Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Fridge too Far...Try Dehydrating


Over Christmas break, I was blessed with some extra time to use my Excalibur dehydrator! I bought her at the end of the summer as a reward for working my time away. At the beginning of the semester, I found time to occasionally cut up trays of strawberries or bananas about to go bad, however, as I became consumed by my school work, she sat...doing nothing.


Here she is...beautiful

It doesn't seem to be very common to find dried/dehydrated fruit in stores that hasn't been contaminated with oil or sugar or some other additive, which is part of the reason I decided I needed a dehydrator. Also, dehydrated fruit is delicious. The only problem is how highly addictive it is...in dehydrated form, I could eat the equivalent of like 6 bananas in one sitting...seriously.

Dehydrated fruit is great to snack on its own, baked into your favourite recipe or sprinkled on pretty much anything... Dehydrating times vary quite a bit, so I always check on my stuffs throughout the process. I don't think I have mastered how to tell if something is fully dehydrated, but I think a lot of it depends on your preferences (crispy versus leathery). One hint I have read repeatedly is to slice whatever you're dehydrating and, if there are still droplets of moistures inside, you know it's not done. Or just taste it...a half dehydrated prune is no good.

You can dehydrate pretty much anything...I have tried things like potatoes, sprinkled with sea salt, but they didn't turn out so well. It's difficult to make them crispy without a slicer to cut them uniformly thin.  Fruits like bananas and strawberries are much more forgiving of my hand slicing. I like to use fruit that is very ripe, both to save my fruit and money, but also because the flavours tend to be at their most intense. Anyways, here are a few of my dehydrating successes.

Grapes/Raisins


I had never managed to make raisins before Christmas break...not that it is difficult, I just kept eating them before they ever had a chance to fully dehydrate. Not only because they are delicious and so much better than any store bought raisin, but also because they take so damn long. These raisins probably took 2 days...maybe more. Given, I keep the temperature at about 105 to maintain their Raw Food status. My impatience has since gotten the best of me, and I now bump it up to about 110-115 F, which is safe, since my dehydrator runs about 5 degrees lower than the thermostat says. (Updated: April 8th/2011)

I was so impressed by the designs the blanching process created on the skins of the grapes. I have so many more pictures of these grapes on my computer, but decided they might not be so interesting to everyone else...
One trick to shorten the drying time is to blanch the grapes beforehand. There are specific instructions  easily found online...but, from my recollection, this is what you do.

Blanching

1. While bringing water to a boil, prepare an ice bath.
2. Dip the grapes into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then drop them into the ice water.
3. Dry the grapes off and dehydrate.

The boiling breaks the seal of the skin to quicken dehydration, while the ice bath stops the cooking process. I suppose you could also cut the grapes in half, but they dry differently that way...the end result is more...crispy?? If that makes sense... When you leave the whole, they feel more like a raisin; they're plump.


The final product was delicious. I got my dad to taste them and he even said they were better than normal raisins. The only thing is, they took so long to make, I am reluctant to eat them or use them in any baking because I don't want to waste them...

Bananas


Bananas are definitely one of my favourite fruits to dehydrate. They're so easy and quick (comparatively...)! Just cut up the banana and pop in the dehydrator for 8 hours, give or take. I have read to prevent your banana from browning, you can dip it in some sort of citrus juice (like lemon). I am, however, lazy and don't care what my dehydrated fruit looks like, so I've never tried this.

They are not crunchy like store bought banana chips (which I think are fried anyways?)--more leathery (though, if you cut them thin enough, they could be crispy). God, describing the texture and results of dehydration is so difficult... but I find the greatest hurdle for people when tasting home dehydrated fruit is to get over the texture and expectation that they'll taste like the kind you get from Bulk Barn.


Strawberries

Strawberries are another favourite--they are so incredibly sweet! They are pretty much the same as bananas in terms of process and time, but I find leaving them a bit thicker favourable...I like them leathery.

Plums/Prunes

When you dehydrate a plum, you get a prune! You need to pit the plum before you dehydrate it. Sometimes I cut them in half, just because it's so much easier and they still taste great, but they're better whole, just like the raisins. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures...prune plum season is long gone and I always ate them too quickly to build up any winter stores. Next Fall, I'll be sure to take plenty of photos and remember this prune-less winter.

I have much more to say about dehydrating, but I'll save it for another day...this post is long enough already.

7 comments:

  1. I am also mesmerized by the grapes! I miss dehydrating things. It also makes the kitchen very warm. I wonder where our dehydrator is? You should make dried tomatoes next!

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  2. Ah yes, the warmth is part of the reason I search for things to dehydrate...my room gets so cold in the winter.

    I have thought about doing tomatoes, but I can't think of when I would use them...maybe I'll make pizza one day.

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  3. They are very good on pizza, yes! But also just for munching… haha… or salads I guess, or on top of tomato-y pasta sauce.

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  4. I just did a couple bags of cranberries because they were on sale. They took forever as well. I didn't know about the blanching thing. Next time, I guess.

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  5. I really want a dehydrator. I'd go crazy with it...maybe too crazy!

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  6. OMG I totally want a dehydrator now!

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  7. I highly recommend them! I love being able to control what goes into my food.

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