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  • FoodSaver V3240 Vertical Vacuum Sealer, White
    FoodSaver V3240 Vertical Vacuum Sealer, White
    I just started using a FoodSaver vacuum sealer to seal foods and I can't believe I waited so long to get one. (Check out my first project: Sweet & Sour Green Bean Freezer Pickles!)
    For example: In the past I would take the time to pick beautiful berries, then would bring them home and stick them in a zippered baggie in the freezer. My berries would have ice crystals and taste freezer burnt after just a few short months. 
    Then I had a light-bulb moment: "Air is the enemy" of freshness. 
    When vacuum-sealed my berries last 3 to 4 times longer! I have similar results with other fruits, veggies and even meats & cheeses.
    The FoodSaver has been a fantastic discovery. ~ Brook
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    • Mehu-Liisa 10 Liter Stainless Steel Steam Juicer - Made in Finland
      Mehu-Liisa 10 Liter Stainless Steel Steam Juicer - Made in Finland
      Mehu-Liisa Products

      Some day I will replace my ancient graniteware Steam Juice Extractor with this gorgeous Mehu-Liisa brand Steam Juicer. My old Steam Juicer leaks steam, meaning I have to refill the water often, and it doesn't have anywhere close to the capacity of this one from Mehu-Liisa.
      If you want to experience the magic of a Steam Juicer, check out this 10 quart Mehu-Liisa. It will last you a lifetime and save you countless hours in the kitchen, whether your juicing fruit for  Plum Jelly or Apricot Nectar, not to mention it minimizes the mess of juicing large amounts of veggies!  ~ Brook

    • Ball Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 4 Oz (Pack of 12)
      Ball Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 4 Oz (Pack of 12)
      What's the one jar size I always keep a couple extra cases of? 
      The Ball 4 ounce jar.
      It's basically 1/2 cup, and just the right size for gift-giving and for experimenting with small batches. Perfect for things like my famous Pear Honey.
      People can't help but say "That is so darn cute!" when they seem them. 
      ~ Brook

    • Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
      Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
      Looking for an affordable, easy-to-use pressure canner, backed up by great customer service? Look no further than the Presto 23 quart Pressure Canner/Cooker. It's the one I recommend to all my students. ~ Brook


    Dilly Pickled Onion Slices on Punk Domestics

    • Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen (Orange) Instant Read Thermometer, Perfect for Barbecue, Home and Professional Cooking
      Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen (Orange) Instant Read Thermometer, Perfect for Barbecue, Home and Professional Cooking
      Do you have a great instant-read thermometer, or are you still buying the 20 dollar ones that only last a year or two? This was one of my best kitchen purchases.
      Can't imagine cooking jam (or meat or candy) without it! 
      Take your jams to 220º and you'll have a perfect gel set every time. Also available in other colors, but why wouldn't you want orange? It's only the BEST COLOR EVER. ~ Brook


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    • The Home Preserving Bible (Living Free Guides)
      The Home Preserving Bible (Living Free Guides)
      by Carole Cancler
      If you're looking for a book that covers every preserving topic imaginable, this is the book for you. It doesn't have a flashy cover or glossy pictures, but it's full of great info. One of my very favorite resources. ~ Brook

    • OXO Good Grips Corn Stripper
      OXO Good Grips Corn Stripper

      Last August my friend Kelli asked me if I wanted some fresh corn from her grandpa's garden. I said "Sure....I'd love to make a few jars of Sweet Corn Relish!"
      She showed up 6 hours later with 158 ears. Wasn't sure if I loved her or hated her for it.
      After a long hot day spent cutting kernels off all those cobs with a small paring knife, I decided I'd never be without a Corn Stripper again. ~ Brook


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    « Preserving Kumquats is a sure way to brighten up a winter day! | Main | "Hi, my name is Brook and I like to eat paste..." »

    Using dried fruit to decorate for the holidays

    If you do a fair amount of preserving, like I do, it means there is often a surplus of fruit in the house. Sometimes it's a bowl of Quince, left out to ripen, or a bag of apples, being kept in the produce bin in the fridge to keep them fresher. I really like the look of having fruit around main living areas of the house, and it inspires me to create, too.

    I recently did a post on Sugared Fruit, and in the last couple months have posted photos of bowls of Seckel Pears and Meyer Lemons that I was using for decorating purposes. The next logical step seems to be to dry fruit to make ornaments for our Christmas tree. Slicing and dehydrating fruit should keep me occupied while I get ready for the 10 pound box of kumquats due in the mail tomorrow.

    Tray of dried fruit, left to right: apples, limes, apples, lemons, oranges.


    Apples will need to be soaked for a few minutes in some type of acidulated water to keep them from turning brown.

    To make acidulated water, add lemon juice, citric acid, or Vitamin C powder to tap water and mix well.

    Then simply place fruit slices in a food dehydrator (or an oven on low heat) until they are dry to the touch!

    Granny Smiths and Galas

    Granny Smiths and Limes


    A "Before and After":

    Oranges and Meyer Lemons (before)

    Oranges and Meyer Lemons (after -- 24 hours later)

    You can use dried fruit in many ways:

    • String the slices along with cranberries & popcorn for old-fashioned tree garlands.
    • Wire them to floral picks and tuck them into wreaths.
    • Mix them with cinnamon sticks, cloves, mini pine cones and other fun stuff to make potpourri.
    • Wire them to evergreen swags draped over mirrors.

    Or maybe the easiest way to use them: string them on a piece of ribbon or cord and hang them on the tree...

    Or hang some apples outside on boxwood for the birds.

    Besides preserving, I make a lot of other things. I love to cook on a daily basis -- preserving is a only a small fraction of my time spent in the kitchen. I especially enjoy making things with my hands, especially those that don't cost much money, like soap and skin care products.

    One reason I haven't been blogging for a few days is that I have been busy preparing for the holidays. On Sunday I spent a few hours making garland and as a result, my fingertips have been too sore to type!

    I couldn't resist making garland though. The fresh evergreen boughs were free -- trimmings from a local Christmas tree lot. I used about $2 worth of floral wine and some garden twine. My intention was to make about 30 feet, but I think I made about double the amount.

    Once I got started, I couldn't stop!

    About half the reason why my fingertips are too sore to type.The other half is inside the house.

    We hung it on the house, but we didn't stop there. The leftover garland ended up inside the house: on the stair railings, along the tops of mirrors and I still have some's a good thing I made extra because I don't think my fingers can handle another day spent twisting wire!

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    Reader Comments (9)

    Martha (Stewart) better watch out! You are most fabulous Brook!!

    December 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnita Distel

    Thank you Thank you Thank you!
    I <heart> Martha :)
    Is it obvious?

    December 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens

    Beautiful Brook!!

    December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarla Cornelius

    How long do the dried fruit ornaments last?

    Your ornaments look beautiful.

    December 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEW

    EW: The dried fruit ornaments seem to last indefinitely!
    They look exactly the same as the day I made them, even though I haven't done anything to preserve them other than to dry them. Of course, I dipped the apples in acidified water, as mentioned, but I didn't do a thing to the oranges and limes.
    I highly recommend making these. They look even more beautiful in real life and it makes me smile every time I look at them.
    Hint: Especially lovely when you position them in front of a twinkle light or where the sun hits them during the day. The orange slices practically glow.
    Thank you for the kind words.
    I hope you have a wonderful day.

    December 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens

    You are so very inspiring! I am going to dry lots of citrus after Christmas. I am a citrus fanatic; there are few foods more delightful than limes and oranges and grapefruits and lemons... They are a real pick me up in the grays of winter. Thank you for your inspiration.

    December 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary Stuart

    Mary - I feel the same way about all things citrus!!!

    December 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens

    how long it takes to dry the fruits in an oven on low heat?

    I am a teacher and I am going to do it with children!!!!

    Thanks, they look fantastic!!!

    November 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenteraNNa

    Hi Anna,

    Great idea! The kids will love it (whether they're 5 or 15).

    I always use my food dehydrator, but according to Martha Stewart, a thinly-sliced orange will take about 2-1/2 hours in a 200 degree oven.
    Of course the time will vary depending on whether or not your slices are thinner or thicker than the ones her test kitchen used, and humidity affects drying time too.

    Just know that it's a fun easy project, and the kitchen/classroom will smell soooooo good while you're drying the citrus slices.

    Thanks for your comment.

    B :)

    November 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterBrook Hurst Stephens
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