After all the canning and freezing is accomplished for the season, there is still the last of the harvest remaining that either you give away, compost or put into the cellar for the long winter months ahead. Dehydrating those last remaining crops for make ahead soup is an ideal way to salvage the ramaining produce.
Carrots, Potatoes, celery, cabbage, squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini, peppers, Spinach, Onions, Garlic, Chives, broccoli and cauliflower dehydrate well and can be used separately or mixed together for a hearty winter soup.
An equal amount of each can be layered in mason jars to give as gifts or for your own pantry. A packet of seasoning and beans or pasta can be added for variation. Your dried herbs can be mixed and packaged to flavor the soups.
Seasonings can be varied depending on your preferences and depending on what soup you may want to make. Dehydrated chicken or beef broth or bouillon powder in addition can be added, so the only ingredient needed is water or the addition of fresh meat. More often I do not add seasoning, since that allows me more option on how I want to use the dehydrated vegetables and herbs.
Soup packets in the super market are loaded with sodium and questionable ingredients, but you can adjust your own to your liking without the addition of high sodium to make a healthier and hardier soup.
When I dehydrate for soup, I find most dehydrate more quickly if they are grated or sliced thin. Grated carrots take about 2 hours to dehydrate in my dehydrator where sliced takes about an hour or more longer. So I grate what I can. The thinner the slices the better.
For most vegetables you do not need to do a lot of prep work. Simply wash, peel and remove stems, then grate or slice. Potatoes do need a little more preparation since they will turn brown or even black. Citric acid (Fruit Fresh), lemon or vinegar solution will help prevent the browning of produce and fruits. 1 teaspoon to a gallon of water of any of those acids will help prevent browning.
Vegetables dehydrate best between 125-145 degrees. You can dehydrate in an oven if you can set your oven low enough, but a dehydrator, with a fan uses less power and more efficient than an oven since there is less space to heat and the heat circulates best in a dehydrator. Read the manufacturer recommendations for your dehydrator for temperature and suggested preparation methods for best results.
You can puree your fruits or vegetables to make leather or make vegetable powder to enhance the flavor of casseroles and scrambled eggs. See a link below for making your own. fruit and vegetable leather.
If you currently do not have a dehydrator, a little research will be required to make an educated choice of what machine will work best for your needs. And refer to the link below for a variety of dehydrator options. I prefer the square sided dehydrators over the round type, because they take up less space and I can get more food into them. I also think it's wise to spend a little extra money for a dehydrator since the cheaper ones tend to burn out the fan motors quickly. It is also an advantage to have an on-off switch and an automatic timer, though I have never had one with auto shut-off and plan my dehydrating so I do not need an auto shut off. Dehydrators vary in price from relatively inexpensive to some that can top the $500 range, so be looking for the best you can afford within your own budget. I have had the cheap ones and I have had the middle road ones. I would recommend going with a good brand name in the middle price range if possible. In lieu of a purchased hydrator, there are plans online for making your own dehydrator that can save you money if you are skilled and have the tools to make your own.
Air and Sun-Drying
Some fruits and vegetables can be air dried or sun dried, however any that have a high water or juice content are difficult to air dry or sun dry and may mold before you are able to get them fully dehydrated. Herbs are easy to air dry and can be hung from hangers, drying racks or cupboard knobs in 2 or 3 days depending on the humidity at the time. The higher the humidity the long it takes all produce and herbs to dehydrate.
When to harvest
To retain the most vitamins and nutrients, pick the vegetables and herbs early in the morning, prepare them as soon as possible and place them in the dehydrator.
Funnel (canning funnel and slender funnels)
Mason Jars with Caps and Lids (Various Sizes)
Electric Food Slicer (dedicated to just fruit and vegetables, NO meats) Or Mandoline or manual food slicer
Grater (the pyramid type has various size grates) Or Food Processer with grating discs.
Sealable plastic bags or containers
Plastic Wrap or Dehydrator tray liners
Mini Food Chopper or Herb Grinder
Mortal and Pestle
Pizza cutter (works great for slicing celery and peppers)
The scraps of stems, peels, and blemished scraps can be reserved, dehydrated and given to the chickens as a supplement treat or added to their feed periodically for added nutrients especially in the colder months when they may not be able to forage or free-range. Most herbs and vegetables are suitable for chickens. Make sure they receive their regular ration of balanced feed before offering treats or scratch and never more than 5% of their daily ration. Herbs should always be used in moderation.
You can even make a warm soup that is special for the chickens, adding barley, oats, meat broth and the vegetable scraps, for a hardy warm soup during the winter months. A sprinkle of their favorite herbs will help with immunity and ward off winter time respiratory issues. Do not add salt, they receive enough sodium in their balanced feed ration, and other scrap foods they may be given from the table scraps.
To make your own dry soup mixes follow the link
To make fruit leather follow the link:
To make Vegetable leather follow the link:
To make vegetable powder, follow the link:
For recipes to make your own Chicken treats follow the link:
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