Preserve the Garden's Bounty: Make Your Own Vegetable Powders

One of my favorite ways to preserve the garden's bounty is by dehydrating vegetables (or fruit) until they are completely dry and all moisture is gone, then pouring them into the blender to create a powder.

Technically neither the tomato nor the jalapeno are vegetables. Technically, both are fruits. I can stretch my imagination enough to accept that a tomato is a fruit but I cannot make myself believe that a jalapeno is a fruit.

Before drying anything, make sure your dehydrator is up for the job. Some dehydrators work much better than others. I use the Excalibur dehydrator.  It has nine shelves, a temperature control and is easy to clean. 

Tomato powder is a staple in my kitchen.  Some types of tomatoes are recommended more than others for dehydrating. The varieties that have less liquid will, of course, dry faster. Roma are probably one of the best. My personal favorite it Juliet. I simply wash and slice them in half lengthwise. Once they're crunchy dry, I put them through the blender, seeds, skin and all. If you're using a particularly liquidy variety of tomatoes, you may want to scoop out some of the seeds/liquid to aid in the drying process. The tomato powder truly adds a hint of fresh tomato to any dish. Here are my favorite ways to use powdered tomato:

  • Enchalada sauce - I never like my sauce to be real "tomato-y" but adding a spoonful of tomato powder is perfect. It adds the tang and sweetness of a tomato, without adding the liquid that would result from adding fresh or canned tomatoes. If I don't have tomato powder, I would add a spoonful or two of tomato paste but I find the paste adds a bit of bitterness, which the powder does not add.
  • Meat Loaf - Add a spoonful or two of tomato powder to the ground meat when adding other seasonings.
  • Gumbo - Some add a can of tomatoes in gumbo. I never liked that but I love to add about a tablespoon of tomato powder to a pot of gumbo. If I don't have tomato powder, I add no tomato products to my gumbo.
  • Dry Rubs - Tomato powder can be added as an ingredient to a dry rub. Spread a little olive oil on boneless, skinless chicken breasts, then sprinkle with tomato powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Refrigerate for a few hours and then grill.
  • Bread - A spoonful of tomato powder can be added to bread dough, along with chopped basil or rosemary to make a flavorful bread. Or, make little balls from bread dough and roll in a mixture of tomato powder, oregano, garlic and onion powder.  Place all the bread balls into a loaf pan and bake as your would your loaf of bread.

For the jalapeno powder, because I leave the seeds in and grind it all up, it's really hot!  The seeds could be removed but for the powder, it doesn't really matter.  The hotter it is, the less you use and therefore, the longer the powder will last. Always wear gloves when handling jalapenos! These are also sliced in half lengthwise and spread out on the drying trays, while continuing to wear the gloves. A little of the powder goes a very long way so if you try this, be very careful not to overdo it. The powder adds heat but doesn't much change the flavor of the food. My favorite uses for this:

  • Anything that you want to spice up! Gumbo, chili, beans, gravy, and whatever else you want just a bit hotter.
  • Burgers - When seasoning the ground beef, add a little jalapeno powder.
  • Dry Rubs - Can also be added to dry rub ingredients for pork chops, ribs, pork butt, etc.
  • Fried Potatoes - Slice the potatoes real thin, brown in a bit of butter, add some chopped onions and a bit of jalapeno powder.

Other vegetables/fruits that can be dehydrated and powdered:

  • Mushrooms - Use the powder in cream for a mushroom soup.
  • Onions - Have homemade onion powder to use instead of purchased onion powder.
  • Bell Peppers - Most of the recipes require sauteeing the peppers in a bit of oil.  Instead, use bell pepper powder in the dish, without the need of any oil.
  • Potatoes - Powdered potato can be used as a thickener to gravies and soups.

Can you think of other vegetables/fruits that could be dehydrated and powdered? 

Judy Laquidara
http://www.patchworktimes.com

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