I am keen on healthy ways where food is concerned. Although from time to time I do freeze food – it is a rarity. I prefer to dry food or rather dehydrate as it is known first and foremost. The slow drying process means a tasty end product to me. I have dried a number of different foods over the years. My first trial run was apples – that I dried out on old window screen racks. I took them in at nightfall and put them back out again as the morning sun came up. The end product was delicious. That was over 30 years ago!
My issue with dried apples that you purchase commercially was the Sulphur Dioxide. I first noticed I would cough when eating either apricots or dried apple. The same cough was with either of these and no other types of food. The benefit of drying food yourself – is no nasties are included.
Purchasing a Dehydrator for drying food
I purchased second hand an Ezi Dri dehydrator. Luckily it had not been used much – the lady had put it in storage while away. She couldn’t access it while in storage and so purchased a new one for herself. So having two – meant she put the other up for sale – which I was happy to receive at half the cost. My Ezy Dri is circular and you can purchase new racks to add. A bonus with my machine is that it does not make a great deal of noise. Be aware of that when going on the hunt for one.
With drying fresh fruit I also soak almonds a few times in batches and then dehydrate them on a low temperature (65 degrees C or 150 degrees F) for 12 to 25 hours so as to activate them. Another reason why I like to dry different food – is that it is versatile and healthy. There is a lot to be said for activating nuts. The soaking apparently reduces the phytates which then cause the nutrients to be more available to your body. A great way to get nutrients in a natural way. A natural Vitamin Pill!
Drying different food
My first season with drying in my dehydrator was with bananas. I did over 30kg of organic. I received 10kg at a time and had to make sure that I didn’t lose any of the bananas while some became fully ripe. They were set on 60 degrees C or 135 degrees F for 6 to 12 hours – till they are leathery. With my dehydrator, you do not need to change trays around whereas you may have to do so with other dryers. Let me tell you – that the bananas were delicious and that drying them somehow makes them more “moreish”.
I had a glut of Tom Thumb (tiny) tomatoes this year – so the dehydrator was the place for them to end up. I haven’t tried fruit leather yet – but have the flat mats within my dehydrator to do so. On a side note – when I previously had a glut of tomatoes I had used the oven to make tomato paste (concentrate). A note also – be aware of the fruit of different sizes. Put all the same size in at once. Otherwise, you will find the larger fruit don’t finish properly and the smaller get extra dry. Extra dry doesn’t matter so much – but under-dry means you will get mold happening on your newly dehydrated – but under-done fruit.
Pears were easy to do. I did them in slices. Dry up to 60 degrees C or up to 150 degrees F. Do them till they are nice and leathery and no moist spots. You will get to know over time what feels right with different fruit.
I did heaps and heaps of rockmelon since there was a lot on the market. I cut them in 6mm or 1/4 inch slices (so as to dehydrate quicker) and was careful to get them as even as I could. Just to make sure I dehydrated them a little longer. Normally dehydrate 125 to 135 degrees F or 50 to 55 degrees C if they are cut in 13mm or 1/2 inch slices. You can dehydrate them from anywhere from 8 to 20 hours – depending if you like them a touch crackly or not.
The next door neighbor came to me with figs that she swaps for the eggs I give her. So, of course, we had heaps. Out came the dehydrator. Set at about 135 degrees F or 60 degrees C and on the go for 8 to 24 hours.
I haven’t got into drying vegetables in the dehydrator as yet – but that is on the agenda. It is just that I have always eaten or swapped most of what I have had in fresh that was available.
I am really only 2 years into my adventure with dehydrating food but love the fact the once it is dry – I don’t need to expend any more energy in keeping it. No freezer bill. I keep the dried food in glass jars. I note also that some like cayenne need to be kept in the dark.
I am about to do cayenne peppers as I have a glut of them looking at me through my office window. Wish me luck – since Cayenne peppers and I don’t mix too well. I often get burns from handling the peppers.
I hope I have encouraged you to be tempted to have a go at drying food.
Deborah Hunter Kells
I have a wide range of interests and the top of my list is people and relationships. I appreciate our big wide world and nature which tries so hard to deal with what we do to it. As noted you will find a variety of topics covered (see Home page) My appreciation goes to my team and others whom I collaborate with to make this blog successful and resourceful. Thanks especially to my team: Sarah, Tina, and Billah (See footer for more of their details)