A couple of summers ago, I took a class in food dehydrating. I have some experience with preserving with freezing and canning, but I thought it would be fun to take advantage of the long, hot days of summer to hold on to those fresh fruits and vegetables all year. The first thing I tried was a solar dehydrator. I put some of my crop of tomatoes out in the sun to dry.
It was a disaster. The humidity and flies collaborated in turning my tomatoes into trash in only a few hours.
Next, I tried an indoor dehydrator with a fan that blows heated air over three racks of food. I wanted to try to make jerky and fruit roll-ups. These were sort of successful, but the roll-ups were very sour, and took a long time to dry completely. You can dry tomato paste, mashed potatoes, smooth soups and refried beans the same way, and use them later in recipes. The jerky requires a lot of salt to be sure it is stable to store. Here ( also here, here and here) are some resources in case you want to try dehydrating.
But the fruits and vegetables are great. Some work better than others, and some are brilliant.
This is a whole pineapple
These work great.
- cooked rice (that’s how they make the instant rice you buy in the store)
- pineapple (my favorite!)
- broccoli (chop first)
These work OK, but change color or flavor when they are dried.
These don’t work well
- blueberries (unless you cut each one in half)
My dehydrator has a temperature control, that suggests to use a cooler level for herbs, and higher for fruits and veggies, with the highest setting for meat. A mandoline can help to get slices thin and even so you food dries quickly and evenly. If you dry strong-smelling food, expect your house to be fragrant for a while.
Instant vegetable soup
- 1 liter chicken stock
- 2 c white or brown rice (medium or long grin work well)
Cook rice according to instructions, and allow to cool slightly. Spread on racks in dehydrator and run until completely dry. Store in ziplock bags in freezer or cool, dry place.
- 4 c water
- 1 c dehydrated rice
- 1/2 c dehydrated zucchini
- 1 T dehydrated onion
- 1/4 c dehydrated veggies (one or more: asparagus, tomato, broccoli, green beans)
- 1 t dried herbs
bring water to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Add other ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes, or until veggies have rehydrated. Add more water or stock, and season to taste. If you mix the ingredients together dry, this makes an excellent camping or hiking meal. You can also make inexpensive instant lunches to take to work with you. These cost a fraction of the price of the kind you buy in the store.