Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dehydrating Food in The Suburbs

    I bought a food dehydrator several years ago to make jerky and trail mix with. For about a month I was a jerky making fool (I made all kinds and flavors), then I put the dehydrator up.....and forgot about it. Recently I found it again and wondered if I could find other uses for it besides making jerky and trail mix. Some of you are probably thinking out loud "Of course you can, there's LOTS of ways to use it". I didn't know of any. I'm embarking on a journey of dehydrator self discovery. I know there are probably a million websites with dehydrator recipes on them. I'm sure I'll check them out when I run out of ideas, but I like to experiment on my own. Here are some of the things I learned.

     I usually buy tomatoes from Sam's club in the big plastic box. There's probably 15-20 Roma tomatoes in there. We make salads with them, and within two weeks, I end up throwing 1/2 of the box out because they've spoiled. So I started dehydrating half of the box. After the first week I inspect the tomatoes and cut out any bruises or damage. Then I slice them about 1/4 inch thin and dehydrate them. They create "tomato chips". Which my youngest child loves. She eats them almost as fast as I can make them. I tired them, and it was like a bullet of tomato flavor hitting you in the mouth. I tried rehydrating them, and had mixed success. I could use them for cooking (in chili for example) but not over a salad. I store them in a zip lock back because they get eaten so fast. For long term storage you could put them in a mason jar with an O2 absorber and they would store for a long time I'm sure.

     Dehydrating pineapple chucks that have been rolled in sugar make a great candy.  My wife likes these, and I make them about twice a year. I buy the canned chucks of pineapple when they're on sale. Open and drain them, them roll them in regular sugar. They'll pick up more sugar than you want if you don't let them dry a little after draining. I drain mine in a spaghetti colander, and let them sit for about 20 mins before sugaring them up. Dehydrate them until they're hard, then store in either a zip lock or a jar. These make a great addition to trail mix.

     Thinly sliced Kiwi fruit dehydrate down to a chip like consistency. I peel mine first though. The "hairy" peel doesn't dehydrate well, and looks pretty nasty to be honest. This created the taste sensation much like the tomato bullet, but fruity....a Kiwi bullet if you will. I haven't found too many uses for these, aside from the occasional snack. Very occasional, kiwi are expensive and the taste just isn't an everyday thing for me.

     I experimented with making fruit roll up type snacks. I tried jellies, jams, and apple sauce as the base before dehydrating. Some of them came out pretty good, some of them came out pretty bad, most of them came out very messy. I couldn't get decent consistency. Either the base was too thick or thin in the dehydrator. Dehydrating the thicker spots dried out the thinner spots too much making them brittle, while the thicker spots were leathery. Different temperature settings helped a little, but created other challenges. If I used a jam, strawberry for example, the fruit would not completely dry out, while the jam part would dry too much.  Any suggestions on this one?
      I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. Please submit suggestions and recipes, for my kids sake. You can comment them in at the blog site, anonymously if you want. Or you can e-mail me directly: survivalinthesuburbs@gmail.com  As always, thank you for reading.

1 comment:

  1. I've toyed with the idea of a dehydrator, right now I'm going down an unfamiliar path of home canning. That is my learning experience this year and may also have to incorporate dehydration this summer.