Have you ever dehydrated anything…other than that squished toad on your driveway? No? Well you are missing a great kitchen activity. Besides putting up some food for the pantry, it’s a great family activity. Kids love to use an apple peeler to peel apples and potatoes. They love turning that crank and watching ribbons fall off. They are also amazed at the difference in the food when it is dried. They like eating the apples too! Green apples taste like candy to my kids…and me too, I admit it. In fact, we finished a bag off tonight!
There are many benefits to drying your food. After my daughter’s birthday this week, I had a lot of fruit left over so I put it all in the dehydrator so that later I can use it in my baking. No rotting fruit! Although around here it would end up in the compost bin, not the trash. But doesn’t it sound great not to waste food? And the way the house smells when fruit is drying…amazing! Especially strawberries. The first couple of hours are almost painful, it smells so good.
Drying food is a very old way of preserving the harvest. Today it is still widely used for preservation. The nutrients are negligibly changed during the process, so it’s a healthy way to stock your pantry. It’s also a space saver as you’ll see later.
Most people think of jerky now when they think of a dehydrator. I usually get asked if I make jerky when people hear that I dehydrate and to be honest I have not. I plan to try sometime, but right now I’m concentrating on fruits and veggies. It’s really funny to put a package of baby carrots in to dry and come back in a few hours and find little tiny orange things. Even stranger is seeing them after I have vacuum sealed them. They are about an eighth of their normal size! A ten pound bag of potatoes will fit into a gallon sized baggie with room to spare! I could go on but you get the idea. I usually save my glass jars and keep fruit and veggies in them. I got an attachment to my Foodsaver that lets you suck the air out of jars and seals them. It was only $9.00, and I bought the Foodsaver at a thrift store for $10.00. A great bargain! My dehydrator is a Nesco American Harvest that I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond. The price was reasonable and I like that it allows me to add trays. I found an earlier version of the same dehydrator at a thrift shop for about $7.00 and it’s trays fit on mine. I prefer to use the two separately most of the time though. That way I can dry different things at the same time. But if I want to dry an especially large batch I use all the trays together so I’m not running two motors. You can spend as little or as much as you want on dehydrators. Excalibur brand is very popular among hardcore dryers. Some people find plans online and build their own solar dehydrators which are very cool!
Some people ask what I use all that dried food for. It seems like a waste of time and effort to many. Well, start with carrot cake, then go to au gratin potatoes, fruit leathers, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, herbs for seasoning mixes, peppers and onions for braised beef tips, sweet potatoes for pies, lemon zest for pastries, strawberries for cakes, zucchini for sweet bread, mixes for gifts…I could make an endless list. The thing about drying your food is that if kept in a dark place with little exposure to oxygen, it will last for a very long time. Forget about all those expiration dates! And they look really pretty sitting in jars on your pantry shelf. I store some things in the fridge but I don’t have to.
If you are interesting in trying dehydrating it would be smart to look on websites like www.dehydrate2store.com or google for directions. I have found books on the subject which are helpful in getting you started, but the web will give you all you need. There are also books, which I really love, that give you recipes to make mixes for storage or gifts.
So whether for prepping or cooking with quality ingredients on hand, I recommend dehydrating as a great activity! May your home be filled with amazing scents!
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A Proud Daughter of Texas