For those of you who are scrambling for last-minute gift ideas, or just shopping for yourself, here are a few of my favorite things! (I am not receiving any reimbursement for these listings.) Please comment below to share your ideas and favorites – I know there are scores more, plus my husband doesn’t know what to get me yet! 🙂
- Food Dehydrator, specifically the Nesco American Harvest 1000 Watt Food Dehydrator Kit. My dehydrator gets busy starting during tomato season, when I buy bushels of Roma tomatoes from the farmer’s market and dry them for use as tomato powder. Soon after, the apples come in, and I make gallons of apple chips and apple fruit leather. Finally, I harvest the prolific mint growing in the garden and dry it for tea. These are just my favorite of the dehydrator’s countless uses (you can even make jerky!). I have to say, finally getting one of these has really upped my food preservation game! The great thing about the Nesco American Harvest is that you can expand the unit to hold up to 30 trays! The round units also dry much more evenly than the square ones.
- Pressure Canner, I went with the Mirro Aluminum Pressure Cooker , 22-Quart. Choosing a pressure canner is tricky because quality and price vary so dramatically. By far the gold standard of pressure canners are the All Americans, but they are very expensive. I chose the Mirro because it uses weighted gauges, which are more reliable than the dials, and the ratings are good. Combined with a reasonable price, I thought it was a good value, and I haven’t been disappointed yet. Canning isn’t just for the growing season – I keep mine in use all year round canning chicken stock.
- Sauce Maker or Food Mill. I have the Sauce Master, but people also seem very pleased with the Victorio Food Strainer. I will admit that I have been less than impressed with the Sauce Master’s handling of tomatoes, but for making large quantities of applesauce, it’s a godsend. It can also be used with berries and other fruits, although I haven’t yet experimented with those. So especially if you are dealing with a windfall of apples every fall, this is a great tool to have on hand.
- Starters for fermented foods and drinks, such as sourdough, kombucha and kefir. There are many others, but these are my standbys. These three are pretty darn easy to keep alive and add a wealth of nutrition to your kitchen (learn more about sourdough here). Even better than ordering online is tracking one of these down locally – try a friend, Facebook group, or even a bakery for the sourdough. If you’re giving this as a gift, consider including the needed containers and other equipment, such as flip-top bottles for kombucha.
- Good knives and a wooden cutting board. Several years ago, a dear friend gifted me a simple, two-piece Wusthof knife prep set, saying that they would change my life, and she was right! Having good knives makes all the difference – I now actually enjoy preparing vegetables, which I NEVER would have guessed. I used to only use onion or garlic powder over actual vegetables because the prep was so obnoxious. A lot has changed since then, partially thanks to having some decent knives. So if you abhor chopping veggies, if you can’t get your chef’s knife through a squash, or if you are still using steak knives to prep food, this purchase is definitely for you! In addition, a wooden cutting surface is both easier on your knives a prettier to look at. Try a nice bamboo one like this. And don’t forget a sharpening steel.
- Books! Some of my favorite titles include:
- The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! This book is fun to browse through for ideas and instructions on specific topics or projects. It is somewhat useful as a reference, but as it covers many topics, its depth is limited.
- Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener. This one is indeed an extremely practical and thorough resource for your A-Z landscape and gardening questions. I reference it from the planning stages through harvest and everything in between.
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. This was an extremely enjoyable, inspiring and influential read for me. It follows one family’s journey through a year of eating only what they could raise themselves or buy within their county. It also explores the implications local eating has on our communities, both local and global.
- Some others that looked fun (and so I added them to my own wish list), include The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, Fermented Vegetables, and Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas! Again, please share your own favorites in the comment section below! I’d love to hear your ideas!