay them on the screens in the dehydrators. About two or two and a half days later they were dried to perfection, with no discoloration. People often believe that you have to put lemon juice or acetic acid or something on fruit to keep it from discoloring in the freezer or dehydrator, but no, you don't. And if they did brown just a little when dehydrating it doesn't hurt the flavor. The dehydrated pears are quite sweet and will make a wonderful winter treat.

Before I put the last of the pears in the dehydrator I made a small dish of baked pears. I simply sliced pears in a shallow glass baking dish -- make them only two or three layers deep -- and drizzled in  a bit of brandy (just enough to cover the bottom of the dish). I put small dabs of butter around the top of the pears -- not too much -- and sprinkled on garam masala, an Indian seasoning that contains, among many other things, nutmeg and cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. OMG!

Tomatoes are about my favorite -- although not the easiest -- thing to dehydrate. When I planted my Amish Paste Tomatoes this spring, I did so knowing that most of them would be turned into tasty sun-dried tomatoes. They are tricky because they are so juicy. I've had to throw out a few batches of moldy ones. Long, sunny days are required to prevent mold. It seems that the way to turn a forecast of "sunny" into a "mostly cloudy" is for me to put tomatoes in the solar dehydrator. It happens with suspicious frequency.

My last successful batch of dried tomatoes was done when the days were shortening and not as hot, but I brought them in on the first night after a day outside and put them in my little electric dehydrator for a couple of hours, then put them back outside for another two days. Dried to perfection. I blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for one minute, which allows me to easily remove the skins. Then I slice or quarter them. Not too thin, or they'll melt into the dryer screen, and not too large or they will take too long to dry.

 Many things can be dehydrated successfully. I've done plums, summer squash and eggplant. All of my cayenne peppers get dehydrated. Green beans are a common thing to dehydrate, although I don't dry them. This past weekend I told someone that I had kale and other greens coming in from the garden and no space in the freezer. She suggested that I dry the kale and just throw it into soups. That didn't sound terribly appealing, but I will make a test run. If it does well, I'll put dry kale in the pantry instead of the freezer. Most Web sites I visited in search of how to properly dry kale said to stick it in the dehydrator raw; only one said to blanch it first. All recommended also making kale "chips" by rubbing the leaves with oil and sprinkling with salt and other seasonings before dehydrating. We'll see how that goes. I will let you know.

1 comment:

Meggie said...

Now, kale chips sounds interesting....let us know your results. I enjoy reading your blog...good post.