Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

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SagerXX's picture
SagerXX
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Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

My wife is yearning with utmost heartfelt sincerity for a good food dehydrator.  The Martensons recommend the Exalibur 9-tray model, which I'm bugging her to buy.  She wants to go all frugalrific and maybe spend a bit less (there are only 2 of us so maybe we don't need a 9-tray dehydrator) .  Does anybody else here have food dehydrators and do you love them/hate them/have recommendations for the df?

Thanks in advance --

Viva -- Sager

bluestone's picture
bluestone
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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

Sager

Im not a food dehydrator expert and don't own one myself.  Jack Spirko of the Survival Podcast is big on dehydrating food.  go to episode 367 - he has an interview with Tammy Gangloff (who has her own website on dehydrating food).  Jack and Tammy, if I remember correctly strongly recommend the Excalibur as well

FYI - I also read somewhere that cars a good dehydrators as well.  Just park your car in the sun.  It won't have much use when the gasoline runs out.

here's the link to Jack's interview:    www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/interview-with-dehydrate2store

Brian

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

  I  got several at the thrift shop and garage sales  never spending more than $4 .  They all work fine .    The car works as well for many things . If you have a wood stove you can even string the apples and such above it to dry .    You can use your propane oven as well .    The Japanese dried their fish on a line outside in the sun .

 Loads of options here .    I do not dehydrate as much as I could because  some things like onions are still cheaper to buy already done .  But there are times when all the dryers are going at the same time ..    The best thing I got from Jacks podcast was to buy frozen peas on sale and dry them .   They are already blanched and ready to go .

 

 FM

 

 

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

 Oh yes we also pass them amongst  our group   this speeds up the process .   Ask your friends they may have some stashed from wedding gifts they do not use.

    When I was at the Amish the other day I slipped and asked why she was not making turkey jerky( she was about to butcher )  and we both had a good laugh because she has no electricity .  She said she would love to have one .   So she was going to study how things used to be done ...   .  I  missed her the last trip I made for milk but wanted to see if she thought about  making  screens to go above her stove .   We will figure something out  because she said she is far to dependent on the store also . 

 FM

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

I got the Excaliber 9-tray with timer last year and it has been a great rig to use; I would recommend it.  Mostly I used it for dehydrating tomatos and corn from my garden this year.  I've done apples, bananas, peppers, beans, carrots, and cucumbers before too.  The dehydrator also comes with non-stick sheets my kids made some awsome real fruit roll-ups on.   The 9 trays is nice if you want to do big batches efficiently, or wash some trays while the others are loaded.  During peak tomato production this summer I probably had up to about 6 or 7 loaded at once over night, slicing up the tomatos as they became ripe and doing a batch every other day.

I haven't run the numbers, but will probably take a number of years to pay back the cost of the dehydrator and electricity compared to driving to the store and buying jars of pasta sauce. The most frugal method would be to build a solar dehydrator, but it would take more attention to the weather.  There's a great book on that you can find on Amazon, and I plan to build one some day, but the electric one at least allowed me to start building experience now.

Good luck!

Tom

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

 

  money poor, time + skill rich..

 http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/2006-08-01/Build-a-Solar-Food-Dehydrator.aspx

 http://prepyourfamily.blogspot.com/2009/08/dehydrating-food.html

 or if you have a fan oven.. turn it down to minimum.. and leave fruit/veg in it for about 8 hours..

 

 

 

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

 name of  the book ,Woodman ?        My greenhouse is screened in ... it was in my  plans to get screen shelves built there but.....  ran out of time and energy .

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

Being able to control the temperature of the dehydrator is great and I believe important to retaining nutritional value. Being able to dry a peck of apples is great. Get the Excalibur 9 tray. Apples, pears, bananas, frozen veggies bought on deep discount, biltong, bananas, onions, zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes, jerky, herbs, flowers. I have a couple of the round ones and they work OK for thin jerky, but the quality of the foods coming out of the Excalibur is very clearly better. 

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SagerXX
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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

THANKS everybody.  I love this community!

(About to get my wife to come upstairs and read your posts...)

Viva -- Sager

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

The thing about food dehydrators is that whether you are a big shop or a two person outfit, the problem is that all the food comes due at once.

For those on a budget, dehydrators can definitely be built by hand.  If I were to try an make one from scratch I would get a trashed filing cabinet, probably a two drawer unit, install some additional shelf brackets, insert a hair dryer in the bottom (hooked up to a temperature relay if you want to get fancy) and then scavenge a fan unit from the H/C system of a junked car to move the air around.

The tricky part would be getting the right screen material (some form of food grade PE would be best), for the trays, but other than that I think this is all perfectly doable on the cheap.

All that said, I really like my Excalibur.

 

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

 Wonderful , Plato .   I am printing off these pictures and sending them out to my Amish friends  now .    How cool will it be to sell dried tomatoes and such at the farmers market .     Look  at  dried  soups in the store ....  $3 for  9 oz   Bear Creek  I think .   If you could make it organic  $$$

 These would be easy  bartering !

Think what  all you could put together and sell .  We just need to see what will sell in our area.

 

 FM .

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SagerXX
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So, my wife...

...is pretty sure she's going to go w/the Excalibur after all.  It helps that we have "points" on our corporate card that we can use to buy anything we like.  So that makes it easier for her to "spend a lot" on it.  Never mind all the money we'll save making our own snacks/preserving produce/etc.  <smile>

Thanks everybody for the input!  Things like this are one more reason I'm here every day!

Viva -- Sager

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

We designed and built our own. We have no need of fancy electric units because here in SC it still hits 80 degrees F even at the end of October.

It's two 2.5-ft by 4-ft frames made of 2"x2" lumber, The frames are joined together like a clam shell with heavy duty hinges and a latch in front. The bottom frame has food-safe insect screening on both sides, and the top frame only has insect netting on the top. There's a rubber seal between the frames: the kind with a glue backing that you'd use around your exterior door. It has 2"x2" legs, and we found out that plywood crossbracing was essential.

Food goes on the top of the lower frame, inside, on a piece of cheesecloth so it will not stick. We also bough an old glass door that we place over it in case of rain. The glass speeds things up on sunny days because it causes a greenhouse effect. Mainly this fall we plan to use it to clean soybeans off after we've rinsed them. I'm new enough to the area (and was ill with a hip needing replaced) that we missed building it in time for things like strawberrries but we dried overripe storebought banannas and it worked just fine.

I like the idea of using your car to dry stuff out: it sure gets hot in our vehicles.

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

 

The Solar Food Dryer book by Eben Fodor has lots of ideas:

(http://www.amazon.com/Solar-Food-Dryer-Performance-Sun-Powered/dp/0865715440/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287876479&sr=8-1

 

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Re: So, my wife...

I haven't really gone into drying yet, though I have a couple of books on the subject, but I wouldn't even consider a unit that requires some external power source other than the sun and wind. I think we need to consider how everything we do can be done sustainably and for as low a resource use as possible. Even a renewable energy source (other than passive sources) takes non-renewable resources to harness.

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

Ha! I guess I am guilty of all of the above. I kinda understand the deydrate2Food woman

Electric (Excalibur) was the first one I got and loved it. . .but it wasn't big enough. The Solar dryer - well the sun didn't always shine when que'd and I wasn't happy using fiber-screen or the aluminium option). So we built a wood fired one (see MyBackAchers.com) with a solar fan even though it drafts naturally. Note, we can also install a little sun propane heater if I can't load the burner for the length of time it takes. The stainless steel shelving costs about $400 or nearly what I paid for the Excalibur and dries a couple bushels at a time.

Size matters! If you are growing your own food - size it to your crops or size your harvest accordingly. I also pick up things cheaper when they are in season. Another thing about size- dried foods take so little space - anyone can store a year supply in a medium size closet.

You can also use your food dryer for things besides "staples food". This year we went for the "munchies" by using the dryer to bake sweet potatoes as sweet potato chips. I hear turnips and kolorabi are also good options for low carb diets. The heat is warm enough for making yogurt or hot enough do jerky.

The solar drier was used for drying seeds last year and it didn't damage any seeds that I'm aware of because this year we squirreled away 10 times more seed.

IF you need one, whatever design you use, whatever source for heat - they are one of the best food preservation tools we have ever spent time and energy on. That said - we live in MN where we only grow 6 months of the year and have to put the rest away. If I lived in a southern climate - I would just pick my food from the vine to eat it.

EGP

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Re: Looking for recommendations on food dehydrators

I've been al long-time lurker here; thanks to everyone for many intersting threads!

Regarding dehydrating and food storage (another thread): My wife and I decided that rather than storing 5-6 gallons of the same food items in a bucket we are vacuum packing (with an oxygen absorber) one-quart packages of dry and dehydrated foods. The exception to this is wheat; that goes into 5-gallon buckets with an inner maylar bag. The food types will be mixed in each bucket, with a gamma seal lid, so as to give us a variety without opening a large quantity of food to feed the two of us.

After reading this thread and doing some research, we decided to invest in the Excalibur 9-tray dehydrator with the timer, model 3926T. Wow, what a machine! It has been running 20-22 hours per day since receiving it four days ago. And we have dehydrated 32 pounds of frozen vegetables (frozen weight).

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Food Dehydrator
The Crazysales Food Dehydrator is great. It usually is set from quite low to high temperatures. It had been less than half the value of similar products elsewhere I came across. I determined that we can make dried apples at about 1/3rd the price the commercial variety, should i utilize the cheaper or 'ripe fruit' apples on the green grocer. You should use just several trays or perhaps the whole five. It happens to be something that you can do together with your kids in the kitchen area, even if they are little you can actually cut the fruit and they also can install it in the trays. Good fun!
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Best benefit vs. bother ratio: dry blueberries, onions, papayas
  • Dry with low temperatures. The lower you can set the temperature, the better the flavor.
  • Maybe "freeze dry"? I saw one on TV.
  • Expect big electric bills. It then takes a long, long time to dehydrate. Your electric bill skyrockets.
  • Consider solar + electric. You can use glass or plastic over iron in the sun to generate the heat, then send the hot air up the shelves of an electric dehydrator, thus save lots of money. This works best in consistently sunny places. Solar-only risks spoiling everything if the sun gets weak.
  • I personally would not dehydrate meat. It is safer and readily-available to buy commercial jerky with minimal chemicals, and store in refrigerator. Even commercial jerky can go bad. (I once saw some jerky in Walmart with fungus growing on it. I.e. name-brand in a store with high turnover. The package was not damaged.)
  • Keep dry after drying! This can be done by putting everything in small ziplock-type bags--then putting multiple small bags in one big "freezer" ziplock bag--then yet another bag. For convenience, the final layer can be "slider" type--but these are less airtight. I sugges "freezer" type for mid layer because these are the most airtight. You can judge this for yourself by squeezing all air out, sealing, then letting the bag alone for a day. With slider-type bags, the air comes back in, puffing up the bag. Also, best to do the final sealing in a room with an airconditioner on to reduce humidity. Of course, there are vaccuum sealing systems. If space is not critical, the best is one that uses standard widemouth mason jars. For the bag types, the bags are expensive and not resealable. Whereas if using standard ziplock bags for fruit or vegetables (unlikely to have deadly bacteria) you can rinse several times with hot tap water--turn inside out--leave to dry for 24 hrs or so--then reuse once or twice.
  • You can also simply use widemouth mason jars with the 2-piece metal lids--about the most airtight thing there is. (Do not use the plastic mason lids--not airtight at all.) Or just about ideal, first place in small ziplock bags--mostly-close the bag, then squeeze out the air, then seal--then place in large mason jars. Then (optional) use a vaccuum system made to fit standard mason jars. But even without vacuuming, mason jars work pretty well.
  • Organic onions can be bought in supermarkets are reasonable cost--easy to dehydrate and then chop small in a food processor--and are very delicious and healthy to sprinkle on just about every non-fruit food.
  • Grow your own organic blueberries in cages. Blueberries occasionally get worms--but seldom if you thin out the clumps by picking regularly. There is also no prep work if you only pick pristine berries (eat the others on the spot)--keep hands and pint buckets clean--freeze or dry immediately. Blueberries are very low sugar, very high vitamins, very delicious. Conversely, commercial blueberries are extremely expensive--especially if organic or off-season. So you can buy dozens of pints in-season and preserve. Or, if you have a half acre of land or perhaps just space for a lot of patio plants--growing your own organic blueberries has probably the highest benefit vs. cost & bother ratio. You can dehydrate for great low-calorie snacks. Or you can simply freeze them in ziplock bags--then every other day, place in Vitamix super-blender--this even grinds the seeds, so its a super vitamin supplement. Get various dwarf bushes that make big blueberries. Fertilize twice a year. Plant in rows. To keep out birds, build 10-ft wide x 7-ft high cage panels using PT 2x2's (ripped 2x4's)--join with 3" angle brackets bought at Walmart. (Angle brackets are very overpriced every place else.) Use 1.25" exterior screws with star drive to attach brackets (smallest "decking screw"). Cover panels with 1-in poultry fencing from Agway, using bent-over galvanized box nails. (Do not use finish nails or U-nails for fencing: much more difficult to remove for repair.) In snow regions, make the roof panels removable during winter.
  • Dry papaya in your refrigerator. You are what you eat--if you can digest it. Papaya supplies powerful but gentle non-acidic digestive enzymes such as can not be got in "papaya tablets." What most Americans don't know: it's got to have bad spots or it's not ripe. And in America, often store papaya never ripens. So papaya is an exception to the rule, "never buy cut fruit in saran wrap." In America, that is often the only way you can be sure papaya is ripe. Exceptions: right now I get great organic papaya in a coop for $1/pound. And last time I was there, Florida had great papaya costing nothing. So, if you go to Florida, fill up a suitcase. Maybe ask the shop if they can box and ship to you? Don't know why it's so expensive and so bad quality in northern supermarkets. Anyway--must be ripe. And my Mom discovered that ripe papaya improves in flavor--and does not rot--if you simply slice it and place in the refrigerator on plastic plates. It will gradually dry. Turn over a few times. If by chance they are not eaten before they dry, a stash of fairly dry papaya can be piled onto one plate, which thus continues to dry-as-you-eat.
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Krystof_Huang
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blenders vs slow-juicers for blueberries

PS. We no longer use the Vitamix "super blender" to grind blueberries. Instead, we use the Hurom "slow motion juicer." There are several good brands available of this new type of juicer. Firstly, it is much less noisy and therefore less stressful on the nerves than old fashioned juicers or blenders. Secondly, you can re-feed the pulp into the juicer again and again until it is squeezed totally dry. Ours says "not dishwasher safe" but we do clean it in the diswasher using liquid automatic detergent and not using high heat.

Any blender will do an adequate job with blueberries and will be much easier to clean than a juice machine. However, for people with sensitive stomachs or who want the best taste, juicing will remove course seeds and pulp. The "slow juicing" type has a corkscrew type grinder which also breaks up the seeds and pulp if you feed them in repeatedly--thus extracting maximum nutrient value for the best of both worlds.

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