To dehydrate or not dehydrate, that is the question
Sorry to have been offline; we’re getting our country kitchen renovated by painting cabinets, and replacing the particle board subfloor (easily water damaged) and old sheet vinyl flooring with sturdy, sustainable plywood and tile. But cleaning out the cabinets to paint got me thinking. Some things taste better dehydrated, and some taste worse.
For example, in my photo we have dehydrated mushrooms, dehydrated carrots, dried celery leaves, and dried figs.
- Dried figs taste better than fresh ones, in my opinion and the opinions of most people I have talked to.
- Dehydrated mushrooms taste different than fresh ones. Not worse, not better, just different. I like them in soups just fine.
- Ever see “celery flakes” in the spice aisle of a supermarket? I make my own by drying all the leaves from my celery, storebought or home-grown. Again, these are great in soups but frankly in soups the taste is the same as fresh!
- In my opinion dehydrated carrots taste WORSE than fresh. These are practically inedible.
- Things we’ve dried not pictured: dried blueberries (really good in baking no loss of flavor), fruit leathers (muscadine grape and blueberry leathers keep well for years), dehydrated green beans (odd flavor and texture, some loss of flavor), dried varieties of peppers (great in chili and ground into salad dressings), dried green onion tops (again, good for soups: some loss of flavor but better than losing a crop), sun-dried tomatoes (very different flavor, a real treat), dehydrated apples (best chopped up in oatmeal and muffins), dehydrated kale (if you use a little olive oil and salt this makes great snack chips). And I know I am forgetting some
So what have been your experiences with dried and dehydrated foods?
Let's face it: a lot of dried food is boring! Dried cucumbers. Yuk.
So I like to spice them up, especially juicy ones, like cucumbers or tomatoes.
First, I use a rotary meat slicer that I picked up in a thrift store. This ensures uniform thickness, which is crucial if you don't want a bunch that are over-dried and a bunch that are under-dried.
Then in a mixing bowl, I mix up my "batter." I like to use nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and chipotle, but hey — experiment with your favourite spices! The "base" of nutritional yeast is expensive, but nutritional, and it adds a nice buttery flavour. You could probably use wheat flour just as well.
Dip-n-flip your slices in the batter just before putting on the dehydrator trays.
If you have a thermostat, I generally crank that puppy all the way up for the first hour or so, which seems to have better results than going for a lower temperature. Then I lower it to about 130°F and let it run overnight. The idea is to get them extremely dry, so they'll be crispy, like potato chips. If you start out at a low temperature, they never get crispy. People don't like rubbery potato chips.
The only problem is, they're so darned good, we never get any — if I give out samples, I can sell them all day at the market!
I have had good results dehydrating onions. I like sweet Vidalia onions, so when they are in season I buy a lot. If they are not boiled first they will discolor, so I let them blanche about 3 minutes then chill them under cold water and dip them in lemon juice before putting them on the dehydrator trays. . They don't have the awful smell everyone complains about that way either.
Eggplant can be tricky to cook, and having it prepared in advance is very convenient. I put peeled and sliced eggplant in water with lemon, then put on the dehydrator trays. They are just like paper when they are done and will absorb whatever you cook them with.
Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and pumpkin are all done the same way. They have to be cooked before they are dried. You can cook until just done and slice them or cook some more and mash them down and dry them as flakes. They keep that nice orange color too when dried. Either way is very convenient. They are pre-cooked, so consider that when cooking with them.
Dehydrated hash browns are very convenient. I buy the frozen hash browns that only have a treatment for discoloration and nothing else. I put them straight on trays, spray some water to thaw them, then into the dehydrator they go.
Like Wendy said, peppers are easy to dehydrate. Just slice and put on trays and into the dehydrator. Any chili pepper will probably bother your eyes, so be careful with those.
Tomatoes aren't hard. The best for dehydrating are the meaty type that don't have much juice. Romas and cherry tomatoes can work too. Slice into half or fourths, and just dry. I think the Italian custom is to partially dehydrate, then put them in oil instead of water. Dehydrated they are, well, dry. They are good for soups, stews, and cooked dishes.
You can get purchased raisins and dehydrate them down further, until they are hard and not sticky. They should last longer that way. We don't grow grapes much around here, but grapes can be sliced and dehydrated.
Raspberries are very pretty dehydrated.
Blueberries are tricky, because the skins are so tough. You can boil them and then pop the skins, or put them in the blender and mix them with something like applesauce or bananas to make a leather.
Apples and bananas are classic for dehydration. Add some lemon juice to keep the color.
If you want to make candy, you can dehydrate watermelon. Slice, remove the black seeds, dry, and it will shrink way down. Takes a long time, but you end up with an ugly Jolly Rancher.
Dehydrated vegetables will last a long time if they are properly stored. I use glass canning jars and use both the oxygen absorbers and the Food Saver jar contraption. The double sealed jars have not failed me, the single method jars sometimes start to take in air. Also keep them in a dark, cool, dry place–light will cause discoloration, heat will speed deterioration, and humidity will ruin the effect of dehydration. They say that properly stored they will last 20 years. All I know about is five years and those look pretty good. Check on your jars from time to time,so if you are losing a seal (push down the lid of the jar–if it moves it's lose) go ahead and pull those from storage to use soon. You can reseal them in the kitchen so they don't continue to deteriorate while you decide what to do with them.
If you don't have a dehydrator but want to play anyway, Harmony House dehydrated foods are very good quality and you can put them up the same way.
i bought a olive oil sprayer from amazon. The brand was misto. It works great, you pump it up with air to spray the olive oil that you put in to it. The sprayer will stop spraying after several weeks of use and just emits a stream of olive oil. At that point the directions say to clean the sprayer. I found this difficult to do until I simply poured out the oil and added undiluted dishwashing liquid. Pumped it up and then sprayed it out. Works great and the olive oil sprayer works like new. I find that I save a lot by using my olive oil in a sprayer rather than buying a can of spray oil.
I just tried dehydrating mulberries, and ran them in a plug-in dehydrator for 36-48 hours: they come out well, slightly crunchy; not burned. Since they are high in anthocyanins, I think I want to take as much harvest as I can.
Coming up on the black cherry harvest… I’m going to want to figure out how to quickly pit and process the black cherries. Does anyone have any experience with trying an antique rotary stoner on black cherries? Does the output suit dehydrators?
I like the bags of "dried veggies" for snacking on – a green bean, beet, sweet potato blend. (I believe these are freeze-dried though!)
I thank Bytesmiths for the dehydrated potato chip idea. The dried chips in the organic stores in Colorado are offered at an exorbitant cost – about 1 loosely packed cup's worth of dried kale 'chips' was OVER $7!
We live in a VERY humid climate now (Minnesota). I'm leery of dehydrating anything to the 'sticky' or gummy phase. So much mold, mildew, fungus, algea… it grows everywhere. I don't know if I would even trust glass jars, unless things were actually rock hard crunchy – because of the condensation factor. Even lids RUST!
I've not tried a machine yet, only dried large apricots simply sliced in 1/2 out in the sun in the California desert, (at 100 degrees). I used flat window screen placed over a kiddie pool and covered with another screen for 3 days). I dried cherries in Colorado – oven only went as low as 170 so I propped the door open a bit. Got about 2 cups dried, kept in a jar in the fridge for a year and used them in baked goods and rehydrated with baked sweet potatoes.
Both places had dry air, though. It seems to me that powders or like the aforementioned dried leaves would be safe AND edible… but who wants powdered or chewy/gummy carrots?
We all keep hearing how food prices will continue to climb, so it seems like SOME things would be worth it -even if just for rice additions, baked goods and soups/bouillon bases (potato flakes, squash, and mushroom powder for soups, tomato and meat stock powder/bouillon, cilantro leaves, and diced dried peppers -for chili…)
… glass jars with a spoonfull of dry ice in the bottom? let the dry ice evaporate, then burp it, and seal it. It won’t completely stop yeasts, but it is highly resistant to fungus and bugs.
I wait til round steak goes on sale, then buy several and make jerky.Cut All fat off or it will go rancid.
I add lots of fresh ground pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and a little molasses.
Turns out pretty good.