I think I'm a dehydrator moron
My brand new NESCO dehydrator came with very little in the way of directions. I had good luck with dehydrating some tomatoes. A really terrible batch of dried blueberries. Today I'm trying fruit leather, and I think it's looking pretty gross so far. Can you tell me what i did wrong? I sliced up some apples. Cooked them a little bit to soften them. Ran them through my food mill. Added a little bit of cinnamon and honey, and put them in the machine. But honestly? It's looking like dried up applesauce (which is essentially what it is.) How do you get that more opaque looking fruit leather? Should I have used juice? Not the apples itself?
And do you have any reliable tips for a dehydrator-newbie? I could sure use some pointers. Sigh.
You're about to have so much fun!
I do jars and jars of dried tomatoes and pack them in oil.
Try a mix of exotic mushrooms.
And jerky (beef ... I've never had any luck with turkey.)
Oh, and sweet red peppers and garlic, mixed together and powdered. Great on pretty much everything. Or garlic and shallots mixed together.
I've had good luck with cranberries and cherries.
Remember that a lot of commercial dried foods are treated to keep them bright colored and "appealing". The stuff you dry yourself will look a little different. Go by taste, not looks.
Also, one of the tricky parts is getting stuff dry and leathery, but not crunchy. (The problem I've had with turkey jerky.) The exact timing will vary with the batch of food, humidity, load size. You have to be flexible and check on each batch as it dries.
But, yes! Fun!
You crack me up! "It looks like dried up applesauce (which is essentially what it is)" :)
So, I love my dehydrator, though I don't break it out very often. Fruit leather is very popular with my kids so I like to do a batch whenever I have the dehydrator out. I often use leftover applesauce, but (here's the key) almost never by itself...don't love the flavor. Through in some blueberries (hey, rehydrate some of those awful dried blueberries, puree them with the applesauce, and dry that). Peach and apricot are fabulous, even mixed half and half with applesauce or pear sauce. Add some lemon juice if you don't want it to darken up. Watch the thickness of the puree...in my experience, you want it thin enough to easily spread out with a rubber spatula but not so thin it runs all over. I put it in, oh, maybe an 1/8" layer? Shake the trays to even out the depth.
I tend to mix up some fruit leather and then look at what else I have around the house that needs to be used or lost...half an apple, some apricots, whatever, and then add them to a tray and dry it all at once.
And yeah, google for more specific instructions. I also like the "dry it, you'll like it book" for some good ideas. You can dry herbs, jerky (yum!)...lots of possibilites.