IMPORTANT UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST!
My freezer is full and I’m out of canning jars, so yesterday I hauled out my food dryer/dehydrator. I LOVE dehydrating foods.
Many years ago we became the owners of a bulky, awkward Equi-flow food dehydrator. We had no idea at the time what a treasure it was. I’ll talk a little more about dehydrators at the end of this post.
Every year I dehydrate as many apples as I can bear to cut up. My kids love snacking on dried apples and sadly, they never last very long. When I dry apples, I get out my apple peeler/corer/slicer thingy. (There are two or three different brands on the market and they run between $20 and $30 usually. It is SO worth it to buy one of these gadgets.) I slice the apples up thin and lay them out on the racks. The entire house smells delicious for about a day and a half while they’re drying. On occasion, I’ve dipped one side of the apple slices in a cinnamon sugar mixture. This is messy, but makes a very sweet, yummy snack once the apples are dried. This DOES mess up the dehydrator quite a bit so be prepared for some clean-up.
I’ve had no luck dehydrating cranberries or blueberries. I recently read that each berry needs to be poked to dry them successfully. The ones I dried turned into dry, hard little stones and I considered a waste of good berries.
I’ve had good success with apples and pears. I’ve never dried grapes because it just seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth when I can buy raisins at Sams Club pretty cheap. I’ve dried apricots a few times but they take a long time and turn quite ugly before they’re done!
I’ve also had some great success at drying certain vegetables. I dry tomatoes. Romas work well because they have fairly low moisture content. I usually slice those up into circles and dry. I’ve also had really good success with drying cherry tomatoes. I slice each cherry tomato in half and dry it that way. These dried tomatoes are a great “home-made” version of sundried tomatoes.
Green peppers also dry really well. They make the whole house fragrant with green pepper smell while they’re drying and this bothers my one pepper-hater a lot. I have dried onions in the past. This is more of a convenience thing for me than needing to “put up” onions. I usually can get decent onions year round in the grocery store. I do, however, like to add dried onions to certain things (like sloppy joes) so I try to dry a few onions just to have them on hand.
I’ve tried making fruit leather but have never enjoyed the end result much. I’m sure others have had more success with this.
Our very favorite dehydrated food, however, is beef jerky. If you only dehydrate one thing, make it beef jerky.
There are a lot of “recipes” for drying fruit that call for various things to help the fruit or veggies keep their color.I have never messed with those things. I don’t really care if my dried apples are brown instead of the color of fresh apples. If this matters to you, a quick search on the internet will turn up plenty of advice about these additives.
Dehydrators: food dryers are very inexpensive at this point. For $20, you can get a basic round dehydrator. This is a good place to start, but they do tend to take quite awhile to dry things. They’re very compact and store easily.
I mentioned earlier that we were given an Equi-flow dehydrator. This is a wonderful workhorse of a dehydrator. It’s large and bulky and square. My Equi-flow dryer has only 5 shelves in it; most of the Equi-flow dryers you can find on eBay or for sale second hand have ten shelves in them and are twice as big. If you want to get serious about drying food, this is the dehydrator you need. My Equi-flow dehydrates food in about 1/3 of the time that a small round dehydrator does. It’s worth the hassle of storing a larger appliance. It’s also worth keeping your eye on eBay for one of these.
DISCLAIMER: all this dehydrating happens in my own kitchen, for my own family. In no way am I implying that industry safety standards are maintained in the dehydrating process. Please don’t write to us to tell us if this doesn’t meet certain commercial standards. We already know that.
UPDATE: After ironing out more bugs than I care to think about, I am now able to offer you a direct link to the Owners Manual for the Equi Flow Dehydrator!