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This past fall I bought a food dehydrator.   It wasn’t the one I wanted (which was the Excalibur) but it was about a third of the price, and had the features I was looking for.  (Heats from the top down, variable temperature control.)  And when I say I bought it, I mean I bought it.  The husband was against the purchase, so it was paid for out of my earnings.

Why was the husband against it?  Because I had had a dehydrator before.  I owned it for several years and used it…maybe three times.  In my defense, the old one was the bottom of the range model, was kind of a PITA to use with all the tray rotating — due to its lousy fan and lack of temperature control.  It had been an impulse purchase at the Navy Exchange, and despite its lack of use, had been packed up and moved four times since we’d bought it wasted our money on it.  I’m not sure why I kept it so long, since I didn’t use it.  Possibly due to my “well, it’s better than nothing” mentality that sometimes makes me want to hold onto things instead of just letting go of them.  (Incidentally, we ended up giving the old, “better than nothing” dehydrator — along with a bunch of other stuff — to a woman whose house had burned to the ground, leaving her with…well, nothing.  I hope she gets better use out of it than I did.   But I digress.)

So last fall, I bought a dehydrator, inspired by a program I’d seen on food preservation.  Watching that program, I learned this amazing thing:  you can cook beans of various types (pintos for burritos, etc; red beans for red beans and rice; black eyed peas; and the like), then dehydrate them.  Stored in an air tight container, they’re shelf stable, and ready to be quickly rehydrated for an easy dinner on busy nights.  (Or nights when I just can’t be bothered to actually cook something.)  They’re also portable, and can be taken camping or hiking — if you’re into that sort of thing, that is.  Which I’m not.  Rehydrating is fast and easy, once you get through the trial and error of water to bean ratios, and find the proper cooking time (hint: pasta al dente is good.  Pinto beans al dente…not so much.)

I’ve been a fan of what’s generally called “Freezer Cooking” for years.  But lately, I’ve decided to try to move away from using the deep freeze in favor of less electricity dependent food storage.  I tried using my pressure canner to can beans, and I was pretty sure I had done it right.  When it comes to botulism, however, “pretty sure” doesn’t quite cut it.  If you wanted to compare all the different methods of preserving food to various sporting events, canning meats and veggies would be something akin to car races.  The penalty for messing up is pretty harsh… so until I get a little more confident, the dehydrator it is.

But am I really saving any energy?  The dehydrator, after all, doesn’t run on pixie dust.  It plugs in just like the freezer does.  And it runs and runs and runs (eight to ten hours, depending on the size of what’s drying), which draws power.  Here’s the thing, though.  Of all the options available (cook and freeze, cook and eat, cook and dehydrate, cook and can), I’m kind of loving dehydrating because while the basic energy use is the same, with the dehydrator, I get to direct the energy best.  So this winter, it helped heat the house (and in the case of good smelling things, made the house smell cozy and nice.  In the case of broccoli…well, that wasn’t pleasant, and I won’t be doing that again.)  and this summer, not having boiling pots on for hours will help keep the house cooler.

So for the husband who objected to the dehydrator:  pbbbt!!!

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