Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The dehydrator

I've had an aversion to the food dehydrator. I'm not sure why. I had a friend growing up. Her mother used to dry and can everything. I think I associated it with the stay at home mom thing (or perhaps the fact that their house seemed to always smell of stewed tomatoes...). My mother was a professional working woman, and the thought of canning probably never entered her head except to remind her of her own hard childhood. All that preserving of food just seemed a little too much work and a little old-fashioned to us, especially the basement room off the rather stylish 70's rec room filled floor to ceiling with shelves of canned peaches, apples, tomatoes, beans, and pickles. Truth be told, that room kind of fascinated me. Our pantry was filled with modern things in bright boxes and wrappers, not ball jars.

So let's skip over all those years of being art student, grad student, starving artist, traveler,development worker, teacher, stay at home mom, administrator, environmentalist, and gentlewoman farmer. I'm raising a lot of my own food and preserving it. My friend's mom doesn't seem so backward, in fact, she seems down right progressive.

This year as I stared at the sprawling, loaded tomato plants, I realized I couldn't possibly can all of them. The cost of buying new jars, not to mention the time involved was intimidating. I really wanted some sun-dried tomatoes, but our mountain climate is not the best for sun-drying. I bought a food dehydrator. I figure I've already made back the cost in the drying of tomatoes alone. And how easy is it to slice up tomatoes in the evening, put them in the dehydrator and have dried tomatoes in the morning? Simple. There were several bags of strawberries in the freezer that needed to be used. So, in a dehydrator frenzy, I threw them in the blender, added a touch of local honey, poured them on to special little sheets and viola!, I had fruit leather for the Monkey. The Monkey eats a lot of fruit roll-ups. At almost a dollar a pop for organic fruit leather bars, I figure the economic benefits could be quite great. Right now there are fresh and local apple slices drying. Next, I'll be drying okra. I'll have plenty of 'gombo sec' for my favorite african recipes, gumbo and soups over the winter. I think I may even try a few peppers, although I generally freeze them. There are bumper crops of all varieties and dried peppers might offer a nice change of pace in cooking.

I think what I like best about drying food is that I can start it and leave it. I'm quite busy right now with work and life in general. I'm seeing more drying in the future.


  1. That's cool that your dehydrator worked so well for you. I'd love to see your dehydrated okra. (How does that work with the okra slime?) I love myself some fresh okra!

  2. I *love* dehydrating! I end up using my oven because it has a pilot light, but also because I, um, kind of melted one of the plastic trays for my dehydrator in the oven. (I forgot that I was using the oven as dehydrator and preheated to bake something. Whoopsy!)

    I've always wanted to try fruit leather... what a lucky Monkey!

  3. When we were visiting friends in Canada recently, they were just on the start of an extensive dehydrator campaign, which involved apparently acres of mushrooms. I must confess I was quite jealous.

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  5. (Found you through the ELC.) I've wanted a dehydrator for years, but then recently saw a Good Eats where Alton kind of pooh-poohed the drying machines and required you to go to the hardware store and get window screens or something or other...it started seeming like a whole big project rather than a convenience. So what kind do you have, did you do any research, and how do you like it? THANKS!