Wednesday, June 13, 2012

From the attic

So this post is still about crafting...just crafting in terms of food.

I took my kiddo to a strawberry patch a couple weeks ago and we came home with two GALLONS of strawberries. I love fruit but that's a bit more than my family can consume before they go bad. So my solution, directly from the attic (well, my mom's attic) was a dehydrator!

I consider dehydrating kind-of an old-fashioned craft. These days, you can find dehydrated fruit and meat (jerky) at every grocery store and gas station. But dehydrating yourself is a great way to ensure natural ingredients. It is also a good method for using up fruits (and veggies and meats) before they go bad. You can add flavoring if you want, but its totally up to you. Dehydrated foods can be kept without refrigeration for long periods of time. They can also be re-hydrated for uses in recipes and food prep. My favorite is just to eat them as a healthy snack!

In our case, the dehydrator had literally been in the box and last used 15 years ago. We scrubbed it off and read the instruction pamplet and had our dehydrating in progress with less than 20 minutes of food prep time. Then you just plug in the machine for 12-36 hours! The berries turned out yummy and we decided to experiment with some other fruits.

This is what a dehydrator looks like - ours has 7 trays and is really simple, with a heating element at the bottom that puts off very little heat.

Here are the books we used for reference:
But of course, these days there are a hundred websites that give you more info:

So my simple example: Fresh fruit -- so far we've tried bananas, pineapple, strawberries, and apples:
Slice -- thin strips (1/8-1/4") for crispy dried fruit or thicker pieces for chewy dried fruit. Lay with pieces barely touching in as many trays as you wish (shown is pineapple that's been drying for 1/2 day)
Enjoy! A big bunch of bananas makes 1 full sandwich sized ziploc bag. They are brown because we did not use any preservatives at all. Dried fruit from the store has most likely been blanched in sugar, preservatives, or other methods. Mine is all-natural! I am trying a batch of apples that has been dipped in 1/4 cup lemon juice mixed with 1 qrt of water to prevent browning.
On the topic of dehydrators, ask your mom, neighbor, or friend if they have one you can borrow. My mom's cost over a $100 twenty years ago (but it still works great!), but these days I found them on Amazon for $35-$250, depending on what you're looking for. I also saw one at the flea market for $5 last weekend, if you want to try it out the technique without committing much from your wallet.