When I first got my dehydrator I used it for the “normal”
things. I dried some banana chips and made jerky with a kit from the
store. These were great but it wasn’t until I got the books Putting
Food By and my Ball Blue Book that I realized I could do a lot more with
I love to can a lot of our food but canning takes a good
bit of time, not to mention, jars, lids etc. Whereas dehydrating is
fairly quick and I can store my food in any jar or container afterwards
plus dried food takes up a lot less space than canned. Not all foods are
good dehydrated just as not all foods should be canned. I have learned
from trial and error and am still learning. It is important to make sure
anything you are dehydrating is thoroughly dry or your food will spoil
but most of the time it is easy to tell if your food is dry or not just
by feeling it.
One food I really like dehydrated is mushrooms. I buy the
mushrooms after they are marked down. I can usually get a container for
$.99. All I do is wash them, cut them in slices and put them on the
dehydrator trays. You want them to be real dry feeling when they are
done, you will be able to tell the difference, because they won’t bend
easily and they will be stiff. I store mine in jars or those containers
with the rubber rings and clip down lids. I use my dried mushrooms for
about the same things as I would use them fresh. I put them in with
steak, in omelets, soups, stews, roasts etc. I have also chopped them in
a mini food processor until they were powdery and now have powdered
mushrooms to sprinkle on roast and steaks or whatever I think it would
be good on.
I have dried lots of vegetables. Some have to be blanched
for just a few minutes like potatoes, corn, carrots etc. but some can
just go in the dehydrator after slicing. Onions dry well without
blanching though one thing I learned was not to cut them too small or
the fall down through the trays. Zucchini slices do not need blanching
and dried zucchini pieces make a great snack when dipped in Ranch
dressing. Any greens can be dried without blanching. I have a jar full
of turnip greens which I add to soups and stews or anything I want to
add some extra vitamins to. Celery can also be dehydrated but it really
loses a good bit of its taste. I keep some just for soups or stews but
found that drying the celery leaves give you a better flavor.
Herbs are especially easy to dry and don’t take too
long. I have dried parsley,
basil, rosemary, mint, and even garlic and regular chives.
Of course you could just hang these in your kitchen to dry but
the benefit for me of using the dehydrator for herbs is that I live on a
dirt road and we have a lot of dust, which would settle on the herbs if
just hanging in the house.
Besides the mushroom powder I have also made my own garlic
powder. One thing to remember about things like garlic and onions is
that you might want to take that dehydrator outside if you can because
it gets real strong smelling inside with onions or garlic in the
dehydrator. Either one can
be put in a mini food chopper until they are powdered though they may
take a while to turn into powder and need to be good and dry when you
chop them. I am thinking of trying making my own ground ginger this year
since I grew my own ginger root and also would like to grow some paprika
peppers and make my own paprika. I have made my own dried cayenne pepper
and it came out great.
Other fruits besides bananas I have dried are apples and
have even dried watermelon. The apples are easy. I slice them up, dip
them in lemon juice and then dry them. Dried apple slices make a great
dried apple pie, just rehydrate the apples in some water for about 20
minutes and make your apple pie like always.
The watermelon can be done the same way however you might want to
remember that thin is not always better with watermelon because it will
dehydrate down to nothing. A bit bigger chunk works fine.
I have found two things that I would never dehydrate
again. Those would be oranges and cucumbers. I am not sure what it does
to an orange slice but it tastes terrible! The cucumbers were not so bad
but they just didn’t taste that great either. I thought they would
make good chips like the zucchini but that just didn’t work.
I did eventually learn how to make my own jerky without a kit
too. I take whatever meat I am going to use and grind it up with our
hand meat grinder. Any meat will do, I have used beef, chicken and
rabbit so far. In a big bowl mix together these ingredients:
Add your meat (this will make
enough for a pound to a pound and a half) and mix it together well. Let
soak for at least a couple hours in the refrigerator. You can even leave
it overnight. Then dehydrate it until it is good and dry. One year I
gave rabbit jerky to everyone for Christmas, even those people who were
a bit skeptical about eating rabbit meat, everyone loved it and wanted
to know how to make it.
I now have two dehydrators, neither of them cost a lot,
one came from Wal-mart for $20 and the other I got at a thrift store,
still new in the box, for $5. There
is nothing I like more than having them both dehydrators full, hearing
the light whirring noise of the one with the fan and the great smells
wafting through the house.