Savor the Flavor

May 27, 2011 at 3:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So I am a proud member of the food security here in Burkina Faso. I wrote an article on how to dry food. Drying food is a terrific way to save food without destroying all the good stuff. It is good here because, for example, right now we only have fresh mangoes. Everything is dried.

But drying food is for everybody! I encourage you to try preserving some food this year, whether from your own garden, a farmers’ market or grocer. Here is the article.

N.B. –
1) Tami is a sifter. Think sand sifter from you playground years for making that oh-so-valuable smooth sand. There are two types: ones with metal screenin like for a porch door and the other is fabric.

2) Where There is No Microwave is the Peace Corps cookbook compiled by volunteers.

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Miss having an amazing selection at marché ? Think mangoes are terrific and want to savor the flavor a little bit longer? You can! Drying food is easy, fun, and rewarding! Drying food helps conserve food, improves variety in diets, and prevents spoilage of excess harvest.

I’m sure that most of you have seen the little black and white photo of the food dryer in the Where There is No Microwave book. If you are drying food on a small scale (for example yourself and maybe a neighbor or two) the hanging tamis work great! If you are drying high water content foods (think watermelon, tomatoes, and mangoes) use cloth tamis so you do not have rust on your food. If you are drying lower water food (like carrots, green peppers, or any leaf variety), the metal ones will work fine. So string them up, cover with a mosquito net, and voila!

Now that you have assembled your dryer, you can start drying foods! First, wash and sanitize the food (and your hands!) so left over bacteria does not start the rotting process while your foods dry. It’s a good idea to blanche the food (like tomatoes, carrots, not leaves) but not absolutely necessary. Blanche – it’s more than just a golden girl! Blanching stops the enzymatic process that breaks food down. To blanche, boil water and put the food in for a few minutes. It will be hot when you take it out. Attention! Immediately submerge in cold (or cool if you’re limited) water.

Now that your food is prepared, you need to cut it into thin strips. A sharp knife will make it much more likely that you will not hate drying foods by the end of this process. And keep in mind thin means the slices will be translucent for high water content foods, but for lower water content foods, that size is not necessary. Hint: run a test of a few different thicknesses if you are unsure before you do a whole batch and lose them all. A little scientific method, anyone?

When you have cut the strips, lie them flat, no stacking, with a bit of space between. If the air cannot move, neither can the water, and thus your foods will not dry. Once they are crispy and dry (usually a few hours, longer if it is cooler), remove them from the dryer with clean hands, and put them in storage. Keeping them in airtight containers and in small quantities is a good idea. If they do spoil, then you only lose part of your harvest. Remember to clean your tamis once you are done!

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