I like to dehydrate foods - they take up less storage room, the foods retain their color and nutrients, they are easy to store, and they look so pretty. :)
Dehydrating foods is not complicated and you do not need expensive equipment. If you can afford an Excalibur dehydrator, great. If you can't, you can use a cheap dehydrator and get wonderful results, so I hope you will try to dehydrate some things. I have been disturbed by the snobbishness I have seen regarding the "best" dehydrator and the way such an attitude has kept people from even trying to dehydrate because they couldn't afford the "right" stuff. That is just not true. EVERYTHING I have done, was done on a cheap dehydrator.......several different kinds of them and all were bought at garage sales. Please don't be afraid to try this wonderful skill.
There are so many things that can be dehydrated and I do several and use them. However, I did a lot more as an experiment, just to see how it would work and was quite pleased with the results, for the most part. Let me just say right now that dehydrating pickles is NOT a good thing.... that's my opinion, but I am telling you, they were AWFUL! The salt was so concentrated that none of us could stand them at all. I know, I know....why did I dehydrate pickles? Well, like I said....I was experimenting and the idea came so I tried it......it was not one of my better ideas.:)
The SOUP MIX in the 2nd and 3rd jars is something that I was experimenting with. I added lots of the dehydrated mixed vegetables, dehydrated celery, tomatoes, potatoes and other dehydrated foods from my supply. I also added some black beans, rice and or lentils. Then some msg free chicken bullion, maybe a few spices - like a little chili powder, Italian seasoning or other herbs. My plan was to have a complete soup in a jar, that could be put into a crockpot with sufficient water and let it simmer until supper. Something easy for the kids to do or for me to use as a quick food. We have tested it and adjusted the liquid and it works!! I do not have meat in these jars and that can be added afterwards, but having beans, lentils and rice helps with the protein level and it is fine the way it is. I do like to add a can of diced tomatoes to add some of the liquid and more flavor also, but I use it with just water also. Either way works and you can tailor these to be what your family likes - maybe some dried hot peppers or other foods.
The POTATOES worked out well.............AFTER some changes in my method. The first time I made dehydrated potatoes, they looked WONDERFUL until they started drying into hard gray and black chunks. What a disappointment! That is the enzyme activity that I mentioned earlier that should have been stopped in a blanching process, but I had forgotten about it. The whole batch was ruined and had to be thrown out, but it was a learning experience. The dehydrated potatoes in the jar were some that I had cooked ..... like I would when making potato salad...........and then dehydrated and they are great.
The REFRIED BEANS were another experiment, using canned refried beans. My plan in experimenting with this was to have food that was cooked and ready to eat when rehydrated, without taking very long. Dehydrators come with a plastic tray that is intended to set on one of the regular trays, to hold more liquid type foods, like fruit leather. They also work for things like refried beans....since I needed more trays and didn't have them, I used cottage cheese or sour cream plastic lids on the trays and it worked very well. I put tablespoon size globs on the lids and plastic trays and flattened them out a bit...... they dried into little clumps of refried beans. These could be used to rehydrate back into regular refried beans for burritos or other purposes, or they could also be used to add to a soup or other meal.
The dehydrated APPLES were simply cut and then dipped in a lemon juice and water mixture, which helps to preserve the color and quality. They do discolor some, but still taste great for eating as a snack or for rehydrating. The apples can be dehydrated peeled or unpeeled, in slices, small chunks or in a variety of ways, depending on how they are to be used. Dehydrated apples are wonderful in apple pie and crisp or oatmeal or other foods. The dried apples are also good in a trail mix, homemade granola or snack foods.
ORANGE SLICES look pretty in the jar, although they will turn darker. It is hard to dehydrate them all the way due to the little "capsule"-type segments in the orange. Slicing them thin helped to open those segments and allow them to dry.
WATERMELON chunks was another experiment for me - silly, I know as what is watermelon without.......water????? Like I said, I was experimenting and surprisingly, these do taste good. We were surprised how good these tasted, so I counted this a success.
PINEAPPLE chunks also were wonderful........I used canned pineapple tidbits and drained it and it worked well. Again, if you use the fresh pineapple, you would need to stop the enzyme action and it can be done, but it was worth it to me to just use the canned pineapple since I would have to buy it either way. If you have access to cheap fresh pineapple, you could check on specifications for doing that. Dried pineapple tastes good and is great in trail mix or just as a snack.
PEPPERS and ONIONS dehydrated well and I used the frozen ones. One thing I learned though, is that the onions can be so thin that they are hard to get off of the trays, so I found that I needed to watch them and not let them get overdone. They smell good and are great to use and worked well in the soup mix above.
CUT BROCCOLI worked well and dries into larger sized pieces......again, I used frozen broccoli for the reasons stated above ............and I was preparing to teach a class and was experimenting with many things, so time was extra important to me. Using frozen veggies saved me some steps.....and when getting these on sale, it is actually a very economical way to dehydrate.
CHOPPED BROCCOLI is similar to the cut broccoli above, but then dry much smaller and are very easy to put into soups, macaroni and cheese, eggs and more. I find that the chopped broccoli dries faster since it is smaller and I like using it better, although the chopped broccoli can be broken up after dried also.
There is much information to share and since it seems like too much for one post, I will be making this a series of posts- it will probably have 2 or 3 posts in the series, maybe more. Next in the series, I will detail more of the dehydrated foods - many more that I have done and you can see how they look in jars or bags when dehydrated. The 3rd part of the series will probably have a comparison of the jars when they were done and then how they look now, about 1 1/2 years later, at least on the ones that I still have, as well as comments on how they hold their flavor and smell. I am not sure exactly what will be in each post, but I hope the information will be helpful.
Thank you for joining me and be sure to sign up with email if you would like to get these sent directly to your email or feel free to check back for the next parts of the series on Dehydrated Foods. I hope that you have a great week. :)
Dehydrating Foods Series:
Dehydrating Foods Part 1
Dehydrating Foods Part 2
Dehydrating Foods Part 3
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