When it comes to hot water bath canning, you really don`t need a lot of equipment that is specific to the task. The same can be said of other methods though some specialized equipment can make a difference; we`ve moved on to dehydrators, pressure canners, propane burners and massive tomato pots, crocks and the like.
But the one toy I really love (for preserving) is my mandoline.
There are all sorts of reasons why I use a mandoline when preserving: it`s fast, slices evenly and it doesn’t take the counter space of a cutting board (we have preserved about 1,000 jars of product in the last 3 years and have less than 2 square feet of working space in our kitchen). When it comes to dehydration the mechanical precision can’t be touched with my knife skills (I am not an amateur but the dehydrator exposes your smallest flaws and can add hours of manual work, checking and monitoring the dehydrator).
I actually have 2 of them – today we`ll focus on the smaller (and more inexpensive) of the two: my OXO Handheld Mandoline (I`ll add a photo in the next 24 hours – for those who can`t wait you can see a photo here). This is a $20 handheld unit that is very compact (some onions are too wide to slice on it).
The disadvantages first:
- It`s small. You aren`t going to cut turnips on this one.
- It`s small. You aren`t going to cut hard things (like sweet potatoes or small rocks).
- It has 3 thickness settings. This makes it simple, reliable but not the most flexible.
- It`s small. It stores easily.
- It cleans easily.
- It can be easily braced on top of a small jar or bowl and slices drop neatly in to it.
- It`s affordable – under $20.
I use this for any soft fruit (strawberries as an example) which are destined for the dehydrator or for veggies aimed for a hot water bath. Leaks, onions and hot peppers are all wonderful for this use.
I have purchased several “large” mandolines in the past that were, erm, inexpensive. Don’t confuse this small unit as lacking quality – I have used it 4-5 days a week for a year and can’t believe I lived without it for so long. I use it a lot in regular cooking and actually use this more often than my much larger (and more expensive) full-sized unit.
A word of caution for those new to the mandoline: these require a different level of concentration and commitment to safety. It’s been a long time since I’ve cut myself with a kitchen knife yet I cut myself 3 or 4 times with a mandoline before learning the level of focus needed to be safe with this tool. Getting cut with these is nothing to take lightly – they do a lot of damage really fast and could leave a lingering legacy. I was over-confident with the tool and learned some tough lessons before (hopefully) learning the right lessons.
If you’re prepared to be safe, use the guard and slow down to speed up; run to the store to make this small kitchen investment (or consider a small adjustable truffle slicer that will cost more but give more options).