You’ve worked hard planting, weeding, pruning, and mulching. The weather cooperated and now the harvest is coming in fast. There’s more food than you imagined when you were buying vegetable seeds and picking up fruit trees. But all your work will be for nothing if you can’t get the food preserved before it goes bad.
You need to organize the workload, save time, and get that harvest presevered for winter. Don’t get overwhelmed. A few strategic kitchen gadgets can streamline the food preservation process and prevent food waste.
These five kitchen gadgets are ones I use myself in my 30+ years of homesteading, food preservation, and putting food by. They’ve stood the test of time and I can recommend them for longevity, ease of use, and time saving. I love them and frankly, I wouldn’t want to face a 30 to 50 lb.case of cherries, apples, or other fruit armed with just a paring knife again.
If you are just starting out, invest in quality tools. Don’t make the mistakes I made in buying the cheapest tool on the shelf, because in the long haul, you’ll end up paying a lot more in the end. Quality tools last a lifetime. Buy quality tools and you won’t have to replace them. I still use the very same Norpro apple peeler, corer, slicer that I bought in 1983 and we process 200 to 400 lbs of apples every fall.
5 Kitchen Gadgets under $20 to help preserve the harvest
The strawberry slicer
The Chefn handheld strawberry slicer is operated with one hand. It slices strawberries, cherries, olives, and other small, juicy fleshed fruits. It doesn’t work on cherry tomotoes, mushrooms, or cucumbers, which have firm skins, though.
To use it prepare the fruit by washing, removing the stem or the pit from the fruit. Hold the end of the tool over a bowl. Then drop the fruit into the shoot and squeeze the handle. The strawberries, cherries, or other fruit are sliced into uniform pieces ready for your dehydrator or to package for the freezer.
It’s a great tool to use for preparing whole, pitted olives for pizza toppings or Greek salads, too. A whole can of olives can be sliced in only a few minutes.
The bean slicer
Green beans are best snapped or frenched before canning, drying or freezing. The job is sped up with a rotary bean slicer. Just wash and tip and tail the beans, then feed them through the top of the mill while you turn the handle. Be careful of your finger tips though. Those blades are sharp. I had to have stitches once because I used my index finger to push the beans down into the shoot, while I turned the handled. (Live and learn).
I have an antique castiron bean slicer that is similiar in design to this model from Amazon. If you find one at a garage sale or in an antique store buy it right away. But if you can’t find one this model, that copies the design of the old fashioned ones, is worth the money at under $20.
This is the second cherry pitter I bought. The first one was a plunger with a spring. It was super hard on the thumb and I always suffered from carpal tunnel pain for a few days after using it. It broke the 3rd year we had it and I replaced it with this Cherry Stoner from Westmark.
The Westmark Cherry stoner is made in Germany and comes with a 5 year guarantee. I’ve had mine for over 20 years. It is ergonmic and works using a scissor-motion with your whole hand, so no carpal tunnel pain. Works for cherries, dampsons, and olives. If you put the cherry in with the stem down it removes the stem, while it pushes out the pit.
This one is easier on the hands, but doesn’t take up much kitchen space. An important advantage when you are pitting 30 lbs or more of cherries or olives. Save the box to store it in. It stays cleaner that way.
Apple peeler, corer, slicer
When the apple harvest comes in and your are making pies or pie filling, are just preparing fruit for the dehydrator, you’ll appreciate the time savings offered by this handy kitchen gadget. The Norpro 861 Apple Mate is the model that I’ve used for 30 years, without a breakdown. You can replace the blades if they get dull, but I haven’t needed to. Just pop the apple on the prongs, set the blade and turn the handle. The apple turns and the peel comes off in a long, thin ribbon. The core is pushed out at the same time and you are left with thin apple rounds that dry quickly in the dehydrator. They are perfect for pies and cobblers.
I first used this tool at a friend’s house when we made 40 apple pies together in one afternoon. We made quick work of 200 lbs of apples. And we had 20 pies each, baked and ready for the freezer at the end of the day.
This can be used on potatoes, too. But I haven’t tried it on potatoes.
Over the sink colander
Super handy for washing greens, friut, and other vegetables, you’ll wonder how you ever managed washing lbs of leafy greens or boxes of fruit before you got this. The colander rests on one side of your double kitchen sink. It lets you rinse in one sink, while you drain over the other side. Better than round colanders that sit in your dish draining rack.
I bought mine at the thrift store for $4. If you can’t find one at your local thrift store, Amazon is a good alternative. Pick one with sturdy stainless steel mesh, as the mesh is the weakest part of the design, and likely to wear out first.
What kitchen gadget for preserving the harvest would you not want to be without? Leave a comment. I may need to go shopping.