While I love steaming and freezing veggies to preserve them for the fall and winter months, I prefer to do some fruits and vegetables, like bananas and Swiss Chard, in the dehydrator. Other times, I like to dry veggies to prevent them from taking over the freezer. I dry almost all of my herbs and store them in mason jars in the basement pantry until we need them.
I have a Nesco Gardenmaster Dehydrator with four trays and an insert for making fruit leather which we bought abut 4 years ago. Before that we had a Black and Decker dehydrator I bought at Walmart. Some folks spend a bit more for the Excalibur Dehydrator with 9 Tray Food. I like to use the dehydrator though I didn’t feel like we used it enough to justify the cost or the space the Excalibur would take up.
The dehydrator does make a lot of noise, and during the summer, I need to keep it out for drying the harvest from our garden. I set it up in the basement on top of our dryer which is unplugged and unused at the moment. A smell can permeate the basement while I’m drying stuff, but unless it’s cayenne peppers, the kids don’t mind.
When I had a bounty of cherry tomatoes last summer, I dried them and enjoyed them in my pasta salads during the winter. If I found a bag of mushrooms seconds at the produce place, I sliced them up, saved the stems for stock, and dried the mushroom slices. In the fall, I dried apple slices and used them to make apple bars.
How to Dehydrate
Always start with clean, dried produce. I even rinse the herbs to make sure they’re as clean as possible. Cut the fruits and vegetables into uniform pieces to ensure everything dries at the same rate. When doing herbs, I usually leave them on the stem. I only remove the basil and parsley leaves from the stems because they won’t fall through the trays. The parsley stems go in my stock making bag.
Some fruits and vegetables need to be blanched before drying. I use my steamer, the same one I use for steaming and freezing vegetables. The chart at the Virginia Cooperative Extension site lists the fruits and vegetables that require blanching along with their drying time in the dehydrator. Depending on the produce, dehydrating time can vary between 6 and 48 hours.
Storing Dehydrated Food
I use my canning jars with the plastic lids to store dried food in our basement pantry. I’ve also stored dried food in quart freezer bags in our freezer. Dried food stored in the freezer lasts much longer if you’re careful about not exposing it to moisture in the freezer.
Using Dehydrated Food
Using dried foods in recipes is pretty simple. Dried herbs can be used normally in recipes. When I use dried apples, I rehydrate them for about 30 minutes or so in water, and I try to use the water in the recipe or in another recipes. If I’m using dried vegetables in a soup or stew, I may add some additional water or chicken stock to compensate for the fluid the dried vegetables absorb.
Do you use dehydrating to preserve the summer’s bounty? What are your favorite foods to dehydrate?
Because I love meeting new people and sharing, this post is linked to:
Foodie Friday, Feasting in Fellowship, Food on Friday, Your Green Resource, Full Plate Thursday, Nomday, Good Tips Tuesday, Healthy Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesday, In and Out of the Kitchen Party, Tuesday Greens, Hearth and Soul Blog Hop