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Kitchen Magic

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How do you go from this?

To this?

Or this?

To this?

It’s magic. Pure magic. Just kidding – but it sure can seem like it. With the help of a few pieces of kitchen equipment you can participate in the oldest method of food preservation – dehydrating.

I grew up eating dehydrated apples all winter long. In our area, they’re called snitz. Snitz pie was enjoyed just as much as fresh pie. I’m not quite sure how my parents and grandparents dried their goodies, I just know I enjoyed them.

I bought my first dehydrator about 20 years ago. It was a round unit with a heating element in the bottom and trays that stacked on top. It would do a good job with apples, onions and peppers if I remembered to move and re-stack the trays. Simple and effective. My kids would eat the apples faster than I could dry them so I never worried too much about storing them long-term.

About 3 years ago, I heard about a wonderful type of dehydrator called the Excalibur. It had 9 trays, a fan in the back and a thermostat to control the temperature. I waited until I found a good price and bought one. I haven’t stopped using it since the day it arrived. I used my Excalibur so much that I now have a total of 3 Excalibur dehydrators. I share the one with a friend. I have no problems keeping them running around the clock from about May through December. In the winter, one sits in my kitchen constantly drying some treat or goodies. My hubby calls it our red-neck heat pump.

What on earth could anyone find to dehydrate? Here’s a brief list from the past few months: strawberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, mango, pineapple, grapes, pears, bananas and fruit leather made from all of those fruits or combination. Also, frozen veggies of all kinds. A local grocery store has their frozen veggies on sale for $0.79 per pound in the fall. I buy as many as I can afford and just dump and dry. They’re great in soups, stews, side dishes, etc. Lots of fresh veggies from the garden or ones that are getting tired in the fridge go into the Excal. Potatoes in slices and dices. Mushrooms, tomatoes, tomato seeds and skins, peppers, both sweet and hot, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, zucchini, squash and pumpkin. Herbs of all kinds and forms. Mints for teas and lots of things that I’m probably forgetting. I proof bread and make wonderful yogurt, all in my Excalibur. This piece of kitchen equipment has paid for itself many times over.

Some of the more interesting things I’ve dried include: My husband and daughter’s cell phones. Both were dropped in water, both continue working today. My Ball Blue Book that I dropped in the canner. Mittens and gloves. My wallet, it went through the wash. My friend dries treats for her dog that she makes out of gizzards, hearts and livers from their chicken processing days. They must be yummy because she makes best friends with every dog she meets.

I have jars of my dehydrated goodies waiting in my basement. Mondays are my soup day throughout winter. I just grab a few jars and mix a little of this and a bit of that and manage some very tasty bowls of yummy goodness. The chopping and cutting have all been done. In less than 5 minutes I can have my ingredients in the crockpot before I’m out the door. When we come home from work, we’re greeted with the delightful smell of homemade soup.

If you haven’t considered dehydrating or only make jerky, look into it a bit further. You may be surprised at all the treats that can come from just a bit of work. It’s another method of food preservation that can expand your food storage, help you rely less on the freezer and provide delicious foods for your family and friends.

You can also find kellyb at Yahoo’s Canning2.

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Posted by on September 13, 2010 | Permalink  

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  1. 9-13
    5:29
    am
    Avatar of bonita

    KellyB, you’ve prompted me t dig out my old dehydrator and give it another go. BTW, do you ever put food safe desiccants in with your dried goodies?

  2. 9-13
    7:25
    am
    Avatar of kellyb

    bonita,

    If I’m storing items for long-term I put the dried foods in a glass jar and then use my Food Saver to seal the jar. My basement pantry is dark, cool and dry so I don’t use oxygen absorbers or dessicants.

  3. 9-13
    7:36
    am
    Avatar of

    I have been thinking about buying an Excaliber; so I really appreciate this post.

    Thanks.

  4. 9-13
    7:49
    am
    Avatar of CindyP

    I LOVE my Excalibur! It behaves so differently than those round stacking ones for everything I dehydrate now :) It’s so easy to come up with all those spices needed in all the mixes we’re finding!

    Great post, Kelly!

  5. 9-13
    8:54
    am
    Avatar of LauraP

    All round stacking units are not equal. Years ago Mom & I each ordered The Big One, one of the round units. I haven’t seen them for sale in years, which baffles me because they were very reasonably priced and work great. I dried bushels of peaches this summer and am about to start on apples — snitz pie! Yum!

  6. 9-13
    9:27
    am
    Avatar of Rose

    Great article. I just purchased an Excalibur, after viewing many You Tube videos from Dehydrate2Store. Would it be possible for you to share directions on how you proof (time,temperature,tray spacing) your bread? With your constant use, have you noticed much of an increase in your electric bill? I’m on a tight fixed income and need to budget this in. I am very interested in this method of preserving food and sincerely appreciate your post. Any tips you can provide would be wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to respond. Rose

  7. 9-13
    10:06
    am
    Avatar of kellyb

    Rose,

    The Dehydrate2Store website is a great reference tool for using your Excalibur. She’s got many great ideas and recipes on her site.

    As far as proofing my bread, I don’t have any specifics. My kitchen is quite cold in the winter so it would take forever for dough to rise on the counter. If the Excal is empty I just put the bowl with the dough on the floor of the dehydrator and set the temp to 95 degrees. If I’m using the Excal, I place the bowl with the bread dough on top of the Excal. It’s warm enough that it helps the dough rise.

    I’m sure when I have all three dehydrators going at once that it increases my electric bill somewhat but I haven’t noticed a significant change. I believe it actually tells you the cost to run the dehydrator on the Excal website. You may want to check there to set your budget. Remember, you won’t be running a freezer to store your dehydrated foods so that might be a cost saving for you. Enjoy and keep us posted with your successes.

  8. 9-13
    10:28
    am
    Avatar of KentuckyFarmGirl

    Wow, you are the dehydrating queen! I can a lot of stuff throughout the summer but dehydrating all the stuff I use for soups would save a lot of jar space. Thanks for the info!

  9. 9-13
    2:10
    pm
    Avatar of ticka1

    Wow thanks for this post. I have never dehydrated but would love to learn how and get a dehydrater. Thanks for the post and the link to the website above. Do you have any other advice for someone who wants to get started.

  10. 9-13
    2:23
    pm
    Avatar of kellyb

    ticka1,

    The Dehydrate2store website is a great introduction. The yahoo group Canning2 has many discussions on dehydrating with many knowledgable folks. Check out your local library for a book on dehydrating. Ask questions here or in the forum section. I know folks are always willing to help.

    Best thing, just give it a whirl. I’d try something simple like peppers or apples to start. Peppers you want to dry until they’re almost crisp. Apples can be leathery. Moisture is the foe of dehydrated foods and will cause spoilage if too much is left in the food. Experience is the best teacher. Good luck.

  11. 9-13
    2:27
    pm
    Avatar of kellyb

    KentuckyFarmGirl,

    I’m just a princess in training!! Check out the Dehydrate2store website for additional ideas on drying to make soups. She’s got an entire video on soup making. I just kind of wing it and have been pretty successful. I sent a bunch of dried soup mixes back with DD to school. They work great for her because she’s gone for 12-14 hours each day.

    I use my home canned turkey or chicken broth, or my tomato water from steam juicing as my soup base. Delicious.

  12. 9-13
    3:30
    pm
    Avatar of Gen

    This is very motivating, thanks for posting about dehydrating. I’m curious how you use your dried goodies? It definitely has me thinking about integrating some dehydrating….

  13. 9-13
    4:13
    pm
    Avatar of Patrice

    I bought one of the dehydrators by the Vita-Mix Corporation that they called the Big One. It has been awesome for the last 17 years. I hope it lasts for much longer. Unfortunately, they stopped making them.
    I still use it all summer long.

  14. 9-13
    11:21
    pm
    Avatar of Pete

    Very timely post! Don’t use mine as much as I’d like to, but really, REALLY enjoy what it puts out – and I have one of the cheapy Harvest Maids, but it keeps on ticking, sort of like the trusty Timex!

    Also, storing dried things is a great way to use up all those odd sized jars that are just too good to throw away!

  15. 9-14
    8:48
    am
    Avatar of KentuckyFarmGirl

    Thanks for the tips Kelly. I like the soup base idea. Yet another thing to use my steam juicer for!

  16. 9-14
    8:54
    am
    Avatar of kellyb

    Gen,

    I use my dehydrated goodies anyway I can. I don’t think I cut-up a single onion last year when I was cooking. I simply dumped in some dried onion that I had dehydrated during the summer.

    Soups and stews are the easiest thing to use your dehydrated foods in but that’s just the beginning. I powdered my dried tomato skins and seeds and used them in powder form to thicken my spaghetti sauce. Dried potatoes for hash browns, scalloped potatoes, etc. Check out the Dehydrate2Store website. She has many videos on how to use dried goodies. I know folks who dry complete meals. I’m not there yet but I’m learning as much as I can. Just one more skill to try and master.

    Happy drying.

  17. 9-15
    6:53
    am
    Avatar of Dede ~ wvhomecanner

    Excellent post! (yeah I am a bit behind lol!)

  18. 11-28
    9:31
    am
    Avatar of Sherie

    Oh my! I just found this! I’m digging out my dusty dehydrator – I have things in the vegetable drawer that need to be saved!

  19. 4-17
    12:06
    pm
    Avatar of sr4au1

    I am a newbie to dehydrating!! Love what I have done so far. Cinnamon Apples are wonderful!! I have many questions but will start slow, lol. When you have a quart jar full with bell peppers how do you know how to measure what you are taking out? say you want to re-hydrate a 1/2 cup for a pizza or to go in a stir fry?? Advise please!!
    Sherry

  20. 4-18
    6:57
    am
    Avatar of kellyb

    Sherry,

    Great question concerning how much to use. Practice will definitely help. I cut a lot of my peppers in long strips so if I want to use a 1/2 of a pepper I consider that to be 6 to 8 strips of pepper. One whole pepper is about 1/4 cup dried diced pepper. I think a 1/4 tsp of dried garlic is equivalent to one clove. One medium onion is about 1/4 cup dried diced. I hope that helps.

    Dehydrating is so fun and a great help in preserving the garden overflow or a terrific farmer’s market find. Keep us posted on what you’re drying.

  21. 4-18
    8:34
    am
    Avatar of sr4au1

    Thank you Kellyb, it will help a lot. I just opened and took out my pineapple slices. They are very thin and crispy. I also did some kiwi and it is bitter, not happy with it. I have not tried to rehydrate any thing so that will be a experience.

    I want to do beef jerky just to try it but I dont want to keep it in frig or freezer, do you know any thing about drying meat?

    Sherry

  22. 4-18
    9:11
    am
    Avatar of kellyb

    The one thing I know about jerky at this house is that it doesn’t last long enough to worry about keeping it! If you plan on keeping your jerky long term, you probably want to store it in the fridge or freezer. At least, that would be the instructions from the USDA. If you have a typical family, your jerky won’t last a week! I wouldn’t worry about storing short term jerky in the fridge.

  23. 4-18
    10:39
    am
    Avatar of sr4au1

    This is a wonderful site and thank you for your help!!! OK off to try jerky, a little nervous about this. I have never eaten it so don’t have any thing to compare it too. O’well here goes, will let you know how it turns out. Thank you again for all your help and wonderful site!!

    Sherry

  24. 4-18
    2:42
    pm
    Avatar of kellyb

    Sherry,

    This is a wonderful site full of amazing people and information. Look up a few jerky recipes and see what sounds good to you. You know what types of flavors that you like and go from there. Perhaps you might want to try a few flavors. Just make small batches of each. Make sure you keep track of what flavorings you use, that way you can replicate your favorites.

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