Friday, February 3, 2017

STOCKING UP - Drying Bella Mushrooms

I've been wanting to dry Baby Bella mushrooms for awhile. When I'm home alone, I can't go through an entire #1 carton on my own before they start to fuzz over. This picture shows 1 of 4 racks on my food dehydrater. I also only use the caps. I don't care for the stems.

My trays are lined with wire mesh screen I purchased from the local hardware store and cut to fit.

This is what they looked like after 24 hours:

I didn't need to leave them for 24 hours I don't think, but I got up way earlier than I wanted so went back to bed... much longer than I wanted. LOL

And this is the final result:

#1 mushrooms dried to 1 cup. A tight fit in a jelly jar.

I tried some the next morning. I rehydrated about 4 T of the dried mushrooms in hot water for about ten minutes then added them to my egg scramble. Perfect!

Now that I know this works well, I'm going to buy a larger quantity at Sam's Club and get a bunch of them put into jars.

Have you tried dehydrating mushrooms? Do you find a difference between varieties? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

FOR THE BIRDS - Homemade Suet Cake

This woodpecker is one of the reasons I make sure I have suet feeders available throughout the yard. Of course, I also have a chipmunk (Chip), a couple of squirrels as well as a variety of birds that enjoy them as well. 

I love watching the birds at the feeders. One feeder hangs on the side of an oak tree. I've noticed I have two varieties of woodpeckers, but one will only BACK down the tree. He never comes head first... and he beeps as he comes down. Is he afraid of heights? Or is this common for his species. I'm still studying him. 

While I could get suet cakes for as little as 97 cents a piece, I decided to make my own primarily because I know what's in them.  I also had a supply of lard in our freezer that had been there since 2009. I didn't care for it in pie crusts so the butcher paper-wrapped blocks have just stayed in the freezer unused. 

After scouring Pinterest for ideas, I revised a recipe from better hens & gardens. The Dump Cake method:

Mixed Nuts and Peanuts left in the pantry
Peanut Butter
Quick Oats (though I did use Old Fashioned, too)

Not shown:
Corn Meal
Cracked Corn wild bird feed
Dried Cherries

I used creamy peanut butter for two reasons. 1) I found that when I made the first batch, the crunchy wanted to stick to the pan and scorch. 2) I prefer creamy lol

She suggests 2 C. corn meal. For the first batch I didn't have corn meal. That's when I started using the cracked corn. Now that I have both, future batches will have 1 C of each. Also, in place of sugar I used molasses for one batch and honey for another. I have plenty of both.  I ran the dried cherries through my mini food chopper.

The Mix

I've saved the trays from store-bought suet cakes. But I also froze 9x13 pans for my larger feeders

This is one I've started cutting apart to fit the large square feeder. The end pieces I put a couple in the long, square block feeders. Smaller pieces were placed on the ground for Chip and the Squirrel.

This is a left over piece that I wrapped in plastic and put back in the freezer until I need it.

I put the last of the 2nd batch in my feeders today so tomorrow I'm going to mix up as many as I can with the ingredients I have on hand. I am going through one of the small squares about every other day. I wound up having to wire the cage shut to keep the squirrels from running off with the entire cake. Crafty little critters, they be.