Food dehydration on a rainy weekend
Drying out on a rainy weekend
I tried out the food dehydrator I bought a few months back at a yard sale—a nearly new one for only $15. New dehydrators range in price from about $40 to upward of $200, depending on such things as capacity, and whether they have a fan and an adjustable thermostat. Mine has no fan or thermostat, so I was curious to find out what it was capable of.
I read the introduction to my new book on dehydrating food—The Dehydrator Bible (by Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt & Don Mercer; available at Lyon Books)—before attempting any actual drying of food. I didn’t want to risk turning perfectly edible fare into rock-hard, unrecognizable chunks that I couldn’t even pass off to my dog as a treat.
The Dehydrator Bible is a useful tool for those wishing to learn to preserve the bounty of their garden, farmers’ market or generosity of neighbors and friends who have extra fruits and veggies lying around.
Food dehydration has been around for a very long time, the authors point out, “[l]ong before there was a refrigerator (or two) in every home, a deep-freezer in the basement and supermarkets full of pretty much anything in a box, package or jar.” Ancient civilizations learned that sun-dried foods were edible and storable. When fire came along, drying and smoking became a way to preserve meats and other foods.
One of the benefits of drying your own foods is that “when you’re cooking with food you dried yourself, you know exactly where it came from and what’s in it.”
The Dehydrator Bible offers information on drying pretty much anything, from herbs to fruits to vegetables to tofu. It gives instructions for making fruit and vegetable “leathers” and jerky. The book also has a lengthy recipe section for cooking with the foods you have dried (not all dehydrated foods are pop-in-your-mouth items; some, such as dried cooked pasta, dried potato and green-pea leather, are best mixed into cooked dishes).
My experiment involved drying slices of oranges from my tree and grapefruits from a friend’s tree—what I had on hand. I soaked the citrus slices in sugary water (recommended: organic cane sugar) before placing them in the four drawers of my dehydrator for approximately 18 hours. I rotated the drawers every couple of hours (except overnight) so that each one got its turn at the bottom of the dryer, where the heating element is.
Result: Several jars full of pretty, dried citrus slices that I have already used to make tea (pour boiling water over a couple of them for a delicate, refreshing brew).
Interesting upcoming events
Chico Sky Watch, a “chemtrail, aerosol spraying and geo-engineering awareness and activist group,” is presenting the documentary film What in the World Are They Spraying? at 2 p.m., April 2, at the Pageant Theatre. For more info, call 345-4346.
On the Butte College Diversity Days calendar: Phoenix autism educator Susan Golubock will be speaking at 9:30 a.m., April 6, in the ARTS Theater and at 2 p.m in the Center for Excellence on issues pertinent to the integration of autistic students into the college classroom and beyond. Call 895-2564 for more info.