Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dehydrating Fruits & Vegetables

Have you ever noticed how in America we don't eat seasonally.  By this I mean that we can buy all our fruits and vegetables anytime of the year.  Of course we know they don't grow here, but it appears we don't really care.  We just take it for granted that each time we pop into the store, grapes will be in the bin.  I'm sure you have noticed how the price fluctuates depending on the time of year you are trying to purchase an item.  When the item is in season the price goes down, when it's out of season the price goes up.  It doesn't take a financial genius to figure out that it's in your budgets best interest to buy an item when it's in season.  Like most of you I like cantaloupe in the winter, apples in the spring, and that daily glass of orange juice!  I just don't like paying the premium price for it.

I always ask my self "what did people do fifty years ago?"  Wal-mart was not right around the corner and some how they made it.  Well in this case they were forced to buy seasonally.  Food was not shipped all across the globe just so someone could make a strawberry shortcake in December.  Another thing most women did was preserve the fresh fruits & veg from the summer harvest so they would have access to them in the off months.  There are several ways to store fresh foods. You can freeze, can, or dehydrate just to name a few.  Today I want to focus on dehydrating.

Man or in this case woman has been dehydrating food for centuries.  It's one of the easiest methods of food preservation.  Here are some of the benefits.
  • Saves money allowing you to buy in season but enjoy a variety year round
  • If your pantry it tight on space this is a great way to store a ton of food
  • It preserves fresh fruit and vegetables up to a year
  • Its a healthy snack
  • Dehydrating retains the highest levels of vitamins and nutrients of any food storage method
To get started all you need is a dehydrator.  In the old days people used the sun, they would place a wooden box with a top on it and holes or slots for air to pass through to dry all the moisture out of the food.  Of course today, we have electric ones.  Dehydrators are like anything else, they can be inexpensive or they can be very expensive.  I would suggest if you are like me and like to try everything but don't stick with it forever then go the inexpensive route first.  You can always sell or trade yours for a upgrade if you find this method of preserving works for your family.  I purchased one from and had it shipped to the store so I didn't have to pay shipping.  It was under fifty dollars and at this point even Racey thinks it was a good purchase.  Now I will admit, I've been trying very hard to move from a life of constant consuming to a simple, less is more way of living.  But on this issue I'm still whining because I can't afford or talk Racey into the deluxe, top of the line, Mercedes Benz of dehydrators.  I feel like a kid, stomping my feet, crossing my arms and just plain old whining!  Anyways.... Back to the lovely one I do have and all the wonderful things it has dehydrated.
This is a bunch of Green onions or scallions. I rinsed in cool water, patted dry, and took a standard pair of scissors and cut from the top down to the bulb.  Once cut, I dried in the dehydrator for a few hours.

This is the finished product.  Now when a recipe calls for Scallions or I want to garnish a bowl of soup or baked potato I'm ready!

A few of the things I have dehydrated are strawberries, these go great in cold cereal.  I use an egg slicer to speed the cutting process up a little.  Let the berries sit in the milk for a minute or two and they taste wonderful.  Also Granny Smith Apples.  I peal, core, and slice the apples, then cut into small cubes.  These go great in oatmeal for a apple cinnamon style or the can be used to make muffins or a quick bread for a dessert.  I've also done a ton of onions.  I discovered by accident that if I used powder beef broth, dehydrated onions, garlic powder, salt, and pepper I had homemade onion soup mix and no MSG.  I could go on forever and really the possibilities are endless.

Here are a few of the things I have dehydrated.  In the little green jar on the left I have 3 bunches of celery in there.  Not 3 stalks, 3 bunches!  As for the tall yellow jar behind it is an entire pineapple.
One things to note about dehydrating and storing in a glass jar is it can be open and closed as many times as needed.  We did not "can" the food we just used "canning" jars to store it in.  Also, if you are doing something that has a strong smell like onions, put the dehydrator in the garage or outside so your entire house doesn't smell like onions. (Learned this one the hard way too!)

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