How to Make Yogurt with a Food Dryer

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: food dehydrator

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
  • Whisk
  • Spoon
  • Ladle
  • 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.

 

Technorati Tags: ,

Alternative Uses for a Food Dryer

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

I came across an article that suggests how you might put a food dryer to use for tasks other than drying food. The terms of use for the article require that I not change a word in it. However, I want to point out that the author clearly has an agenda to get you thinking there’s something special about a particular brand of food dryer. Never mind that. The suggestions for how to use a food dryer are both creative and useful.

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.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Dry Chilies

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

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.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Solar Food Dehydration

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: food dehydrator

The embeded video shows an industrial-strength solar food dryer. If you’re mechanically inclined, there’s enough in it that you could design and build your own. Of course, you don’t have to go to such extremes to make a solar food dryer. A quick search of the internet can turn up plans for several smaller dryers. The video is only a minute long. Please enjoy it:

Solar Food Dehydration

 

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Basic Beef Jerky

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: food dehydrator, food dryer, food drying, jerky

Store-bought beef jerky comes in many varieties, and some are very tasty. However, jerky you make at home is likely to be far tastier than any you buy in a store. Today’s post includes a recipe for a simple jerky marinade with instructions for how to make beef jerky in your own food dryer.

Beef Jerky in a Food Dryer

Jerky is heavily-seasoned, dehydrated meat. Seasoning, salt, and sometimes other chemicals combine with dehydration to extend the meat’s shelf life and preserve its nutritional content. You can create a huge variety of seasoning combinations to create dozens of delicious jerky flavors, and making jerky is easy to do.

Historically, people dried meat over a fire or even by hanging it in direct sunlight. You can still do it that way if you wish, but using your oven is safer, and using a dedicated food dryer is even more efficient and less costly.

Considerations for Making Beef Jerky

Start with lean beef. Round steak and flank steak are good choices. Trim off all surface fat, and then put the meat in your freezer for an hour or longer until it becomes firm but not totally frozen.

While the meat cools, prepare the marinade (see box for a relatively standard recipe). You can also make sure your food dryer is clean and ready for use, but you won’t need it for another seven or more hours.

Beef Jerky Marinade for a Home Food Dryer

Use this recipe to marinade 2 pounds of thinly-sliced lean beef.

In a zipper-topped bag, mix 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Add a quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon of onion powder, ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of table salt, and a teaspoon of liquid smoke.

Squeeze the bag repeatedly to mix the ingredients well, then add the beef. Kneed the marinade through the beef and then force as much air as you can out of the bag as you zip it closed. Ideally, the bag will seem vacuum-sealed and will cling to the meat it contains.

Store the bag in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours before dehydrating the jerky.

Remove the meat from the feezer and slice it very thin—a sixteenth to an eighth of an inch thick—across the grain. If you encounter sections of fat and connective tissue inside the meat, remove them.

Add the sliced meat to the prepared marinade and refrigerate it for six to 12 hours.

Into the Food Dryer

Remove the beef strips from the marinade and let them drain a bit before laying them out on your food dryer’s trays. It’s OK if the strips touch each other, but don’t let them overlap.

If your dehydrator has a temperature knob, set it at 150 degrees Fahrenheit and let the jerky dry for six hours. It’s ready when it’s dark and leathery; if you bend a piece it should crack but not break. If your jerky isn’t dry enough, continue dehydrating it for two more hours and so on until it passes the bending test.

How to Store Beef Jerky

When the jerky is done, turn off the food dryer and let the jerky cool to room temperature. At that point, loosen the pieces of jerky from the dehydrator trays but leave them for another 4 to 6 hours. Then move the jerky to an air tight container and store it in the refrigerator where it will keep for two or three months.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Making Beef Jerky

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: food dehydrator, food dryer, jerky

While the embedded video in this post lacks some detail, it shows a simple, practical way to to make beef jerky using your oven a food dryer. If you have a dedicated dehydrator, skip the steps that show how to adapt your oven rack, and load up the trays of the dehydrator. Don’t overlap pieces of sliced meat on the trays; that could result in uneven drying.

If your dehydrator has a temperature setting knob, set it at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

The video is only 2 and half minutes long. Please enjoy it.

How to Make Beef Jerky

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Preserve and Store Herbs

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: dry vegetables, food dehydrator

Use a food dryer, or your freezer to preserve herbs. Whether you grow them in your garden, raise them in containers, or buy them fresh from the grocery store, your herbs will never go to waste if you dry them or freeze them for later use

An overgrown basil planter can provide ample clippings. If you don’t use all of them in-season, try dehydrating the extra in a food dryer.

Harvesting Herbs

Harvest herbs to preserve as you’d harvest them to use fresh in cooking. Various authorities differ on the “best” way to harvest—harvest before the plants flower, harvest while they’re flowering… I say, harvest to keep the plants from getting out of control.

More importantly: experiment. You might prefer mature herbs while someone else prefers younger ones. What’s more, it’s not reasonable to generalize for all herbs. Once sage blossoms, for example, its flavor changes distinctively. I haven’t noticed such a change in basil.

Generally, you should harvest stems with leaves attached. Depending on how out-of-control the plants are when you harvest, you may cut off whole branches, or you might cut branches back to where two or three sets of leaves remain. Many herb plants will send out new branches below a cut as long as there are leaves on the remaining sections; basil is a classic example. Other herbs, such as cilantro, have such a short lifespan that you might prefer to harvest much of the plant for its leaves and grow other plants if you want to harvest seeds. (I harvest only the broadest cilantro leaves and leave the remainder of each plant to go to seed.)

Drying Herbs

Rinse the herbs gently to remove soil and insects. Then remove as much water as you can from the herbs. I gather the edges of a clean dish towel to form a sack with the herbs inside and shake it gently for a minute or two.

Lay branches of herbs on the trays of your food dryer. It’s OK if the branches criss-cross on the trays; air will circulate around them adequately. Don’t, however, compress the herbs by pressing them down.

If your food dryer has a temperature control knob, set it at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The herbs may dry in as little as two or three hours, but don’t remove them from the dehydrator until the stems are brittle and snap when you bend them.

Storing Herbs

Supposedly, herbs will retain top flavor longest if you leave the leaves attached to the stems. I find this terribly inconvenient. Rather, I put the herbs in a blender—if the stems are particularly woody, I pluck and preserve only the dried leaves and discard the stems. If you’ve dried your herbs adequately, you don’t need a blender. Put them in a plastic bag and crumple it in your palm repeatedly.

I try to refill my spice jars during the growing season, and I also store ground dried herbs in zippered plastic bags. Ideally, store herbs in a cabinet or other location where they’ll receive limited or no light, and where the humidity remains low.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Make Mushroom Chips in your Food Dryer

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

I’m not a fan of mushrooms, but like them or not, this video provides a great look at a food dryer in action. All popular convection food dryers use systems of perforated drying trays – some are round as these are, others are rectangular. You can apply the methods shown in this video to many vegetables and fruits as well.

Dried Mushroom Chips

These are plain white mushroom chips made in a food dehydrator. They are great as a snack as is, or can be used in other recipes

Duration : 0:4:47

Read more…

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Make Jerky from Turkey

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: food dehydrator, food dryer, jerky

When you say jerky, people are likely to think beef. However, you can use your food dryer just as well to make jerky from turkey. Make these in your oven, or use a dedicated food dryer. Whichever you use, you’re bound to like the end-product:

Classic Jerky from your Food Dryer

Fat tends to retain water when you dehydrate it, and so can spoil a batch of jerky. When you make beef jerky, you remove as much fat as possible before marinating the meat. The task is much easier with turkey. When you trim off the skin, much of the fat goes with it. That leaves protein-rich meat that absorbs flavors well from the marinade and dries into a delicious, low-carb snack.

Ingredients:

1 lb turkey breast

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. liquid smoke

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp onion salt.

Procedure

Debone the turkey breast, remove the skin, and cut away any clumps of fat that remain. Slice the turkey breast thin—1/16 to 1/8 inch thick, then combine the slices with the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Make sure the marinade covers the turkey completely, and refrigerate it for at least 12 hours, but no more than 24.

Move the turkey strips to drying racks and dehydrate them until they’re leathery. If your food dryer has a temperature knob, set it at 160 degrees and expect to wait 12 or more hours for the meat to dry.

Technorati Tags: ,

How to use a food dehydrator?

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: food dehydrator, food dryer

It seems food dryers seduce a lot of people to buy, but then lose favor and end up in closets or, better for the rest of us, in yard sales. Thank goodness for the Internet. So often it seems people pick up inexpensive second-hand food dehydrators and then turn to the Internet for information on how to use them.

Among the questions people ask:

  • There are adjustable vents on my food dehydrator. How do I use them?
  • How long does it take to dry fruit?
  • There’s a temperature knob on my food dryer. What temperature should I use?

Food Dryer Vents

Make sure the vents are open. It probably doesn’t matter which setting as long as air can move through the food dryer. Perhaps closing the vents down a bit for light-weight items such as herbs, flowers, and seeds will slow airflow and keep things from moving around too much.

How Quickly Fruit Dehydrates

“Fruit” is a very broad term. Fruits with thick, undamaged skins (grapes, for example) can take 24 hours or longer to dehydrate while thinly-sliced fruits such as strawberries, bananas, and peaches can dry in six to ten hours.

Set the Thermostat on Your Food Dryer

If your food dryer has a temperature knob, set it as follows:

  • Fruits and vegetables – 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Herbs – 90 to 100 degrees
  • Meats – 150 to 160 degrees

It’s important to blanch vegetables and herbs before you dehydrate them to provide the greatest possible shelf life.

Properly dried fruit is leathery. Tear a piece and examine the edges. If moisture beads along the tear, continue with the drying. Dried vegetables should be brittle or crunchy. Dehydrated meat should feel dry, but it shouldn’t be crisp.

Food dryers come in a variety of designs. If you’ve purchased a second hand machine, search online for the manufacture’s manual. Most manuals have instructions specific to both the food dryer and whatever you might wish to dehydrate in it.