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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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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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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Dry Vegetables

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

Dehydrate vegetables in a food dryer so you can store them to use during the winter.

Drying is undoubtedly the oldest food preservation method in use today. Consider that nature preserves fruits, vegetables, and grasses by drying. If you bother to watch, you can spot birds eating dried berries and deer foraging for dried grasses in the dead of winter.

There are advantages to dehydrating vegetables over other preservation methods. For example, dehydrated vegetables tend to shrink—some to one-fifth their original sizes. As well, vegetables lose weight as they dry so they’re easy to pack and store. Finally, dried vegetables can retain their nutritional value for twenty years or longer if you vacuum seal them and store them out of the light.

Prepare Veggies for the Food Dryer

Use produce that is dead ripe and fresh from the garden. Vegetables can lose 50% of some nutrients in the first 24 hours after harvest.

Blanching for your Food Dryer

Begin by filling a large stockpot with water and bringing it to a hard boil. Prepare a similarly large container (another stockpot or a washbasin) by filling it with cold water and floating ice in it.

Work in small batches—perhaps a quart of cut-up vegetables at a time—and plunge the vegetables into the boiling water. I like to put the veggies in a strainer and lower the strainer into the water so the veggies cook but can’t escape the strainer.

Cook the vegetables for half the time you would if your were about to serve them. For many vegetables, you’ll blanch for about three minutes, but it’s best to follow USDA guidelines you’ll find here: USDA Blanching Guidelines. Note that the USDA recommends you should fully-cook beets, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and winter squash rather than partially-cooking them as you do other vegetables.

Wash, pare, and cut up vegetables into the shapes that you’ll want them to have when you prepare them for a meal. Then blanch them.

Blanch? Blanching is the process of heating a vegetable to destroy enzymes. Those enzymes naturally break down the food, and they’ll continue to work even after you dry the food. Proper blanching significantly increases the storage life of the dried produce. The box titled, Blanching for your Food Dryer summarizes the procedure.

Dry the blanched vegetables. I wrap mine in a clean dish towel and gently shake it around to remove as much residual water as possible.

Dehydrate your Vegetables

Load your dehydrator’s trays only one layer deep with the prepared vegetable pieces. It’s OK if the veggies touch their neighbors, but don’t let them overlap.

If your food dryer has a temperature control knob, set it to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Dehydrate the vegetables until they are completely dry. Stems and leaves should be brittle and break cleanly while chunks (cut up carrots, potatoes, and other root vegetables) should be hard like blocks of wood.

It will take at least four hours to dry vegetables, but in most cases you’ll wait 8, 12, or more hours. When the vegetables are dry, turn off the food dryer and let them cool to room temperature before you package them. Use airtight containers. Better still, vacuum pack the vegetables. Then, store them away from light at room temperature.

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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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