Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dehydrated - It's not the Texas sun this time

I knew that dehydrator wouldn't be sitting on the shelf for long. Owners manual or no owners manual, I was eager to try this baby out!

As I mentioned last week in "Help - The Sweda Dilemma," a local garage sale and $3 got us a decent-looking used dehydrator. I mean, even if it didn't work, it was only 3 bucks, right?  So I posted an all-points bulletin to see if anyone had a similar model so I knew what to do with the top and bottom vents. On top of the internet searches I did on dehydrating foods, I got some great advice from the comments section of the post. 

By Monday morning, I just didn't want to wait any longer. So, I pulled the dehydrator from on top of the fridge and set to work. Bananas appeared to be one of the easiest fruits to dehydrate, it has a shorter dehydrating time than most fruits, and well, I had bananas sitting on the counter just asking for it. Why deny them the pleasure?

The drying instructions I found through the University of Georgia said that bananas were one of those fruits that needed a pre-treatment. But no worries, I had just the thing. All that vitamin C I have stocked from canning and freezing peaches will work just great!  I crushed 6 vitamin C pills, mixed it with two cups of water, and allowed the banana slices (from 2 sliced bananas) to sit for 5 minutes on the kitchen counter. Yep. Lookin' good!

Next, I sprayed one of the drying trays with some Pam, simply placed the 'naners in a single layer, and plugged it in. Now, there are additional 5 trays I could have filled up, but  not having used a dehydrator before, and this being a used one, I wanted to get an idea of how it was going to work (and IF it was going to work) before I started chopping up all my fruit.  

So what happened?  Well, at first I wasn't even sure it was working. I expected to hear some kind of hum indicating that something, anything was happening. But little by little, I could feel the base unit start to warm so I knew something was happening (hopefully it didn't include a kitchen fire). Of course, then I started smelling a strange burning odor. I'll admit, I was a little worried, although I later realized that the smell was just the liquid from the vitamin C solution dripping off and hitting the heating element. Oops. 

Anyway, as the day progressed, it sure did seem like the bananas were drying. Every once in a while, I sneak my little fingers in there for a nibble. Yep, they tasted like they were drying. I did leave the house on two occasions - once to walk to the grocery, and the second time to the hardware store. Both times, I unplugged the unit, convinced that if I didn't I would come home to the welcome of the fire department. Other than those two half hour periods, the unit was on from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM. And low and behold, I have dried banana slices! Way healthier than the fried ones the try to sell you at the grocery. And these are SUPER delicious!

As instructed, I allowed them to cool for an hour before packaging. Then I put them in a glass jar and set them on the counter. When I got up this morning, I shook the jar (I'll do this each day for the next week). Supposedly, this redistributes the remaining moisture throughout the fruit. If any moisture shows up on the glass jar though, I need to pop these puppies back in the dehydrator for a little more drying time.

Wow! That was just too easy! Of course, my one reservation is that I refuse to leave it on when I not at home, and I don't think I'd feel comfortable letting it run while we're sleeping. So I'm not sure how I would do blueberries and strawberries which require a much longer drying time. Ideas? Would you put the trays in the fridge overnight and then just plug them back in the next morning?

Regardless, my next step will be herbs. I think my mom would get a kick out of my sending her some basil from my back yard. One of these days, I'll try to dry some and see how it goes. 

So tell me. What dehydrator stories do you have? Favorite recipes?


The Cooking Lady said...

You have soooo got to try apple chips. And with them getting ready to come in full force, oh-my-stars. I love them better than any other chips we make.

I have also dried parsley and spearmint.

The parsley can be reused in salads(rehydrated by dressing used in salads). And our spearmint we use in our Arabic styled salad.

That is all I can think about right now. Enjoy your dehydrator.

Erikka said...

dried apricots! yum.

not to burst your little green bubble - do you know if the use of the electricity or power similar to a crock pot...or a full blast AC?

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Congrats on your first dehydrating experience! Those nanners look fantastic. I love banana chips.

I too got a second hand dehydrator awhile back. A co-worker of mine is really into garage sales and auctions so she found this and got it for me. The only problem is that it was used to make some sort of jerky (ew) and was never cleaned after that. Now, not only am I a vegetarian, but ew, really, really, really old dried meat! If I can figure out how to get that stuff off of the trays I will try it out for sure.

Can't wait to see what you dehydrate next!

Heather @ SGF said...

cooking lady - how do you pretreat your apples? Do you sugar them or anything?

erikka - Ooh! Apricots do sound good. No, I have no idea how much power it sucks, although my hubby has a measuring device. Is it alot? :(

jennifer - eew! yeah, I eat a little meat from time to time, but that even sounds gross to me. Who wants everything to smell like meat. Yik!

greeen sheeep said...

Now I can't wait to go pick up the one my Grandma offered me. Let us know how the herbs work.

Green Resolutions said...

I did try blueberries earlier this summer. I unplugged the dehydrator each night and just left the berries there. I dehydrated for 3 days, I think. But I didn't give myself enough time before leaving on vacation, and I sealed them before I should have. Came back from vacation to find moldy blueberries :(

Glad you had a better experience. I'll have to dry bananas; my son loves them!

Heather @ SGF said...

greeen sheeep - will do! I'm looking forward to seeing how that works, myself. Lots of promise.

green resolutions - thanks for the tip. That's what I'll try on the longer dry times. Just unplugging overnight and replugging in the next morning. Thanks!

Green Bean said...

I agree. Dehydrating is SO easy. It's my favorite way to preseve when I'm feeling brainless.

I do apples, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes (great on pizza in the winter), and just about everything else.

Anonymous said...

Heather I dehydrate just about everything from the garden, including the bok choy lol

I have cupboards full of all sorts, they go great in salads (especially the spring onions), soups, casseroles and marinades.

The herbs appear to last longer than the shop varieties so they all get done too!

The fruits go to school with the son, with us to work as snacks.

Love to dry!


Heather @ SGF said...

green bean - ooh. you're right. The tomatoes do sound good. I'll have to try that next year. Do you use a specific kind (cherry)?

molly - wow! You're a real pro! I may be bugging you for advice :)