Author Topic: Letís talk food dehydration  (Read 1865 times)

Trudie

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Letís talk food dehydration
« on: May 02, 2020, 11:23:16 PM »
We downsized and moved to a condo a year ago after we FIREd.  We sold the chest freezer and canning equipment.  This year I have returned to garden in a city plot and am loving it.

But, given supply chain screwiness and the fact that I no longer enjoy going to the store, I am rethinking how to preserve my harvest and am wondering about food dehydration.  I have also become aware of the amount of packaging involved in my veg purchases.   We like to eat pretty low on the food chain.  We eat lots of soups, stews, bean concoctions, eggs, and crockpot meals. 

We do have a cool, dry storage area in our basement, but it is not ideal for storage of large quantities of bulk produce.  I can foresee drying lots of things:  onions, shallots, tomatoes, herbs, sweet peppers, and maybe some potatoes.  And, I am thinking that dried food  storage will be much easier in our new place.

Thoughts from experienced food dehydrators?


terran

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2020, 05:43:16 AM »
I ran across https://www.amazon.com/Excalibur-3900B-Dehydrator-Temperature-Dehydration/dp/B004Z915M4/ the other day on some forum or another. I have no personal experience with it, and don't remember where I saw it, just that the poster was very happy with it.

Catica

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2020, 05:57:28 AM »
I ran across https://www.amazon.com/Excalibur-3900B-Dehydrator-Temperature-Dehydration/dp/B004Z915M4/ the other day on some forum or another. I have no personal experience with it, and don't remember where I saw it, just that the poster was very happy with it.
I have the 4 tray one and I love it!

YttriumNitrate

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2020, 06:04:29 AM »
I picked up a used Ronco 5 try dehydrator about 10 years ago for about $35. It has worked great for dehydrating apple slices. I believe the more expensive types have fans in them, but the Ronco just uses convection to move air around.

MudPuppy

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2020, 06:40:12 AM »
I also have an Excalibur and it is a delight. I had a hand me down thrift store one and it was just not up for the challenge of wet things like tomatoes.

Last summer I saved three gallon jars worth of zucchini and 2 gallons of tomatoes. I find that green beans and peppers dry just fine on their own.

Ecky

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2020, 07:45:09 AM »
Anyone tracked the energy costs of running a dehydrator?

In the Amazon description of the item terran linked, I saw this:

Quote
Question: Do you find that your electricity bill goes up significantly while using this dehydrator?

Answer: When I fill it with 25 pounds of peaches or apricots, it will take around 6 kWh to dry a batch that big using the Kill-a-watt meter. For most, that would cost about 60 cents to $1 for electricity. That is about 24 hours of drying time. It uses a lot of heat during the first several hours and tappers down as the food gets dryer and dryer. I also use it to make yogurt using 9 quart size jars. Since the milks is already at temperature and I am only running it at 115 degrees, it uses much less electricity. Vegetables like tomatoes and zucchini use a lot less electricity than doing fruit. In the fall, you can run it inside the house and it will add some heat and humidity to the house reducing slightly the amount of heat the furnace has to put out. That is a bigger factor if you have electric heat than if you have natural gas heat. This thing makes large batches of much better yogurt with less work than the toy yogurt makers that most people use.

We'd pay around a dollar for each of those batches. I'm guessing it's relatively more efficient the more you fill it.

MudPuppy

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2020, 07:52:26 AM »
I have not, tracked the item itself, but I donít notice much on my electric bill.

Linea_Norway

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2020, 12:49:07 PM »
I have an excalibur with 9 trays. If you spend the energy, why not dry more per batch? You probably also want a set of silicon sheets, but you can also buy cheaper ones in oven size and cut them to size.
I use it for drying edible mushrooms, some edible leaves and making hiking meals. I dry most things at maximum 50C, anything hotter will just taste burned.
For my hiking food, I want to be able to just add boiling water, stir and wait for 12-15 minutes. To achieve this, I must cut all veggies very thin and small, like carrots grated instead of sliced. And I precook most veggies for a short time. If you don't do that, you will need to soak the dried veggies much longer before using in food. If you make lots of slow cooking food, that probably works without precooked veggies. For mushrooms, I don't precook and put them in boiling water for about half am hour before using them in a sauce or in the frying pan.

Stuff like raspberries and small tomatoes take a long time to dry. The fruits are too well packed in a skin that dries out badly. Small tomatoes should rather be cut in 4 pieces.

If I have high things to dry, like leaves that curl up, I use every other tray. So having many trays gives you that option.
I dry tomato sauce on a silicon sheet which I put on a tray with perforated sheet. It should be thickened, cooked in, and smeared out really thin. If you leave a little corner thicker, that part won't dry for ages. When I cook that sayce in hiking food, it turns out very well. So if you grow tomatoes, I can recommend making sauce of them and dry them.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2020, 03:21:50 PM »
Question for you experienced dehydrators:
When I watch YouTube videos of drying vegetables (especially tomatoes) they all seem to use a vacuum sealer adapted to jars to empty the air in the jar.  Do any of you do this?  Or is just packing our dried food in a clean jar with a tight sealing lid OK?  I don't want to go to all the work of dehydrating and then lose the food.  Tomatoes I can always water bath can if I have to.  Beans and apples and squash may be more easily dried and stored.

One suggestion for the OP, this thread would be easier to find (and also possibly be more useful for the other gardeners) if it moved to the gardening sub-group in the DIY section.

GreenSheep

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2020, 03:29:39 PM »
Question for you experienced dehydrators:
When I watch YouTube videos of drying vegetables (especially tomatoes) they all seem to use a vacuum sealer adapted to jars to empty the air in the jar.  Do any of you do this?  Or is just packing our dried food in a clean jar with a tight sealing lid OK?  I don't want to go to all the work of dehydrating and then lose the food.  Tomatoes I can always water bath can if I have to.  Beans and apples and squash may be more easily dried and stored.

One suggestion for the OP, this thread would be easier to find (and also possibly be more useful for the other gardeners) if it moved to the gardening sub-group in the DIY section.


Not sure I qualify as an "experienced dehydrator," but I've had my 9-tray Excalibur for several years and love it. I don't do anything special to the dehydrated food. I just put it in a clean jar, making it as full as reasonably possible to eliminate unnecessary air, screw the lid on tightly, and put it away. If it's something I'm particularly concerned about, I might keep it in the fridge, but I realize that defeats the purpose of being able to put things in dry storage.

I agree with those above who love their Excaliburs. It was worth the money, and as someone pointed out, it's very nice to have so many trays so that if you have something "tall," you can remove every other tray to make room for it. I've dehydrated all kinds of fruit for backpacking trips, chickpeas (better than roasting because they stay crunchy), kale chips (same), and hummus (which you can blend into a powder once it's dry, and then you have instant, just-add-water hummus -- or black bean dip).

MudPuppy

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2020, 03:38:49 PM »
Specifically tomatoes: I slice and dehydrate, I keep a large jar (half gallon) on the counter, then in gallon bags in the freezer that I refill that jar from, but Iím likely overcautious.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2020, 04:03:28 PM »
I have an old round dehydrator that is ok for small jobs. The price was right (free).  Now that I am in an apartment with not much storage space, and will have a fairly big garden this year, a more efficient dehydrator may be in my future. Plus one that has low temps for drying seeds for next year's garden.  Excalibur is the obvious choice, has anyone used a Cabela dehydrator?  They seem more oriented to the backpacking group of dehydrators, but online their dehydrators look good.

Moonwaves

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2020, 01:14:57 AM »
If I ever have enough room for one, I would definitely go for an Excalibur. Currently, I have a small, 5-tray, round dehydrator (I got mine second-hand) and I honestly cannot remember the brand. But I love it. I mostly do apples. Strawberries (sliced, not whole) are one of my favourite things. Like jam-flavoured sweets. The smell when opening a jar of dried strawberries is soooooo good, especially in the depths of winter.  I just store them in jars, no special vacuum packing or anything. I've also done fruit leathers but have never really been happy with them - something I'd like to experiment more with, though.

I also usually do a few batches of tomatoes, but I use a recipe from the River Cottage Preserves Handbook that involves drying the tomatoes and then adding some balsamic vineger and storing them in olive oil. They don't keep very long like that* but it is lovely to have a couple of jars of these anti-pasti style, semi-"sun"dried tomaotes in the fridge.

I would like to add dried soup mix to my efforts - perhaps this will be the year for that.

I have tried raspberries and redcurrants before and found it not worth it. They have such a high proportion of water that it takes a long, long time and with the redcurrants you essentially end up with not much more than skin and a pip. Or at least I did.



* Anything stored in oil at home has a realtively short shelf life because of potential botulism issues.

Linea_Norway

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2020, 11:14:54 AM »
Question for you experienced dehydrators:
When I watch YouTube videos of drying vegetables (especially tomatoes) they all seem to use a vacuum sealer adapted to jars to empty the air in the jar.  Do any of you do this?  Or is just packing our dried food in a clean jar with a tight sealing lid OK?  I don't want to go to all the work of dehydrating and then lose the food.  Tomatoes I can always water bath can if I have to.  Beans and apples and squash may be more easily dried and stored.

One suggestion for the OP, this thread would be easier to find (and also possibly be more useful for the other gardeners) if it moved to the gardening sub-group in the DIY section.

I put my dried food in ziplock bags. That works well for at least 2 years is my experience. People have advised me to buy a vacuum sealer to make plastic bags that you can keep longer, for hiking food. But I haven't bothered.
My dried mushrooms are either in normal containers of glass or plastic or in ziplock bags.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2020, 02:09:36 PM »
Where do you all find you get the most benefit out of your dehydrator? Like, it's usefulness in saving food that you grow/buy on sale, lack of need for refrigeration, etc.?

YttriumNitrate

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2020, 02:19:08 PM »
Where do you all find you get the most benefit out of your dehydrator? Like, it's usefulness in saving food that you grow/buy on sale, lack of need for refrigeration, etc.?

I'd say the biggest benefit is with food you grow since there's usually a bunch of it ripe all at once. A mature apple tree can produce 300 pounds of apples, and you'd be hard pressed to eat them all before they started to rot if you don't preserve them somehow.

Linea_Norway

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #16 on: May 07, 2020, 02:29:09 PM »
Where do you all find you get the most benefit out of your dehydrator? Like, it's usefulness in saving food that you grow/buy on sale, lack of need for refrigeration, etc.?


I pick lots of mushrooms in autumn, which I want to last for the rest of the year. Therefore drying.

In my opinion normal hiking food is too expensive per meal and contains ingredients I don't tolerate well, like onions. Therefore I make it myself in the dryer.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2020, 02:30:46 PM »
Where do you all find you get the most benefit out of your dehydrator? Like, it's usefulness in saving food that you grow/buy on sale, lack of need for refrigeration, etc.?

Until now it has been drying herbs from the garden, without a dehydrator.  Now that I am in an apartment I don't have the room for an extra freezer, and not a lot of cupboard space for home-canned goods, so the dehydrator will allow me to store more in less space.  At least this is my hope/plan.

MudPuppy

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2020, 03:05:08 PM »
Where do you all find you get the most benefit out of your dehydrator? Like, it's usefulness in saving food that you grow/buy on sale, lack of need for refrigeration, etc.?


For me, it's definitely preserving garden harvest. One of my favorite dishes involves my dehydrated zucchini.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #19 on: May 08, 2020, 06:48:19 AM »
Thanks for the information! I am expanding my gardening now and was considering how to handle the produce if it takes off. Sounds like a dehydrator might be helpful. I also like the idea of cheap, portable food.

Has anyone ever dehydrated blueberries? Probably not this year, but in a few years, I should have a large amount of them. I will freeze some, but I wasn't sure if anyone had ever tried to dehydrate them.

GreenSheep

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 2020, 07:12:30 AM »
Has anyone ever dehydrated blueberries? Probably not this year, but in a few years, I should have a large amount of them. I will freeze some, but I wasn't sure if anyone had ever tried to dehydrate them.

Yes, but not successfully. Maybe try a small amount first if you do give it shot yourself, unless someone here has a better method. I read online that you have to briefly boil them first to pop their skins, and I was living in a very dry climate at the time, where things practically dehydrate themselves, but they just never really dried.

(Side note: I once walked into my house in Phoenix after months away and was horrified to see, from across the room, a banana I'd left on the counter. All brown, of course. I expected to have a mushy, moldy mess to clean up, but no... it was rock hard and light as a feather. Phoenix is a weird place. It's like living in a dehydrator, except for blueberries, apparently.)

Sun Hat

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #21 on: May 10, 2020, 06:28:04 AM »
I've had success drying sliced apricots, apples, par-boiled sweet potato slices (for dog treats), all manner of herbs, tomatoes, and most recently, kale. I use a cheap 5 tray round dehydrator, though I've been coveting an Excalibur for years.

I'm particularly pleased with the results from drying kale and herbs, as I'm able to store an enormous quantity of dry greens in a large jar in my cupboard and add it as needed to soups and casseroles. With how I stuff the leaves into the jars the leaves break and crumble, but that saves me the effort of chopping them.

@MudPuppy Can you share instructions on how you dry zucchini and what you use it in?

GreenSheep

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #22 on: May 10, 2020, 09:32:16 AM »
I've had success drying sliced apricots, apples, par-boiled sweet potato slices (for dog treats)

I'm jealous of your dog! I think that would be an excellent hiking/travel snack, maybe with some spices sprinkled on the sweet potato slices before dehydrating. I have been known to take a roasted sweet potato and a travel-size bottle of Cholula on hikes, but this would be lighter and less messy. :-) Thanks for the idea!

MudPuppy

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #23 on: May 10, 2020, 10:49:16 AM »
Allegedly you can dry it in the sun, but I have to use the dehydrator in my humid climate.

Slice or grate it (I use a mandolin which makes things go quickly) and spread it across the trays. Dry as usual.

It makes a great additive to soups, quiches, and risotto. Iím trying it in a paella this week! This is my partnerís favorite recipe with it, using bacon instead of pancetta.

https://www.christinascucina.com/dried-zucchini-pancetta-and-potatoes-in/

Sun Hat

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #24 on: May 10, 2020, 06:56:56 PM »
Thanks Mudpuppy! I'm always interested in new ways to store and use zucchini. I've frozen it grated and cubed, but it often makes dishes too watery. Drying it should avoid that problem.

GreenSheep, let me know how the dried sweet potatoes are. When I dried them for my dog, I dried fairly thick slices to a crunchy crisp so that they'd store well, but I think that they'd be difficult for people to eat that way. Thin slices with some seasoning would probably be quite good. The apricots and apples were for me and were delicious!

lhamo

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #25 on: May 10, 2020, 08:21:20 PM »
I noticed a few weeks ago that our fancy oven (we didn't buy it -- came with the house and I don't think we ever got the manual) actually has a dehydrate setting!  I used it to dry some bay leaves I got from a neighbor.  Need to try it on some other things too, I guess.

Linea_Norway

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #26 on: May 11, 2020, 06:41:18 AM »
I noticed a few weeks ago that our fancy oven (we didn't buy it -- came with the house and I don't think we ever got the manual) actually has a dehydrate setting!  I used it to dry some bay leaves I got from a neighbor.  Need to try it on some other things too, I guess.

Most ovens can dehydrate if you put them on 50C and the door a little open (put a wine kork between the door and the oven.

A reason to buy a dedicated dryer is that drying often takes many hours and therefore a lot of energy. If you only have 1 grid in your oven, you can only dry 1 grid at the time. Feels to me like a lot of energy wasted on one grid of food. While the drying machine can do many grids at the same time.

lhamo

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #27 on: May 11, 2020, 06:51:15 AM »
I noticed a few weeks ago that our fancy oven (we didn't buy it -- came with the house and I don't think we ever got the manual) actually has a dehydrate setting!  I used it to dry some bay leaves I got from a neighbor.  Need to try it on some other things too, I guess.

Most ovens can dehydrate if you put them on 50C and the door a little open (put a wine kork between the door and the oven.

A reason to buy a dedicated dryer is that drying often takes many hours and therefore a lot of energy. If you only have 1 grid in your oven, you can only dry 1 grid at the time. Feels to me like a lot of energy wasted on one grid of food. While the drying machine can do many grids at the same time.

Yeah, but it is nice when the computer does it automatically for you.  And with the built-in setting you don't have to prop the door open.

And I have three racks in my oven, so quite a lot can fit.

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Moonwaves

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Re: Letís talk food dehydration
« Reply #29 on: June 30, 2020, 07:10:21 AM »
First load of strawberries from this year went into the dehydrator a couple of hours ago. And I realised I have had the dehydrator just sitting around doing nothing for five years. Mad. Really looking forward to having loads of dried strawberies during the winter.