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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Plums that won't Prune

Damson Plum Tree
After Christmas I went out and bought a dehydrator. I don't usually rush off and make purchases without thinking things through very carefully and doing a lot of research and umming and aahing and then changing my mind and then finally doing it. But I thought about the dehydrator for one night only. I researched and sourced and the next morning I went and got it. You could say it was an impulse buy.

All because of the mountains of plums that had been dropping from the trees feeding the birds.

Every year just when I've exhausted myself with Christmas festivities our super dooper plum tree droops with plums providing enough for us and all our neighbours and friends and friends of friends and every bird from near and far. I make jams and crumbles and still find plums squishing beneath my feet when I venture to the tree.

But this year I had a brainwave... I would dry them into prunes. They would be easy to store and easy to give away and I really like dried fruit.

So once I'd bought the gadget I set to work making jam and dehydrating.  Jam-making takes a long time but that's nothing compared to dehydrating. And Monkey Man was not too impressed when he considered the energy use and restricted my dehydrating to the off-peak weekends.

Anyway, by the end of the night the plums had dried themselves into wrinkly shapes and I thought surely they were now prunes. So I popped them into a couple of big glass jars and went to bed. But in the morning I tasted one of those plum-prunes and it was so sour it made my eye twitch. So I tasted a few more just to make sure but they were all so tart my eye went into a spasm.

Turns out we have a damson plum tree. Great for jams and cooking. Not suitable for drying and prune making. Hmmm maybe I should have researched the plum tree instead of researching dehydrators.

Fortunately, I did get all inspired once I started considering what could be done in a dehydrator and started a dehydrating pinterest board with dreams of crackers and veggie chips. All to be done on one whopping slow cook off on a weekend of course.

Does anyone out there use a dehydrator? What do you make? Any tips for me?






18 comments:

  1. I have thought about getting a dehydrator just to make kale chips. Do all dehydrators require power, or can you get solar ones?

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    1. You can get solar ones Jason. I don't know much about them though and I don't know where to get them. But I did see a couple of sites to make your own.

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  2. It has crossed my mind to get one for apricots that I am sure I will have in abundance next Christmas,but haven't as yet researched them. Interesting xx

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    1. I think dried apricots would be great.

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  3. I like the idea of a dehydrator - with the move to the new property, I have little produce at all so nothing to dry at the moment. Definitely would be glad to hear about your use of it though and how it goes for when I have produce to dry.

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  4. I bought one a couple of years ago and it has sort of become a community dehydrator! I have used it to dry tomatoes, zucchini, onions, apples, lemons and lemongrass. My friends have used it for apples and lemons. I have to say that the lemongrass wasn't a great success but I think that was more the herb itself rather than the drying process. The zucchini was so successful that when I took some newly dried zuch's out to the men's shed for trial tasting none came back and a request for more was received. Healthy snacks with the beer! I have no regrets on the purchase. I leave mine on overnight in the back shed so I can't hear it - and the onions drying cause a very powerful aroma too.
    Jan

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    1. Aah zucchini I was thinking of doing some on the weekend. Can't wait now.

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  5. pretty soon you'll think it's one of the best investments you've made, i'd say!
    dry anything. even whole meals like curry to take hiking and rehydrate!

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  6. I'm a fairly recent dehydrator owner and have only made a few things but intend to experiment a bit more while I'm on leave.

    So far I've done herbs (parsley, oregano, basil), celery and kale 'chips'. Unfortunately I oversalted the chips but otherwise I think they turned out okay. I'll try again, maybe with a touch of cayenne and less salt!

    I run mine in the laundry with the door closed as the noise is a bit annoying!

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  7. I think a nights research counts as excellent forward planning rather than impulse purchase. Come and visit my waredrobe if you want to see impluse purchases - who knew pink pasley really wouldn't suit me??? As for the dehydrator I've been thinking about one for awhile so will be very interested in your experiences.

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  8. I have a dehydrator which a bought a couple of years ago now, and I've done figs, tomatoes, apples, pears, strawberries, heaps of herbs, and have big plans for when my peach and nectarine trees start producing more than I can eat. With the plums/prunes you could consider rehydrating them in a sugar syrup (maybe 50/50 sugar/water) and give them a gentle cook and then re-dehydrate. I have a friend who I give figs to and she dries them that way. I can give you the fig recipe version if you want to see if it works for plums...

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    1. Thanks Bek. Maybe I'll do that next year. Actually dried herbs nicely packaged would make good Xmas pressies wouldn't they?

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  9. How big are your damson fruits? This is the first year we have any on our tree and they are perhaps 2cm across... I thought they'd be bigger? Anyway, they are much too tart to eat at this stage, but I think they still have some ripening to do.
    I have been umming and ahhing about buying a food dehydrator. I haven't taken the plunge yet and this year - the first year we've had fruit off our baby trees - we've been making do with an old window screen out in the sun. This being Adelaide and very hot and dry, it's a reasonable option. I was told recently that the dehydrators still take a really long time, but I didn't think to ask how long that actually was. Our apricots have been sunning themselves for almost a week (a lot of that at over 40c) and are only just really drying out in the middle. I imagine a dehydrator would be a lot faster than that?!

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    1. Ours are normal size for a plum -about 5-7cm. They do get sweet but the skins are tart. From what I've read the time for dehydrating varies depending on what you're drying but fruit & veggies take at least 8 hrs I think. I hope your apricots work out - the screen in the sun sounds like a good option for your weather.

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  10. Don't know if you're into this sort of thing, but my daughter made some very nice Damson Vodka last Autumn, using the same technique as that which I used for Sloe Gin...

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    1. Yeah I thought about that but I'm pretty sure we wouldn't drink it. Thanks for the idea though Mark.

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