Wednesday 11 May 2016

Dried Herbs

Just a few years ago (twenty or thirty) I did some back packing. I enjoyed the test of my ability and the thought that I was walking where only a few thousand people have ever walked appealed to me. I also got to accumulate some very cool camp stoves, sleeping bags, pot set and all of the variety of things only back packers would appreciate. The key to successful packing is to keep the weight of your pack as light as is possible. There were things that you couldn’t do without, but I tried to ensure that every item had at least two uses.

Food and water was something that you couldn’t do without. I suppose that some people could live off of the land, but Parks Canada frowns on that sort of thing. Their credo is “Take only pictures…leave only footprints.” Generally you just had to carry enough water to get you through to the next source of water. Food had to be carried for the entire trip and although it diminished on a regular basis, it didn’t diminish nearly fast enough to suit me. I picked up a food dehydrator so that I could dry any number of things at home and re-hydrate them on the trail. Fruit and veggies dried would provide a nice snack, hamburger dried nicely and when re-hydrated you could make a very passable pasta dish. I always liked to take a supply of beef jerky for a snack on the trail. I kept making the jerky for years afterwards while the kids lived at home, but I have fallen out of the practice now. Perhaps just to save my teeth.

A month ago now, Louise asked me if I could dry a supply of Chives. I had heard that Chives lost a lot of flavour when dried, but I was willing to give it a try. They dried nicely thanks to the food dehydrator and we now have a large plastic bag of Chives for use in dips, and on baked potatoes. I will give it a shot in soups as well. However, as long as I can just walk into the backyard and cut fresh Chives I probably won’t use the dried stuff.

Last week I made some biscotti and in the first batch I used orange zest which gave it a very nice taste, A few days later Tornado came over for a visit and I made another batch but unfortunately I didn’t have any oranges about the house. It is hard to go wrong using flour, sugar and eggs. The biscotti was still good, but Tornado wasn’t impressed and it lacked that certain something. Orange zest!

I wondered if it were possible to dry citrus zest and with the aid of Google I discovered that indeed it is possible. Lucky for me I own a dehydrator and have now dried the zest from four or five oranges. I have yet to use it in the recipe, but I am confident that it will work well enough, if not as well as fresh zest.

Earlier today I was sitting at the kitchen table looking at what I had been drying lately and it reminded me of a time forty-five years ago when I was sitting at another kitchen table with a plastic bag filled with dried herbs and a vial of crystalline powder.

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