a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Make Your Own Plastic "Screens" for Dehydrating, Freezing, Sprouting . . .

and Sifting, in minutes at Great Cost Savings!

The screens used with dehydrators to contain small pieces and make removal of the finished product easier average around $8.00 a pair----plus $5.00 shipping if you buy them on line.

I knew there was a way to beat that price.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The simple answer is the plastic canvas sheets used in crafts. You've  probably seen (and maybe even have) tissue boxes or napkin holders that have been constructed, and decorated, with yarn. Possibly made by your grandmothers?

        free plastic canvas patterns

The sheets come in all sizes--with many different hole-size options. The sheet shown below is a size 7 which I think means 7 holes to the inch This larger size 10-1/2 by 13-1/2 inches cost $1.49. Small sheets can cost one-third that. 

To be sure it would be "food grade" safe I contacted the company Darice.

For Dehydrating: 

I trace around the drying tray to make a pattern and cut the canvas slightly smaller so it will fit within the tray..  I cut out the center circle and one small "finger grasp" section at the edge and the sheet is good to go and go and go. I use them for drying everything, not just the small items, because the plastic makes things easier to remove. Plus, the sheets are much simpler to wash than the trays! Nesco actually calls them "Clean-A-Screens."

And since one good idea often leads to another . . .

For Freezing:

When freezing foods we are often directed to place the individual pieces to be frozen (peas, banana slices, pepper pieces, etc.) on a cookie sheet and freeze before packaging.  I don't like all the space the cookie sheet takes in my freezer, especially when each sheet only holds one layer.  The answer: Plastic canvas!  I buy the size, or cut down larger sizes, to fit my 9x13" cake pans.

Depending on the size (or rather "height") of the pieces I am freezing, I average five layers, stacking each plastic sheet, with its food, directly on top of one another.  When frozen lift off the layers one at a time and easily pop-off the frozen pieces.

Another plus: Depending on the size of the product and how you are going to store it, you can slightly bend the canvas lengthwise and funnel the items directly into their storage container.

Using the canvas as a funnel reminds me of the genius trick I found on the internet this past week.  A friend was thinning his green onions and gave me a large bunch.. I took to the internet to search the best way of preserving them --- freezing or drying?

After trimming and washing the green onions  I put them vertically, in a strainer, and let them drain for an hour or two until they were thoroughly dry. I chopped (or cut)  them into small pieces and spread them on the plastic sheets and froze them. When they were frozen I put a funnel into the neck of  clean and dry empty water bottle, folded each canvas sheet into a funnel-shape as mentioned above, and poured them into the funnel which funneled them right into the narrow-necked bottle. To use them, shake the bottle, pour out what you need, and return the bottle to the freezer. 

For Sprouting:

You can spend your money to buy fancy sprouting kits, or as Gail, the cheapskate does, you can simply and quickly make your own.

For the very basic----a jar, a rubber band, and a piece of pantyhose will do the job.

1. Put the small amount of seeds to be sprouted in a jar.
2. Add water.
3. Stretch the pantyhose over the opening and secure it with a rubber band.
4. Prop the jar at an angle (so there is more sprouting room for the seeds but so the water won't run out the opening).
5. Put it in a near-by cupboard or dark place.

And the hardest part!

Remember to drain the water (through the pantyhose) and add new water three or four times a day. I write a note and leave it by the sink!

When the sprouts are the size you want, usually in just a day or two, drain the jar, and lay it on its side in a sunny spot to green them up.

To "fancy" up the process, I cut jar-opening size circles of the plastic canvas (usually from leftover scraps) and hold them on with the jar ring  used in canning. Remember, you can buy the canvas with many size openings so you can match the openings to the size of your seeds. The rest of the process is the same.

For "Sifting":

I use the same method as I use for sprouting--- to store items I used for other food processes.  Pint jars of cornmeal,  flour, powdered sugar  for "dusting" a surface and cinnamon-sugar mixture for sprinkling on hot buttered toast and smaller-hole-size canvas for  very lightly sprinkling on apple or zucchini slices before drying --- using various size canvas openings to meet the particular need.

I am Simply, Gail and I encourage you to be creative.


YBois3 said...

I was wondering if the plastic screens were good grade... Thank you SO much for contacting the company directly! I'll be drying with confidence now!!!

Simply, Gail said...

Thanks for taking the time to let me know I have been a help. I am always excited when I find ways to copy (frugally) a more expensive product. I am even more excited when I learn I have helped someone else.