Raisins from Grapes in a Food Dryer

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: dry fruit
washing grapes for the food dryerUnless you grew the grapes, you can’t be sure what’s on them. Come to think of it, even if you grew the grapes, you probably didn’t keep bugs and birds from er… making deposits. Wash them thoroughly before you commit them to the food dryer.

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.

puncturing grapes for the dehydratorYou can skip this step, but it’s not as time-consuming as it might seem. I puncture each grape in two places using the tip of a paring knife. Stabbing the fruits when you dry blueberries is almost imperative, and I’ve added the step to my grape preparations to promote more even and quicker drying.

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.

grapes on the food dryer drying trayAs I puncture the grapes I deposit them on my dehydrator trays. By the time I’m done, this tray will be quite full. It’s OK if the grapes touch each other, but don’t pack them in so tightly that they wouldn’t move if you tilted the trays.
raisins coming out of the dehydratorThese raisins emerged from my food dryer after about 36 hours of drying! A few raisins were still plumper and juicier than is ideal for long-term storage, but these went into a pie within a few hours of leaving the dehydrator. Monitor your drying grapes. If you leave them too long, they become very hard and even brittle; you might actually prefer commercial raisins over ones that dry too long at home.

 

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Tomato Skins in a Food Dryer

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: dry fruit, food dryer, food drying
saved tomato skins for the food dryerThe skins from a peck of tomatoes covered three trays in my American Harvest food dryer, but I overlapped pieces liberally.

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

powdered tomato skins from a food dryerThe skins from a half peck of tomatoes dried and pureed into powder only partially fill a small storage container. Will you use tomato powder as seasoning or as soup base?

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.

To make…

…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.

 

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Your Food Dryer and Beyond

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: dry fruit, dry vegetables, food dryer, food drying
My book, Yes, You Can!

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.

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Dried Fruit Giveaway

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: dry fruit, Uncategorized
Tomatoes ripe for the Food Dryer

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.

 

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Do You Have a Hidden Food Dryer?

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: dry fruit, food dehydrator, food dryer, food drying, solar dryer

The first fruit chips I made in my toaster oven/food dryer were sweet, chewy, and delicious. I’ve never been a great fan of raw bananas, but it would be easy to snack all day on banana chips.

For years, I’ve wanted to have a food dryer. Out of sloth, I suppose, I haven’t gotten one. But while contemplating what to plant in my small kitchen garden this spring, my urge to have a food dryer grew intense: I decided to try dehydrating food in my oven.

On my way to the kitchen, it dawned on me: my toaster oven has a temperature-control knob. I wondered if I could set the temperature low enough to dry food without cooking it. Low and behold, the temperature knob had a setting marked DEH. It was designed to be used as a dehydrator!

Banana and Strawberry Chips

I cut 3/8 inch lengthwise slices from several strawberries, and then cut a banana into disks of about the same thickness. I laid these out on aluminum foil, slipped the foil into the toaster oven, and set the oven on DEH. Then I went to bed.

When I awoke six hours later, the strawberry and banana slices were dry on top, but very sticky underneath. With some effort, I peeled them off the aluminum foil, flipped them, and returned them to the toaster oven. Two hours later, I snacked on strawberry and banana chips.

I was amused to learn that I far prefer dehydrated bananas over fresh. Mine hadn’t dried crispy, and the slightly gummy chewiness was a huge improvement in texture over that of a fresh, raw banana.

More into the Food Dryer

While snacking on my first batch of banana chips, I cut up two more bananas, this time setting the slices on waxed paper that I had spread with a light coating of olive oil. The heat of the toaster oven’s DEH setting didn’t seem enough to damage waxed paper. In fact, mid afternoon, I had no trouble peeling the banana chips off and flipping them—and they came off easily that evening.

My enthusiasm for drying food has never been greater. While I continue to experiment with my newly-discovered food dryer, I encourage you to check your own kitchen gear. Running a conventional oven to dry food isn’t energy-efficient, but it will work. Alternatively, a toaster oven with a temperature control feature may hold the temperature low-enough (anywhere from 95F degrees up to about 150F degrees will work, depending on what you’re drying) to dry food without cooking it.

Conventional and toaster ovens develop hot spots, so you’ll have better results with a convection oven. You might also consider building a solar-powered food dryer; links at the end of this post lead to plans that may help you get started. Of course, the most efficient food dryer is a machine specifically designed to dry food. You’ll find many highly-praised models in my Food Dryer Store, powered by Amazon.com.

 

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