Have you used your food dryer to make raisins out of grapes? Try it! Store-bought raisins are tasty and all that, but homemade raisins put the store-bought ones to shame. I expect never to buy commercially-packaged raisins again now that I’ve made my own. Whenever I anticipate wanting raising for cooking, baking, or salads, I load up my dehydrator and let it do its magic.
Making Your Own Raisins
I use only seedless grapes when I make raisins. I can’t imagine trying to remove seeds from grapes, and there’s no way I want to bite into a raisin that has a woody center.
Which reminds me of something I despise about commercial raisins: many of them have dehydrated stem stubs still attached; I pick through commercial raisins and tear off those stem remnants before I incorporate commercial raisins in my dishes. Happily, when I make my own raisins, I can pick through the grapes and make sure none have stems attached before the grapes go into the dehydrator.
One other thought: grapes skins are impressive water barriers. I stab each grape in at least 2 places to provide places for water to escape from the grapes in the dehydrator. While you don’t have to stab your grapes, I’m convinced they dry a bit faster when you do. In any case, at 135 degrees Fahrenheit, it can take 10, 20, even 30 hours to dehydrate grapes into raisins. Check on them after 10 hours, and, perhaps, every two hours after that until they’re shriveled, pliable, and chewy. Raisins from my food dryer are always plumper than commercial raisins, and they taste much, much better.
Since writing Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too, I’ve had several people ask,”How do you make yogurt in a food dryer?” Happily, the food dryer part of the answer is really simple: If your dehydrator has a temperature control, you can use it as an incubator in which to grow cultured yogurt. With that out of the way, the question becomes, “How do you make yogurt?” and the answer can be very simple or very complicated.
The method I explain here is very simple and it makes very respectable yogurt. However, Google “how to make yogurt” and you’ll find dozens of articles and videos each having its own spin. Explore, find the method you like best, and still you’ll be able to use your dehydrator as a yogurt incubator.
What You’ll Need to Make Simple Yogurt in a Dehydrator
Yogurt Containers for a Dehydrator
The yogurt-making method I explain in this blog post makes just over a quart of yogurt culture. You pour the culture into a container or containers and incubate it for about four hours. You can use a single quart-sized container, or several smaller ones: four 1-cup bowls, six 6oz used yogurt containers—but whatever you use, you need a lid for each container.
More importantly, because you’re incubating the culture in your food dryer, the covered container or containers must fit in it. For a cabinet-style dehydrator, you can remove several trays to make room for a tall container. However, for a stackable-tray dehydrator, you’ll need to find shallow containers that can fit between two trays; that’s a tall order.
Let’s keep it simple. To make yogurt, start with the following items:
- 1 quart of milk (skim, 1 percent, 2 percent, or whole… even raw is fine)
- ¼ cup of plain yogurt – use only yogurt that clearly identifies itself as containing live culture—or probiotic.
- 2 quart or larger sauce pot
- A cooking thermometer
- Container(s) with lid(s)—see the box for thoughts about containers
How to Make Yogurt in a Dehydrator
Start by sterilizing the containers in which you’ll incubate your yogurt culture. At the same time, bring the milk to boil. Stir the milk occasionally while it heats, and watch when it boils so you can keep it from boiling over; it will generate foam and try to escape from the cook pot.
Let the milk cool until it reaches 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, add the yogurt to the warm milk and whisk it thoroughly to ensure that the yogurt dissolves through the entire volume of milk.
Fill the containers with the milk and yogurt mixture, cover the containers, and set them into the dehydrator. Set the dehydrator at 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Check the yogurt after four hours. It may have become a very thick liquid, or it may have set up harder than that (encourage a harder set by boiling the milk longer before cooling it). In either case, it’s ready (there may be whey on the surface—a nearly clear liquid). Yogurt becomes tangier as it incubates, and if you let it go much beyond eight hours, it can become far tangier than most people prefer.
When the yogurt is thick or firm, move the containers to the refrigerator and let them sit for several hours to cool. Save ¼ cup of your homemade yogurt to use when you make your next batch; you should never again need store-bought yogurt.
Here’s a way to use a food dryer that raises eyebrows wherever I mention it: Dry tomato skins. I got the idea in a Facebook group about home preserving; one of the participants said that when she cans tomatoes she saves the skins and dehydrates them to use later in soups and sauces. I was canning a lot of tomatoes, so I decided to try it.
Unusual Food Drying
I saved skins from about a quarter of a bushel of tomatoes as I prepared them for canning, diced, in pint jars. When I set the skins on dehydrator trays, I intended not to overlap them, but given how thin they are, I decided they’d be fine even if some stuck together.
I dried the skins at 130F degrees overnight and by afternoon the next day (I didn’t bother to check until then), the skins were dry and brittle.
What to do with dry, brittle tomato skins? I scraped them off the food dryer’s trays into the pitcher of my blender, and pressed them down so they cracked and settled around the blender’s blade. Then I put the lid on the blender and ran it until the tomato skins were powder. Finally, I dumped the powder into a storage container and snapped on the lid.
Using Powdered Tomato Skins
The skins from a peck of tomatoes aren’t going to stretch far, but if you can a bushel or two of fruit, you’ll build up a compelling store of tomato powder. You might discover that tomato powder makes a great seasoning to set out with your salt and pepper shakers. For more conventional applications, try these proportions.
…tomato paste, mix one measure of tomato powder with one measure of water.
…tomato sauce, mix one measure of tomato powder with three measures of water.
…tomato juice, mix on measure of tomato powder with one measure of water, and one measure of cream.
I’ve neglected Food Dryer Home because I was writing a book about preserving food! It includes a detailed chapter about dehydrating produce with many step-by-step sequences and photos. Click here to buy your copy from Amazon.com.
It’s no secret that I’ve neglected my blog about dehydrating food. This is, in part, because I was writing a book.
Canning, Freezing, Drying, Fermenting, Sugaring, & Cold Storage
My book, Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too, from Cool Springs Press, came out in March. It started as an idea for a book about canning produce, but evolved quickly into a survey of most home food-preserving methods.
I wanted Yes, You Can to feel as though you had asked me about preserving produce, and then indulged me by joining me in my kitchen to do a whole bunch of projects. Sure: there’s a linear narrative… we need to preserve some produce, after all. But along the way, there are dozens of digressions: tips, history, stories from my kitchen, and other tidbits to ease the learning process.
Yes, You Can! isn’t one of those dry, gray, “here’s how it’s done” books. It’s loaded with photos that illustrate step-by-step how to complete preserving projects and how to use the foods you’ve preserved. The chapter about dehydrating foods includes instructions for prepping produce, blanching vegetables, and drying vegetables and fruits. It suggests some great snacks to prepare in your dehydrator, and shows how to refill your spice jars from your own herb garden. It even explains how to prepare one of my favorite breakfasts starting with dehydrated shredded potatoes.
I hope you’ll click through to Amazon and see what others have said about my book. I had a great time creating it, and I think you’ll enjoy reading it and working from it.
Please enjoy this article about practical uses for a food dehydrator:
Actually… when I published the article, Google immediately trashed the ranking of my Food Dryer blog. This has become a recurring problem for articles I’ve republished from article services. So… I’ve taken down the original article and have paraphrased it below. Because of this recurring problem, I will no longer publish the full text of previously-published articles in this blog.
I hope you’ll still visit; I’ll continue to post information about drying fruits, vegetables, and meats, and about the equipment available to help with these projects.
My Spin on 11 Ways to use a Food Dryer
An eZine articles piece describing 11 odd but practical uses for a food dryer offers… well, eleven suggestions for how you might use a food dryer. Please visit the original article for details. Here are the suggested uses:
1. DRY PASTA: When you make your own noodles, your dehydrator can dry them quickly.
2. MAKE INSTANT PASTA: Have you ever eaten Ramen noodles? They’re actually dehydrated cooked noodles. This explains why they cook so rapidly. If you dehydrate your own cooked noodles, they’ll rehydrate quickly in boiling hot water.
3. REFRESH CRACKERS: When crackers get soft or a bit stale, revive them with a stint in your food dryer.
4. HUMIDIFY: A food dryer pulls moisture from food, and blows it into the air. If your house is dry, you can add moisture to the air by dehydrating several plates of water.
5. MASK ODORS: Do you want to get that fishy or deep-frying odor out of your house? Run a few slices of orange, lime, lemon, or grapefruit in the dehydrator for several hours.
6. AROMATHERAPY: You can use your food dryer as an aroma therapy diffuser: use your favorite scented oils and herbs, place them in a small open container, and set it on a rack in the dehydrator for the duration of your aromatherapy treatment.
7. MAKE BREAD CRUMBS: It’s easier to make bread crumbs from old bread if you dry the bread thoroughly before grating it or processing it in a food processor. So, first leave the bread in your food dryer until it gets particularly arid..
8. MAKE POTPOURRI: The sky may be the limit on what you include in your own potpourri. Dry citrus peels, herbs, flower petals, and grasses, then mix them in your own blends.
9. MAKE FIRE STARTERS: Apparently, dried citrus peels contain enough oil that they burn very nicely. When you peel an orange, dry the peels thoroughly and add the finished product to your emergency survival kit.
10. SNACKS FOR YOUR PETS: Buy parts of animals that you’d never eat, such as ears, snouts, and feet. Process them in your food dryer, and they make terrific chew-treats for your dogs.
11. VEGETABLE AND FRUIT POWDER SEASONING: An Indian dish I particularly enjoy calls for mango powder, which isn’t available in stores where I live. I can buy whole mangos, slice them up, and dry them in my food dryer. Then I process them to powder in my food processor and I have mango powder. You can do this with any fruit or vegetable to create great seasonings you can’t buy in a grocery store’s spice section.
Food Dryer Home‘s promotional giveaway is closed, and the three winners are in. Each will receive a carton of freeze-dried fruit snacks; 24 delicious individual servings.
We used a random number generator that selected the following winners:
@igaia who earned an entry in the drawing by tweeting about the giveaway.
@joan_w who also earned an entry in the drawing by tweeting about the giveaway.
@4bratz2luv who earned two entries (among others) by linking to the contest announcement from her blog.
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the giveaway!
A snack pack of freeze-dried fruit with distinctive tropical flavors. Half the snacks in the carton you could win are these, and half are berry snacks.
Food Dryer Home has found the perfect giveaway to introduce itself to more people: We’re giving away dried fruit!
In our first ever promotional giveaway, we are offering three cartons each holding 24 individual servings of topical snacks and berry snacks. Packaged by Sensible Foods, each serving sells in our local grocery store for $1.70. These dehydrated fruit snacks are low-calorie and delicious; some of the best dehydrated fruit we’ve ever tasted.
Here’s what to do to enter our giveaway:
1. Get one qualified entry by leaving a comment in response to this post. In your comment, tell us what you like to preserve using your food dryer. If you don’t have a food dryer, tell us what you’ll dehydrate when you get one. Multiple comments from the same visitor/email address qualify as a single entry.
2. Get two qualified entries by linking to this post from your own blog or web site. Only one link from a domain will qualify for the two entries. If you’d like to create more links, thanks, but you will earn only two entries. After linking, return here and leave a comment with a link to your web page so we can verify the link… otherwise, we won’t know about it.
3. Get one qualified entry by tweeting a link to this post. In that tweet, mention the twitter name @cityslipper (so we’ll see it and create an entry for you). We’d appreciate multiple tweets, but only one will count as an entry.
4. Visit the two participating blogs where you’ll find a similar post… each of which can earn up to four more entries: One entry for a comment, two entries for a link, and one entry for a tweet. The other participating sites are Small Kitchen Garden and Your Home Kitchen Garden
Multiple entries can increase your chances of winning a carton of fruit, but you cannot win more than one carton per email address or visitor.
This promotional giveaway ends on Friday, November 6, 2009. Our random number generator will select winners on Saturday, November 7 and we’ll post announcements on all three participating web sites.
It’s great to have a food dryer during peak produce season… and better still to have one as the season draws to a close. I had canned many gallons of tomato sauce, salsa, and diced and halved tomatoes, and found myself with several dozen small tomatoes that weren’t destined for a cook pot. Then a friend on Twitter made a comment about drying tomatoes.
If you haven’t dried tomatoes yet, please try it as soon as you can. I dried two dozen tomatoes, watched some friends devour them, and dried another two dozen for myself (I have a very small food dryer).
When you eat a dried tomato, it starts out tough and chewy. However, as it softens, the flavor intensifies, and it explodes into a burst of concentrated tomato sweetness. They’re curiously sensational.
Prepare Tomatoes for your Food Dryer
Captions under the photographs explain the steps I took to prepare my tomatoes for the food dryer. Please give this a try and let me know what you think.
Wash the tomatoes, slice them in half at the equator, and remove the seeds. I removed seeds by gently pressing my pinky finger into each seed pocket thereby squeezing out the seeds and gel into a bowl. Then I filled my food dryer trays with seedless tomato halves, cut-side-up. Finally, I brushed the tomatoes liberally with olive oil.
Note that this was the first time I’d dried tomatoes, and leaving them on a wire rack proved to be a mistake. If such a rack is your only option, cover it with aluminum foil and use the point of a knife to punch a dozen or so slits in the foil.
Sprinkle the oily tomatoes lightly with salt, pepper, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.
Slice or chop fresh basil, and add some to each tomato. I had several varieties of basil in my garden, so I used one variety on some tomatoes, and another variety on others.
Set the tomatoes in your food dryer and let them go for 12 to 24 hours. Alternatively, put them in your oven and bake them very slowly—from 180F degrees to 200. They’re done when they’re shriveled and dry (though they’ll be oily, so it’ll be hard to test one without eating it.
The finished tomatoes look like any dried fruit, albeit with seasonings dried in. They’ll keep for several weeks at room-temperature, but eat them before the olive oil on them turns rancid. I’ve heard that some people freeze them, but that seems pointless since you’ve already dried them, and that should preserve them long enough.
Here are some web sites with ideas for how you might use the dehydrated tomatoes you make in your home food dryer. Wherever you see the words “sun dried” in the recipes, substitute an equal portion of your own dried tomatoes:
Dairy Max Recipe of the Week: Three Cheese Veggie and Beef Calzone – 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained 6 slices (6 ounces) deli roast beef 3 slices Provolone cheese 1/2 cup (2 ounces) reduced-fat shredded Mozzarella cheese 1 (4-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained …
mio recipe of the week: slow burn sliders! – ½ c. ready to eat sun dried tomatoes, diced ½ c. unsalted or lightly salted cashews, coarsely chopped ½ c. diced red onion (if onion is strong reduce to 1/3 c.) 1 stalk celery, diced ½ c. garden club mayonnaise (where available) …
Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad « Let’s Get Cookin’! – At my grocery store, I’ve only found the sun dried tomatoes in a plastic container in the produce section. But you may find them in a jar, packed in oil. If you buy the jarred kind, be sure to drain them well before proceeding. …
2009 May Free Online Recipes Free Recipes – This is one of the best Asian Shrimp dishes I have made in awhile. Szechuan shrimp may indeed even be better than my Szechuan chicken recipe ! A few Chinese shrimp recipes I have tried have been rather disappointing but this was really a hit. Best of all, it calls for precooked shrimp so there is little to no work needed.
If you want to preserve chili peppers, I encourage you to use your food dryer (if you have one) to dry cut-up sections of larger peppers, or to dry whole fruits of the smaller pepper varieties.
Of course, there are other ways to preserve peppers… here are some thoughts:
Things to Consider about Preserving Chili Peppers
Chilies are among a large selection of foods that you can preserve in many ways. Freezing, drying, canning, pickling, and fermenting are all effective for extending the storability of this fine garden produce.
Store Chilies in your Freezer
Chilies will keep in your freezer for at least a year. The down side of freezing is that it breaks down the cells of the chilies so the vegetables become soggy or mushy when they thaw. When you do freeze chilies, plan to use them for cooking.
Prepare chilies for freezing by dicing them as you might to include in soups, sauces, and stir fry. Then, blanch them by submerging them 3 minutes in boiling water followed by 3 minutes in ice water. Spread the diced peppers one layer deep on baking pans and freeze them overnight. Then transfer the peppers to freezer bags. You’ll be able to take measured amounts of frozen diced peppers from the bags as you need them in your cooking.
Thoughts about Canning Chilies
Canning is a valid way to preserve chili peppers, but the method alters the peppers much as freezing does: canning involves cooking, so canned chili peppers tend to be soft and best to use in cooked foods.
BEWARE! Chilies are low in acid. It’s not safe to can them in a boiling water bath. Rather, to make them safe for long-term storage, you must use a pressure canner. You’ll find useful information about pressure canning vegetables in the article, Pressure Canning from your Home Kitchen Garden.
If you’re not ready to try pressure canning, but you have a lot of chili peppers to manage, consider quick-pickling. Quick-pickling is the process of packing low-acid foods in vinegar and salt brine—and often sugar as well. The brine prevents microbes from growing, and lets you safely seal chilies in canning jars using a boiling water bath canner. My favorite recipe for quick pickling peppers involves making red pepper relish.
Chilies in a Food Drier
Drying chili peppers seems as though it should be a simple task: set them in a warm, dry place and they’ll dehydrate. It’s best practice to blanch chilies before you dehydrate them. So, follow the procedure for blanching that I explained in the freezing section (above).
Spread the blanched chili pieces one layer deep on your food dryer’s trays. It’s OK if the pieces touch, but don’t let them overlap. Set the food dryer’s temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit if your dehydrator has a temperature control knob. Let the peppers dry for five hours and check them to see whether they’re dry. To test, remove a piece from the food dryer, let it cool for a minute or two, and bend it until it breaks; it should snap clean like a dry twig. If this doesn’t happen, continue drying the peppers and check them every hour or two until they’re brittle.
When the peppers are dry, turn off the food dryer and let it cool to room temperature. At that point, package the chili peppers in an air-tight container. For longest-term storage, vacuum seal them. To use dried chilies in your cooking, simply add them to wet dishes such as soups and sauces and give them ample time to cook. For drier dishes such as stir-fry, float the dried chilies in boiling hot water and let them cool for ten minutes before adding them to the skillet.
I can’t help but recommend my book, Yes You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too for instruction in all types of food preservation. The book provides detailed, step-by-step instructions with full-color photos from my kitchen showing how I preserve vegetables and fruits.