Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christmas on the Cheap?

An old cookbook gives a method of drying onions for storage, and as it says these crisp up in the oven, maybe some of these could be eaten to garnish a dish while still hot. As a way to prevent waste of any kind, drying is a useful way to store some veggies, so here is what to do:

dried onions and leeks:
These well repay drying, as so often they do not keep. When onions in store start growing green shoots, or becoming soft, others stored at the same time will soon follow. So peel them, removing any bad parts, and cut them into slices, laying these on a wire cake airer covered by muslin. Place in the oven, using a constant gentle heat leaving the door slightly open to allow a current of air to carry away moisture. A good idea is to use the heat in a turned-off oven once a baking session has finished.
Keep moving the onion and leek rings about occasionally to help the drying, and when crisp take them out, and after a little while store them away in airtight containers.

dried mushrooms:
These dry very readily. Cut off the stalks short and remove the peel*. Lay the mushrooms on oven racks and dry off as above. When dried quite stiff, store them away. To use, first soak in water and then simmer them in a little stock.

dried beans and peas:
Leave haricot (type) beans on the plants until dry and withered, then pull up plants and hang in an airy shed. Shell and store for seed or for later soaking and cooking. Young French and runner beans may be sliced, blanched for five minutes, drained and then dried in thin layers.
Treat marrowfat peas in the same way (drying and storing). Treat young, sugary peas in the same way as runner beans, shaking off moisture before before drying in thin layers.

The ideal heat for drying is between 120F - 150F as the aim is to dry, not cook. Drying can be done in the oven, a warm (airing) cupboard, or a rack over the stove, and (as said above) as long as the heat is constant and gentle with a current of air to take away moisture.