Dehydrating the Garden. [Archive] - Glock Talk

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Bolster
08-17-2012, 12:49
This thread is about dehydrating fruits and vegetables.*

Pretty amazing, to me at least, how efficient a dehydrator is. If you've not tried, consider the following:

- Inexpensive. I picked up a reasonably large 9-tray Nesco dehydrator on Craig's list for $25. It costs about $1 a day to run, and most batches are done in a day and a half.

- Space savings (!) A "batch" is a large amount. For example a week's worth of tomatoes, at peak of season, from 6 productive bushes of Roma tomatoes (the fruit maybe approximating 3 gallons of a bucket?) fills 3 trays. Largest batch I've processed was 5 trays so far. Amazingly, my ENTIRE SEASON of tomatoes (hundred plus) I store in a SINGLE quart size ziplock bag. The reduction in size is just huge.

- Compared to canning, well, no contest in terms of effort. Whereas I dread canning, dehydrating is a simple affair. For tomatoes, this involves blanching the tomatoes, slipping off the skin, cutting them in half, scooping out the seeds, and putting on the tray. Easy to do in a spare half hour here or there. Minimal cleanup.

- Indistinguishable from fresh, in cooking. I recently made a batch of lentils with both fresh and dried tomatoes. I could not distinguish which was which when I ate the dish.

In a nutshell, I don't throw away NEARLY as much fresh food as I used to. Bananas in particular: they're cheap, you buy a bunch, you eat two and the others are too brown to enjoy. Time for banana chips, which my kids eat like candy.

You can dehydrate just about anything (well, avocados don't dehydrate well), but so far, from my experience, my favorite items to dehydrate have been:

TOMATOES
BANANAS
ONIONS (grind to make onion powder)

I wish I had more large fruits to try. This year the 'coons got to the peaches before I got around to making a no-climb device. I've successfully dehydrated a lot of the lemon crop, but it's relatively inefficient, takes a long time, maybe 3 days. Whereas tomatoes, done in a day and a half.

If you have any interest in food preservation, I encourage you to try a dehydrator as a supplement or alternative to canning.

(*This thread is not about eating dog food, or cannibalism, or poop, or murder. Just want to clarify that up front, given how off-topic other threads I've started have gone.)

Stevekozak
08-17-2012, 13:20
What do you wind up with when you dehydrate lemons? I have never thought about doing that. What do you use a dehydrated lemon for, exactly? I have dehydrated meats, apples, and some pears before. They turned out pretty good.

Bolster
08-17-2012, 13:28
http://i1085.photobucket.com/albums/j435/Bolsterman/DehydratedTomatoes.jpg

Here's well over 100 Roma tomatoes. That's a QUART bag, not a gallon.

Dried lemons = make "adult" lemonade (or regular). If you throw in the rind with the fruit, combine with sugar and vodka, you get a sweet-sour-bitter combination that I like a lot. The rind adds the bitter component.

Apples, I've tried, are great! Have not tried pears. Sounds good. Meats I have no idea (99% vegetarian here).

Photos of the pears? interested.

Stevekozak
08-17-2012, 14:02
http://i1085.photobucket.com/albums/j435/Bolsterman/DehydratedTomatoes.jpg

Here's well over 100 Roma tomatoes. That's a QUART bag, not a gallon.

Dried lemons = make "adult" lemonade (or regular). If you throw in the rind with the fruit, combine with sugar and vodka, you get a sweet-sour-bitter combination that I like a lot. The rind adds the bitter component.

Apples, I've tried, are great! Have not tried pears. Sounds good. Meats I have no idea (99% vegetarian here).

Photos of the pears? interested.
No pics of pears. It was several years ago,and it never occurs to me to take pics of things. Dried pears have an interesting flavor. Hard to describe.

Hummer
08-17-2012, 14:26
We use the dehydrator all through harvest, usually doing 100+ lbs. each of apples, peaches, apricots, pears, tomatoes, and sometimes other veggies like zucchini and yellow squash as chips for snacking. We dry some Romas, and lots of Sweet 100 tomatoes which we slice in half and dry with the skin down. The Sweet 100's are sweet enough to eat dry by themselves but we use them in cooking, also.

Once, I picked up half a truckload of onions, and we used dried onion for several years afterward. We grow lots of peppers too, but prefer to roast them on the grill, peel the skin and then freeze for use throughout the year.

I always keep a bag of dried fruit in the truck to snack on instead of buying expensive junk foods.

I'd like to build a solar dehydrator but haven't gotten around to it. The trick would be to use fine netting to keep fruit flies out.

Bolster
08-18-2012, 10:40
I'd like to build a solar dehydrator but haven't gotten around to it. The trick would be to use fine netting to keep fruit flies out.

Wow, you're the dehydration king! I would be interested in your progress on a solar dehydrator. I "backed" into dehydrating by starting it with my solar oven, then getting frustrated at the time it took due to poor airflow (and difficulty keeping the solar oven cool enough for dehy), so I bought the electrical unit. But I really groove on the idea of letting the sun do all the work (even though the electricity costs me about $1 per day). But either you give up on precise control of temp, or you build a relatively complicated solar dehy that can maintain steady low temps.

I'll search for Sweet 100 tomats, never heard of them. The Romas have the advantage being less juicy. I think they make great snacks. (I salt mine lightly before drying).

Have not figured out how to make Zucchini chips so that I like them or will eat them. Advice?

I am trying to become a "dried food" snacker and stop eating prepared snacks. So your snack habits are my goal.

For me, preparedness is starting to live the lifestyle of self sufficiency NOW.

Bolster
08-18-2012, 10:51
One other thing I'd like to know, you other dehy guys, do you treat your fruits or veggies before drying? Ascorbic acid for the fruits? Sodium metabisulfate?

I have been using ascorbic acid ("vitamin C") mixed with lemon juice on bananas to keep them from going so brown, it works reasonably well.

I've read the sodium meta-bi is superior.

magic
08-18-2012, 13:06
One other thing I'd like to know, you other dehy guys, do you treat your fruits or veggies before drying? Ascorbic acid for the fruits? Sodium metabisulfate?

I have been using ascorbic acid ("vitamin C") mixed with lemon juice on bananas to keep them from going so brown, it works reasonably well.

I've read the sodium meta-bi is superior.

Saw your thread and had to reply! We dehydrate fruit sometimes. We do strawberries, pears, apples and of course lots of beef jerky. Speaking of dog food.......:tongueout:.......:rofl:, we share all of the dehydrated goodies with the dogs too! We do season the dogs jerky differently, though.

When we do fruit, although we have ascorbic acid, we just use lemon juice and it turns out great. One thing we have not done personally, but my neighbor does A LOT of, is fruit leather. Its really yummy, keeps a long time and is much healthier than the junk snacks we try to avoid. She doesn't use any refined sugar to sweeten the leather, just a little raw honey if that fruit batch needs it. She and I both like it a little tart anyway, so she makes some without honey too.

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syntaxerrorsix
08-19-2012, 09:24
I do all of my left over vegetables before they go bad.

Lately I've done portabella mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and my entire hot pepper crop.

http://i370.photobucket.com/albums/oo144/syntaxerrorsix/photobucket-983-1345389764175.jpg?t=1345389768

magic
08-19-2012, 17:55
Here's our first attempt at dehydrating peppers and tomatoes. Two varieties of tomatoes and five pepper varieties. I am wondering how long the tomatoes and peppers will keep flavor after dehydrating, I guess we'll find out!

http://img696.imageshack.us/img696/7233/dehydrating.jpg

And while we're dehydrating, I decided to try and dehydrate some dog food too. I didn't know how else to tie dog food into the thread, but I figured this might actually work. If dehydrated dog food keeps for any reasonable amount of time before going rancid, I will have found a new way to preserve dog food with my veggies!

http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/649/dehydratedogfood.jpg

Babynine
08-20-2012, 08:10
Hey Bolster....Did you know your Nesco is made right here in Wisconsin, USA :)

The fan motor may be made in China, but everything else(the cheap plastic stuff) is made in USA. And you may have done well buying used, as my Nesco had a horrible plastic odor when new. I had to wash it twice, and run it empty for two days to minimize the plastic odors. Other than that, mine seems great. I'll be dehydrating homemade organic chilli on parchment paper for camping later this week.

FLA45fan
08-20-2012, 19:42
Sweet 100's - dang they're good - scratch that - GREAT cherry tomatoes. We have 6 plants this year and we're harvesting over 50 per day for the last 3-4 weeks. Just giving 'em away to all the neighbors. Acid reflux way up!

Please post pics of adult lemonade soon - it's been a tough week!

Hummer
08-21-2012, 13:08
Sweet 100's are smaller, sweeter, and more prolific than typical cherry tomatoes. Mrs. Hummer planted 18 tomato plants this year (about 1/3 are Sweet 100's), and they're doing great. We're eating tomatoes for every meal.


We usually use lemon juice as a quick dip for drying fruit. Sometimes we use Ball Fruit Fresh which is mostly ascorbic and citric acid.

I haven't used potassium metabisulfite (Kmeta) to prevent browning and preserve dried fruit, but might give it a try. As a winemaker I always have Kmeta on hand, including a solution (2.5 Tbs. Kmeta and 1 tsp. of citric acid to a half gallon of water) used as a sanitizer for bottles and equipment. In winemaking, Kmeta is used in the fruit must to kill wild yeasts, molds, bacteria, etc., and to prevent oxidation. It does the same when added periodically to wine that is aging.

For fruit drying, Kmeta would be a cheaper alternative to lemon juice, should be more effective for longer term storage, and might reduce fruit fly issues around the dryer.

Here's a paper which covers the use of ascorbic, citric, Kmeta, etc., as a pretreatment for fruit drying: Drying Fruits (http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09309.html)

We don't have a true cold storage area so we keep most of our dried fruit and veggies vacuum sealed and in the refrigerator or deep freeze so it will keep longer.