Professor Plum, In The Kitchen, With The Food Dehydrator

My mom, in her domestic wisdom, offers me this piece of advice about keeping a home: ”Get your machines working for you!” 
She means, get in the habit of throwing in a load of laundry and starting up the dishwasher first thing in the morning and throughout the day, let your machines work for you, and before you know it you’re caught up. Well, that’s the theory at least.
With apologies to those of you participating in the Riot for Austerity or other lower-your-energy-use challenges, lowered energy consumption just isn’t how I’m saving the world this month. No, this month I’m following mom’s advice and every single thing with a plug is being pushed into heavy use.
Especially the food dehydrators. 
Sunday I harvested most of the fruit from two mature Italian Prune Plum trees (they came with the house). I pulled about 60 pounds of plums off the trees in an hour or so. It was a nice amount: enough to put up but not so much as to be totally overwhelming.
Since the plum harvest, my dehydrator and the borrowed dehydrator from my friend Fruit Lady have been running non-stop. 
Prune plums have to be the easiest fruit to dry – they are made for it, literally. They are meaty, freestone and the perfect size to dehydrate when just sliced in half. We collected three boxes worth.
I worked one box at a time, dumping the fruit into a clean sink full of water.
With plums, I cut along the seam of the fruit but usually leave the two halves connected.
Some of the plums showed signs on insect damage. It looked like a little tunnel was made through the bottom of the plum and the flesh around that area was red and rough.
I just cut that part out. No problem, the rest of the fruit was great! The obsessive need for “perfection” in our food leads to a food-loss rate of something like 50% from farm to table. A bunch of that waste happen right on the farm when farmers throw out anything that doesn’t meet commercial appearance standards because people just won’t buy it. When you grow your own you can ignore that kind of silliness.
I place my plums cut-side down, but that’s just because they lay flat that way and therefore, I think dry more evenly. But I’m not sure it matters that much. I filled 12 trays with plums.
Tonight, the crock pot got into the show, cooking down some Chinese Plum Sauce for me while I (hopefully) get some sleep. 

I’m using a recipe from Canning For A New Generation with ginger and star anise, but I’m trying a low-and-slow cooking method I’ve used with success in the past for various fruit butters.

Other flavors: onion, garlic, cinnamon, soy, rice vinegar and brown sugar. 
So, yeah, I’d say I’ve got my machines working for me. Now to go start that dishwasher and washing machine….
What tools or appliances do you find indispensable for dealing with the harvest?
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Comments

  1. Fantastic post. A friend and I are debating buying a dehydrator between us and sharing. The slow cook sauce is a great tip.

  2. Tanya – Thanks! If you have a friend of the same preservation mindset, it is wonderful to share! I dropped off my big pot to Fruit Lady and picked up her dehydrator. BUT, keep in mind that peak drying season kinda come on all at once, and if you get hooked, you'll both want one so you can stop careful timeshare negotiations for who has it when. :) But I do think this is a wonderful idea to see if you like drying foods. Also, thrift stores do occasionally have them.

  3. The freezer! (And freezer bags). My stove & dishwasher for canning. I hate doing dishes, and the dishwasher sterilizes jars so much more efficiently. Yes we're working towards the Riot, but those machines are pretty much essential around here!

    Loving your prune operation. Whatever else you do with plums, though, don't freeze them whole. – They are a HUGE pain.in.the.ass. to get the pits our after defrosting! Pit first, then freeze!

    Off to sulk now. Wishing I had made prunes out of some of those plums last year when we had so many fresh.

  4. Lady Banksia says:

    It is almost instinctive for me to fire up the pressure canner and/or the water bath. I just know I'm gonna –

    I do a quick mental check of the status of jars and lids, but I always think I have more than I really do. I think some leave the house when I'm not looking!

    I have a dehydrator, but haven't used it as much as I thought I would. I know, shame on me….

    Those plums are gorgeous!

  5. I bought an excaliber last year and used it to make raw chocolate goodies. I can't wait to use it for fruit this fall.

  6. I love using my machines! That is a lot of plums to deal with! I love my dehydrator too and the crock pot gets used quite a bit around here. The raccoon post I really enjoyed! Great photos of them. I don't know how you get rid of them. ugh.

  7. sparkytogo says:

    Machines?? Can’t we call them modern gadgets? I love anything with a hand crank! ;) From a blender, to squeezos and lepresses and meat grinders, sausage stuffers…most recently an antique meat tenderizer. I even use a brake bleeder for vac sealing my jars of dry goods. (I still use the foodsaver for the bags). I love machines!

    • Here’s an Eff Why Eye on another drying opportunity: We drive down to Turlock, CA every winter and I pick every single fruit from my father’s Fuyu persimmon tree. Then we drive them back up here to Logsden, OR where I slice them (thick) and “get our machines working for us.” The Fleetwood commercial slicer keeps things nice and consistent. We also have the two dehydrators (got ‘em off Craigslist locally) pictured here in this post. Recently, I learned that Fuyus do quite well in our climate as long as you are not close to the salt air of the beach. We are 11 miles inland. I’m kicking myself for not planting this fruit when I bought this place 32 years ago.

  8. Betsy True says:

    Another tip: I found an AV cart at the local university SWAP store and in summer I put my heat generating appliances on that, keep it in the garage and roll it over to the outlet when I need it. The cart has outlets on it, so I only need to plug the cart in. I keep the dehydrator (used heavily in late summer and fall) and the Showtime Rotisserie on it (used about avery 3 weeks). I still have the bottom fitted out as a chick incubator, but will probably dismantle that.

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