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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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