All Dried Up: Dehydrator

>> Thursday, September 9, 2010

John Bender: Uh, Dick? Excuse me; Rich. Will milk be made available to us?
Andrew Clark: We're extremely thirsty, sir.
Claire Standish: I have a really low tolerance for dehydration.
Andrew Clark: I've seen her dehydrate, sir. It's pretty gross.

You younger folks out there might not recognize these quotes -- OK, I'm even a tad young to know. But I'm a huge Breakfast Club fan! Anyway, a couple weeks ago, we wrote how we'd be reviewing a food dehydrator courtesy of CSN Stores (they sell everything from dining room furniture to kitchen gadgets, etc.). We've had it for a few weeks now . . . and we're having a ton of fun finding things to dry out.

The dehydrator we went with is a Nesco brand. We liked the square design because it "provides 41% more drying area" and "700 watts of drying power" (so it dries foods faster).

So, why would we want to dehydrate foods? There are many reasons, including our desire to experiment with raw foods. I love dried apples, too, but they're pretty expensive to buy every week at the grocery store. Whole Foods also outlines a number of benefits on their website:
  • Almost all of the nutrients are preserved in dehydrated foods.
  • Economical way of preserving local seasonal food i.e. buy large amounts of local seasonal produce dehydrate it and store it to use later when items are more expensive and not found locally.
  • Warm foods without destroying enzymes. Great way to incorporate foods that have a cooked taste to a raw diet
  • Make your own crackers and cookies and always know what’s in them!
  • Make your own granola, soup mix and trail mix to always have on hand when you need a snack, quick meal or a gift!

What's cool about the model we bought is: It's super easy to use. Just cut up your fruit (or veggies, etc.), spread out on the handy-dandy trays, and set to dry (there's a cookbook that comes with it with drying times). Apples take around 6 to 8 hours.

Bananas definitely much longer than that: 10 hours.

There are tons of neat recipes and tips in the little cookbook that comes with the machine. My favorite -- and I seriously cannot wait to make this stuff -- is fruit leather. The minute I get some spare time, I'm making fruit leather. The dehydrator even came with a special tray just for that purpose! We searched online for information as well, and we found several resources, including this FAQ (for example, we were nervous about not totally dehydrating our stuff, how long we could store our eats, and if we needed to pre-treat foods with anything specific, etc.).

We're still very new to the entire process. And we're thinking some of you may already know the ins and outs. In fact, when we were trying to figure out which dehydrator to buy, some of our Twitter followers offered their advice. Someone also told us that sprinkling cinnamon on the apples before drying is a good idea. We couldn't agree more. Thanks for all your advice!

But we want to make more than simple dried fruits and veggies. Any raw food gurus out there have recipes to share with us? Or any seasoned dehydrating geniuses have any tips and tricks to offer up? We can use all the help we can get! We have friends who have made raw "bagels" and "cookies" and "crackers" using their trays -- at this point, we don't really know where to start.

A question we have is about the amount of power we're using having this machine on for 8 to 10 hours at a time. It seems like a small fan, but there's a bit of heat. We're planning to look into the energy consumption, but if anyone knows the answer to this question (like, YES -- you're using a TON of power . . . or NO -- the juice needed is negligible), we'd appreciate your input.

Expect to see more dehydrator recipes on the site now. We're definitely hooked. And as the weather gets cooler and we start to stay indoors more on weekends, dehydrating seems like the perfect Sunday afternoon activity!

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