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

 

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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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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.

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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

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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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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.

Making Chocolate Raisins

Posted By: Daniel Gasteiger  //  Category: food dehydrator

I love the dry humor of this video. It gives you some idea that dehydrating your own produce isn’t rocket science. Still, you can make it as complicated as you like. Takes you through the process of turning a charcoal grill into a food dryer. Please enjoy:

 

From grapes to chocolate raisins. Home built food dehydrator.

Duration : 0:9:58

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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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