Food Dehydrators: Preserving the bounty.

Open Country Food DehydratorDuring the last growing season, we quickly realized that we needed to learn about all the ways to preserve the wonderful vegetables we were pulling out of the garden and reduce the amount of waste we were incurring.  Besides traditional canning, our first adventure in food preservation was using a food dehydrator.  We quickly fell in love!  There are many reasons why this machine is now one of our favorites and some of those reasons include: super easy to use, allowed us to reduce the amount of waste in the garden, we created delicious snacks, we can enjoy tomatoes in the winter…and I could go on and on but you get the idea.

To use, you simply wash, cut and place the food item in a single layer on the trays.  Our dehydrators have 4 trays each but you can add additional trays to increase the surface area and amount you can dry at one time.  The drying time usually falls between 10 to 14 hours so the more you can pack in at once the better.  Once you have the trays full all you need to do is set the time and temperature (there will likely be a guide with the dehydrator that gives tips on time/temps).  Push start and in a few hours  you will have a delicious, nutritious, product that can be stored and enjoyed for a much longer period of time.  If you are a culinary genius…you can take the time to spice up your produce to add even more flavor.

One the produce is completely dry we store it in Ziplock bags in the freezer for later use.  We have used tomatoes, peppers, squash and zucchini so far this winter as a quick snack on hiking trails, reconstituted in soup and tossed in with salads.  My husband is a hot pepper fanatic and loves to grind up dehydrated hot peppers to make his own pepper spices.  We also love to visit our local apple orchard in the fall and make apple chips.  One additional idea, bananas are often inexpensive and you can easily cut them up, add a little cinnamon, dry and enjoy.  These are great snacks you can make at home and they will be free of all the preservatives and additives that you will find in store-bought dried goods. The possibilities are endless with what you can make.  Get creative!

*Note: Dehydrators can be a bit pricey.  There are additional methods you can use to dehydrate food, including the oven and the sun when it’s shining.  We chose this method due to the efficiency, ease of use, and the volume of produce we had to preserve.   There are dehydrators of all shapes, sizes and prices.  Find the one that best fits your needs and you won’t be disappointed.

Dried Tomatoes

Preserving the harvest

Preserving the harvest

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