Readying the Pantry

I have to admit that it just doesn’t feel like Summer around here yet. Yesterday didn’t get above 60 degrees, and it was 45 degrees when I woke this morning. It’s dark and cloudy and rainy. It seems more like April than mid-June, but so far this calendar year everything’s been moving forward at a snail’s pace.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that not all other parts of the state and West coast are experiencing the same thing – and especially the other half of the country where it is so crazy hot! But on Monday I finally pulled it together enough to realize that even if (that should be ‘when’) the weather changes and wonderful summer produce arrives, I wasn’t close to ready to put up. My kitchen has been a mess-and-a-half for the past 2 months, and my pantry showed a decided lack of attention. Canning jars were everywhere – kitchen, breakfast nook, laundry room, basement, car (don’t ask). Canning paraphernalia was distributed across an even broader range of the house, if you can believe that.

What I’ve found is that if I don’t have things front and center in my kitchen, I don’t use it. I am a true victim of ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ disease. So, Monday I cleared out my pantry, cleaned the shelves, threw out a bunch of junk, and re-organized:

This helped me get my brain ready for putting-up season. Sort of like warming up before a run.

Besides my new canning book, I picked up “Food Drying with an Attitude” at the library yesterday. I’d read about it on Penny’s blog, and wanted to check it out but kept forgetting. Finally I just reserved it online and now I have it in hand.

Mary Bell dries everything. It’s pretty fascinating to read what she does and why. The pictures are also great. I’m not a raw food enthusiast, but her book also includes a lot of tips for those who are. Reading this book yesterday lit a fire under my behind to get going on some things I had sitting in the fridge…

So, last night I spent over an hour adding mesh net to my dehydrator’s drying shelves. The holes on the shelves themselves are too large and I’ve had some issues last season with food dropping through them as they dry and shrink. So I pulled some netting out of my fabric stash and cut 9 pieces to size.

Yep. Boat canvas thread – points to you if you recognized the color. This was super-fussy work and took much longer than I’d anticipated. Puppy interruptions didn’t exactly speed the process.

Could you say no to this face?

Finally I finished tying the knots on the last tray and then sliced up 2.5 lbs of mushrooms I’d gotten at a great price. The 2.5lbs maxed out the dehydrator space. They dried overnight, and as of this morning, I’m back in business with dried ‘shrooms:

I love using these. They never really re-hydrate all the way, which makes them nice and meaty to my palate. I think they’re better than fresh in many types of sauces and stews, and the broth that results from soaking is loaded with mushroom flavor. I’m planning to make LOTS of these this year, every time I find them on sale.

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2 thoughts on “Readying the Pantry

  1. Penny Prince says:

    Great idea on the mushrooms! I need to finish reading the book and get a review up on my blog. I work in a Library so … so many books and so little time.

    • Shawn says:

      Seriously… how can you choose? I’d go into vapor lock. Yes, mushrooms seem to be getting so expensive in the grocery stores here, usually $3.99lb. So when I found them for less than $2.50 I jumped. Will probably go back later this week and get more. I dried at about 130 degrees overnight (about 9 hrs) and they were DONE when I checked them the first time in the a.m.

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