Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dehydrated tomatoes, continued: Tomato sauce.

A little while ago I made a brief posting about dehydrating tomatoes.
Tomatoes, Dehydrated

Dehydrating is a weird concept to properly apply in real life. Any one can dehydrate but what you do with the goods once they are dehydrated is what will make you an amateur or a pro.

I feel for once, finally once, I have created a something that takes me out of the novice class. I will share this with you.

This tutorial starts where the last one left off. You should have already dehydrated tomatoes.

Step 1: Take your dehydrated tomatoes and load them in your food processor, blender, grain mill, or other similarly functioning machine.

Step 2: This ought to be a predictable step. Turn the machine on to get a fine powder.

Still a little clumpy, I'll let it blend another 45 seconds.

Ok, here is where I got creative, but learned my lesson. This is a picture from inside the lemon zest part of my cheese grater. I did not have a strainer, so this is what I used instead.
This is what it looked like in use.

Step 3: Take the powder you have created and strain it through a strainer, or grater, or equivalent device to collect the finer powder and leave out the larger clumps.

Here is the end result you are aiming for, this is what you want to collect.

I eventually upgraded to a strainer that costed me $3 but was worth every penny.

Now you have tomato powder. I am still trying to pin down the exact specifics of the tomato sauce I will be making with this, but ultimately you will want to combine this powder with 4 parts water, spices (basil, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onion), and warm it up. I did a small test batch and while needing some slight revisions, the first batch was amazingly good.

To compare this to the canned tomato sauce I made here, I would say this is 100 times easier, has infinite times the storage life span, costs less, and weights about 1,000 the weight as the canned stuff.

This powder will last indefinitely as long as it's kept air tight and away from moisture. Along with the other spices required you have a flavor enhancer (tomato sauce) that can be made 100% from ingredients that have near infinite shelf lives. Compare this to the canned sauce that has a couple years best, involves an 80 cent can, and is fragile, and its easy to see why I am excited to have successfully completed this project.

I will be keeping many jars, or Mylar bags, or #10 cans of this around the house and in my storage. This might also have single handedly convinced me to try to grow tomatoes in the spring. If so, it should be an easy guess what the majority of my blogs will be about at that time of year :)

Great gift ideas, This is what I did for Christmas presents this year.

As a last second addition to the things I made, cooked, and created for family members for Christmas, I added little glass Root Beer bottles of dehydrated goods.

It started out as just part of my normal day.

I got some bell peppers washed them, cut them up, put them on the dehydrator and went on with my day. When I came home to find them fragrant and crispy I noticed the red and green and realized these could make some great Christmas presents.

I had recently gotten a ton of root beer and cream soda in the old style glass bottles, so I thought I would wash the bottles and fill with the red and green peppers.

I ended up doing a few different things, some that resembled the colors of Christmas, others that would simply appeal to the likes of the recipient. Here you can see tomatoes was one that held true to the color scheme, but also was something the owner would use. You can also see carrots, one that did not really go with Christmas colors, but appealed to the taste of the recipient.

I have a tutorial for dehydrating tomatoes, and bell peppers are just as easy.

Step 1: Wash
Step 2 Cut
Step 3: Place on dehydrator till crispy.
I think I will be replicating this for birthdays and other occasions that permit gifts.

There are so many things that can be dehydrated and such a wide variety of colors, that if creative enough, I'm sure some very cool gifts could be crafted!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another great homemade camping stove!

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. As promised, more blogs!!

This is a cool penny stove that many of you may be familiar with. Because it is a common little project I will not discus why you need a stove, or why is is better than others, or is not better than some.

I will say I like it, it was fun, but I will not be taking it camping due to the need of alcohol vs. wood for my rocket stove, but for around the house it will be my go to stove for power outages.

Let's get to it.

  • Razor
  • 2x4 Lumber
  • 3 Sodas
  • Sand Paper
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • 2 Small Nails
  • Drill with Small Bit, or Hammer and Small Nail.

Here is one of my soda cans. As you can see it is full, and not dented. You will need 3 like this.

Step 1: Sand the ink off the bottom of 2 cans. This is a necessary step in order to keep your sanity.

Step 2: Assemble your cutting device as shown below.

Step 3: Once your razor is in place you will want to slowly rotate your soda can against the razor. It will take anywhere from 10-20 rotations, so be patient. There are 2 ways you can do this. With a full soda can, or an empty one.

Double think your decision. This was my first attempt and the results were rather "surprising".

Let me say this. If you do step 3 with an empty can, it will be more likely to "crinkle" on you and lose its perfectly round shape, which is bad. If you do it with a full can, it can either get a pin hole and start to leak which is an easy clean up, or it can straight up explode like mine. Be ready for anything. The mitigating factor is that with a full can the inward pressure trying to get out will keep your soda can a perfect circle, resulting in an easier fit in a later step of the process.

Step 4: Once you have finally cut the can in half, you will want to take the bottom piece and shove it on another full can of soda to enlarge your subject can just a tiny tiny amount.
Step5: Take the full can #2 and repeat process with cutting the bottom off. Once cut DO NOT shove this piece to enlarge, you want this one small, that's why you sanded the ink off.
Step 6: You now have 2 pieces that, except for the circumference, are identical. Now the theory is that you can shove the enlarged one over the regular sized one. I say theory because it took me 2 tries and is not always easy.

You can see my first attempt failed. This is why sanding the ink off in step 1 is important, as well as shoving the top onto a full soda can to expand the circumference.

This is the result you are shooting for. The enlarged top piece will cover your bottom piece leaving you an enclosed capsule

Step 7: Now comes the power tools, or the hammer, which ever you prefer. The capsule you have has no top or bottom, use which ever you want. You will see I have 2 different stoves here. The one that works the best is the one with double the holes but they are smaller. You will also want to put a larger hole in the middle of the can.

Step 8: Fill your stove, via the hole in the middle of the can, with alcohol.

Step 9: Cover your fill hole with a penny, like in the picture above. You will also need to set your stove on a saucer or something that can contain a small puddle of alcohol.

The way this stove works is with pressure. You need a small fire below the stove to make the inside alcohol pressurized and therefore escape through the holes your drilled, or hammered.
Here you can see the alcohol is on fire, but you can also see the small flame on the saucer below the stove. You will want to light this puddle of alcohol and wait until you hear the capsule boiling, and then light the outer perimeter to get the stove going.

If the puddle of alcohol below goes out, your stove will continue to function, so no need for worry.

As stated above, I would rather take my rocket stove camping. It will produce more heat in the same amount of time, with sticks and twigs rather than alcohol. If however, you carry alcohol in your first aid kit or for consumption anyways, this may be a great stove to keep in the pack. I love it, and will be using it as my stove for use when the electricity goes out.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Oh the holidays!

I wanted to drop a quick post and let the frequent readers know I will be unable to post new content until after Christmas.

With the Holidays came lots of work, leaving me zero time to do cool stuff and blog about it.

Fear not, I will be back after Christmas with lots of new content and hopefully some new toys to review.

Happy holidays to all!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The blessing of Mylar

I have mentioned a few times this thing called Mylar. Some might not know what it is so I will explain.

It is a plastic/foil hybrid pretty much.

It comes in rolls, or bags, of various sizes, in food grade or not food grade.

Why is this stuff important?

It is the best way to preserve dry goods for 30+ years.

Because it has some plasticity, it can be cauterized shut, in an airtight seal. Because it is similar to foil, it rejects intruding incoming light, which is one variable that makes food go bad.

So how do I use it? Keep reading...

The big silver looking things sticking out of that 5 gallon bucket are the Mylar bags I speak of.

Step 1: Get your Mylar bags, I prefer 5mm thick, any thicker and you have trouble sealing it. I also save myself trouble and get bags sized for 5 gallon buckets. Fill the bags with what ever you are storing, in my case, wheat.

Step 2: Get some other needed items handy. Oxygen absorbers, and a hard surface to iron on like a cutting board, piece of lumber, table or desk top, etc.
Step 3: Here is that part you have to do fast and can't waste time on. Once you expose your oxygen absorbers to air, they will start to work. Each absorber can only suck up so much oxygen, so you want to make sure you get it in the Mylar bag ASAP. Throw in the right amount of oxygen absorbers (see link below).
Step 4: Take your lumber, cutting board, desk top, what ever, and lay the excess Mylar bag flat against this hard surface. Take a normal house hold iron and turn it up to high heat. Iron the top of the Mylar bag, to melt the 2 panels shut, creating an air tight seal. This is much like zipping a zip lock bag, but instead of pinching it shut, you iron it shut.
You can see the bag has been sealed shut.

Step 6: Label the bag and the bucket, you should have at least the date and the items inside. I personally have also included good recipes on the buckets for my beans, as well as the cost at which I bought them, this makes it fun to look at 5 years from now to see what food prices used to be.

Need to know what CC absorber to use? Check this out-

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Homemade Sterno Can, Portable stove burner.

Growing up I always liked candles. They provided light and warmth, although very minimal, lasted a long time, and were great for days I wanted to go through pounds and pounds of fire crackers, but not a lot of lighter fluid in my lighters.

Well lady's and gents, behold the candle on steroids!

This has no wick, but rather burns the entire exposed surface area of the wax, so depending on the size of container holding it, this can be a great way to keep a tin of casserole warm, just like a sterno can, or create just enough light for a romantic dinner with only one of these rather than 5 or 6 individual candles, I did this last night, and let me tell you, rather than holding back faces of disgust from my bad cooing, my date spent most the time really enjoying the atmosphere.

The greatest of all uses though is the ability to ready while camping, with the light emitted from this.

I get so tired of keeping a roaring fire stoked to allow me to read while I camp. Now I'll just bring one of these.

There are a few ways to make them. The supplies are as follows:

  • Paraffin wax
  • Bean or soda can, or if you really want to impress a #10 can!
  • Dryer lint, cotton, news paper, or cardboard
You want to start with your can, I prefer an empty bean can. It is a good size and does not include intricate cutting like the soda can.

The next step will be determined by what you use as the foundation, meaning the item in supplies #3.

For dryer lint and cotton: You will want to stuff as much as you can fit in your can. Start to melt your wax, and once liquidy, pour over the cotton or dryer lint. The cotton or lint will soak up the wax, and allow you more room to add additional cotton/lint. Add more, and pour most wax on top. Set in freezer to cool.

For news paper and cardboard: Roll up your material like you're going to swat a fly with it. Insert the roll in your can. Melt your wax and pour over the material, filling all the voids and empty space. Set in freezer to cool.

You can see in this picture the soda can has rolled up cardboard, while the bean can has lint.

Like stated before, these give off massive amounts of light, are easy to make, and last for hours and hours. they are also waterproof if rained on or dropped in water.

Some simple tips:

Buy paraffin wax in 10 Lbs or more slabs. Its cheapest this way. I've seen wax at Hobby Lobby, Micheal's, Joannas fabric, and a few other craft places

Most of my blogs include the need for a sharp knife. This project is the exception. A knife will get you little progress and much frustration. Use a hammer. Wax is like chocolate, it melts best in a double boiler. If you do not have access to one, be patient and just use low heat. Wax melts at very lows temps.

Don't look

The subject I am bringing up today is one of the most important subjects I think I could conjure up.

You can't usually see pesticide on your produce, nor preservatives in your food. But I've found a way. The adage "out of sight, out of mind" rings true in this subject.

Both of these are dehydrated apples, both underwent the same process once I got them, both stayed on the dehydrator the same period of time, both were very fresh, nothing was done differently, once I got hold of these apples. But what they went through Before I got them, makes all the difference.

The apples on the left are from a company that pre-slices apples, dunks them in preservatives, and packages them for little kids snacks. This is the company I speak of, proclaiming "Healthy Snack" on their label.

The apples on the right side of that first picture are slices from a fresh apple. I sliced myself. I will note neither of these apples were dunked in lemon juice or any solution to prevent browning of the flesh. The Disney apples turned brownish/black, while the fresh un-tampered with apple, stayed a healthy color.

Here is a picture of the dehydrating tray.

You can easily see the difference between the pre-sliced preservative filled crap, and the fresh apples.

This is a picture of a tray of just the pre-sliced apples before the dehydrating. You can see that there is no visual difference, no nasty sightly warning of danger.

Try for yourself if you wish. The adage of "out of sight, out of mind" will no longer hold true in my house. If the simple process of removing moisture from the apples turns them black, I would hate to see what is happening in your body with this chemical junk.

I find this repulsive. I hope for the safety of any one reading this blog, you will too.

I am going to send the link to this blog to the web address on the package of their fruit. I ask that you will do the same.

(Bottom left hand side of page "Contact us")

Friday, December 10, 2010

Intro to Dehydrating, Tomato

It has turned into the time of year when I like to dehydrate stuff, which is unfortunate in a way. I do most of my dehydrating in the winter, mostly because it is dry. I live in Florida, and trying to dehydrate in the summer time with 70-80% relative humidity is just depressing. But with the good comes the bad, I hate the cold, and just this week we set a local record for how cold it was this early in the season.

On the plus side, a dehydrator running all day is a great thing to have in your bedroom or office to keep the inside temps up a bit.

Anyway, dehydrating is a great was of preserving food.

A few of the pluses are as follows.
  • Cheap
  • Not labor intensive
  • Preserves the highest amount of flavor and vitamins in certain foods
  • Reduces overall size of food, and therefore reduces space requirements
  • Reduces weight of food, so if you like to hike, or have a bug out bag, this is great
  • Doubles up as a space heater for your room

I personally like to hike, as well as keep an emergency bag, that I can grab and leave with, to keep me alive for a few days, these are often called BOB(bug out bag), GOOD(get out of dodge), GHB(get home bag) etc. It is always recommended to keep some food in these bags. In such an instance, space and weight are both things you have a very limited supply of.

Anyway onto the how to.

You can follow how I did it or you can follow the suggested way. The suggested way are the steps in blue, but these steps will not follow the pictures. The pictures will guide you through the way I did this, and it is not the fastest way.

Step 1: Slice tomatoes like you would a peach or nectarine.
Step 1: Get a pot of water boiling, as well as a big bowl of ice water chilling.

Step 2: With your knife, slice the skin off the tomatoes, skin is not something you want on your finished product.
Step 2: When water is boiling, dunk the tomatoes in the boiling water for 1.5 minutes. Take them out and soak them in the ice water to cool them.

Step 3: Remove all skins.
Step 3: peel skins which will be extremely easy, as they will just about fall off. Slice the tomato into manageable sizes.

Step 4: Line dehydrator trays with the tomatoes. If they tomatoes touch they will stick together but that is not a big deal, since they are going to deform and shrivel up anyway. You just don't want to throw handfuls on the tray, because then they will take longer to dry, and you will be left with a big glob at the end.
Step 4: Line dehydrator trays with the tomatoes. If they tomatoes touch they will stick together but that is not a big deal, since they are going to deform and shrivel up anyway. You just don't want to throw handfuls on the tray, because then they will take longer to dry, and you will be left with a big glob at the end.

Step 5: when to take them off?

Dehydrating is not an exact science, and is actually far from. Depending on the variety of tomatoes, and your dehydrator, and the relative humidity, and the ambient temperature, and the way the stars are aligned, it is nearly impossible to tell you how long the process will take. I have had tomatoes finish in 9 hours, and I have had them finish in 15 hours.

Do not get paranoid about it, this is a fail proof method of preserving food.

You want them to be dry enough to snap apart, not bend, not droop, you are looking for a crisp "Snap" when you break it. It should also click when dropped on a table or counter top.

It is nearly impossible to dry these too much. The dryer the better, and the only real drawback from leaving these on the dehydrator for too long is, the extra consumed electricity.

Step 6: I bottle them up, or put them in a mason jar, or zip lock, however you prefer, for a week. Depending on the size of the piece of tomato, where it was located on the drying rack, and an infinite amount of other factors, some pices will be more dry and some will be less dry. I like to achieve a uniform dryness, before storing them. After leaving them in an air tight container for a week, they will all even out. After a week or 10 days, I stick them back on the dehydrator for 30 minutes to an hour, and then store them for good.

To store dehydrated food, it is imperative you keep it away from heat and humidity. This means storing them in an air tight container, in a location other then the cupboard above your over and stove. Although pretty, it is not suggested to keep these as decor for your fireplace mantle either, for the same reason.

I personally keep the majority of my dehydrated goods in mason jars. The exception is with things like potato, carrots, apples, and other things that I have HUGE amounts of. In these cases, I get 1 gallon sized Mylar bags, a small oxygen absorber, and a 1 gallon bucket from my local bakery. They usually have frosting in these and throw them out after use. You can fill the Mylar bag, insert the absorber and seal the Mylar shut with either an impulse sealer or a normal house hold iron.