My husband gave me a top of the line Excalibur dehydrator for my birthday. I've done a diligent online search and collected quite a few recipes from the basics of fruit, veg, and meat/jerky to bread proofing and yogurt making to some very interesting just-add-water things from backpacking sites. Now I'd love to hear from Chowhounders about their favorite dehydrator techniques, recipes, books, and sites.
If you like tofu, you can try tofu jerky. Press for 30 minutes, then slice and marinate for an hour. Marinade can be soy sauce, Worcestershire, brown sugar, sugar, onion powder, etc. or any combination. Then dry at 155 until dry. http://www.dehydratorbook.com/tofu-je... for photos.
Did your Excalibur come with the Preserve It Naturally book? If not, it's pretty good and complete. The Dehydrator Cookbook is good too, but PIN is written for Excalibur owners.
It's still in transit. Last tracking check has it in Utah and I'm in VA. My B-day was the 16th so what I received was a print out with a picture, description and specs. Enough to send me off on a recipe hunt/gather mission until it arrives! I've already pored over the DehydratorBook site.
We're not tofu fans but we do have quite a bit of deer and caribou venison in the freezer so jerky is a natural.
I'm off to Amazon to check out the books you recommend. Thanks!
I absolutely love it! It is most definitely a workhorse. Joel, over at Well Preserved ( http://wellpreserved.ca/ ) has the same model and I was watching closely as he put his through rigorous use earlier this fall to see how it held up. He had it running 24/7 for over a week and it came through with flying colors.
I haven't used mine that hard yet but I have been drying a lot throughout the summer and fall, all veg and fruit, no meat yet. I've found it extremely useful for turning pulp left over in the jelly bag into fruit leather snacks. I've always hated dumping the pulp, now I feel satisfied that it's not going to waste. I also saved a gallon of applesauce that I didn't have time to can. Spiced small amounts of it different ways, spread it out on the racks.
Another rousing success (inspired by Joel) was marinating plum tomatoes overnight in maple syrup and cider vinegar and then drying them. Those are so good that I'm afraid we're going to snack them all up before I actually cook something with them! I also thinly sliced kohlrabi, sprinkled with season salt and dried those into a chip-like snack. They were good but they don't keep well and must be eaten immediately. They seem to rehydrate quickly from the moisture in the air although a quick trip in the oven crisped them back up. Kale and swiss chard leaves tossed with salt and pepper are very good as well. I also did several different veg and some citrus rind until they were brittle dry and ground them into powders. Those have been fun to experiment with as seasonings. I have several bags of "soup" and "sauces" (bags of combined vegetables and/or powders) that need only the addition of water or stock to bring them back to life.
I did pear, peach, and nectarine halves instead of slices and dried them until they weren't sticky but still flexible. Those are the dried fruits I remember from kidhood- chewy and concentrated sweet, not tough and bitter like most of the store bought stuff. I'm looking forward to doing glaceed and crystallized fruits with them for the holidays. Dried strawberries were a revelation, cherries were awesome and so much cheaper than buying dried cherries. I even did Currant tomatoes and those are very cool. They look like raisins but as you chew you get a burst of sweet tomato flavor at the end. My granola combinations have definitely benefited from the range of fruits I now have at hand!
I did some herbs but wasn't as pleased with that. Mostly because I prefer other ways of preserving herbs. But what I learned is that the fan tends to blow them all over the place inside. So what I did with the next batch was to lay the herbs out on the screen and then take the screen from another rack and lay it over them to hold the leaves in place. It worked well especially with the giant Bergarten sage leaves. They dried nice and flat and will make a great garnish for the winter.
The Excalibur is easy to use but it does take up a large footprint. I use it often enough (it's running right now with a load of apples) that it's worth sacrificing other lesser used appliances for counter space. If I find usage slows down, I'll stow it. It does put off a fair amount of warm air. You want to put it in a place with room around it for circulation. If you have a small kitchen, it could maybe make the space uncomfortable, especially if your baking, canning, or cooking, but there's no reason it has to be run in the kitchen. It could be put in a protected place like a garage or a porch (or a too cool bedroom) and run. My kitchen is open and is part of the "great room" so I actually appreciate the extra heat as the weather gets colder!
The model I have *is* an investment. It was kinda pricey. But I think it was definitely worth it. I just asked for a dehydrator for my b-day but my husband (a mechanical engineer) is into due diligence about anything we buy of this nature and his research said that this was definitely the model to have for reliability, performance and longevity. My subjective view is I'm very pleased with it.
Thanks so much for all the information. I was talking with a woman this weekend (we were at a workshop learning how to make cheese) and she was talking about the dried sour cherries she made this summer and my mouth started to water!! Do you mind if I ask what model you have? I need to do some research so that I get this for christmas in preperation for next summers harvest! thanks agin!
I love my Excalibur. I make primarily kale chips, which I vary depending on my mood, but liked most of all tossing the kale in tahini with garlic, red Thai curry paste, tamarind paste and fish sauce.
Dried kiwis and persimmons are beautiful and great for snacking, especially when mixed with other non-browning fruits and nuts.
Fruit leathers -- where to start? And veggie crackers -- take steamed cauliflower and potatoes, add scallions, puree then dry, and cut into "crackers." These are the best dippers on the planet.
Well, forgive me for being late to the party but --
Please do try homemade raisins! I have never enjoyed commercial raisins, but those that come out of my Excalibur are fabulous. Slice grapes in half and place cut-side up, 8 hours+ depending on how many pounds you are drying. Red and black tend to be sweetest.
Raw cauliflower "popcorn" with nutritional yeast is a fave of my husband.
Sweet potato chips -- slice on mandoline, excruciatingly thin, mix with pepper and salt and olive oil, dehydrate until crispy. Eat quickly.
Oh, and one nephew demands his "Apple-Os" -- thin sliced apple rings, dipped in juice/water solution, dried crisp. Cinnamon sprinkled on top before drying if you're feeling fancy.
As for books/recipes, anything by Mary Bell.
I love my big monster. Also great for yogurt. :)
I'm still discovering what the dehydrator can do but it was in near daily use from strawberry season until apple season and I still am firing it up weekly. I haven't done raisins yet but did grape fruit leather with the pulp left over from making grape juice. Did sweet potato chips and kohlrabi chips. Made tomato "raisins" from the tiny currant tomatoes we grew. Lots of dried apples. Practically every veg and fruit that came through here over the growing season had a portion dried in some manner.
Will definitely try cauliflower popcorn. Do you use the dehydrator for making yogurt or drying it? I've come across instructions for drying yogurt like leather. I'm going to experiment this winter with making vegetable powders for seasoning inspired by Joel over at the Well Preserved blog and dry soups/meals in jars. I received a Christmas book allowance as a gift so I'll look up the Mary Bell books. If "Food Drying with Attitude" is one of hers, it's on the list.
As hard as I've used my Excalibur since I got it I would highly recommend the investment over less expensive models. Joel ran his (same model) 24/7 for several weeks back in the fall doing a huge drying project for a dinner for something like 800 people and it came through with flying colors!
I make the yogurt in the dehydrator. I did try various fruit leathers but only one I really liked was banana (just not a huge fan of leathers). I mixed yogurt into some of those to try for a creamy taste/texture but didn't personally find it worthwhile. Did look very pretty and taste was pleasant enough though.
Yogurt making info (this lady has one neat website, and she also has an Excalibur):
I tried everything I could at first. Worst was cooked, crumbled potatoes -- didn't get them dry enough and they molded, yich. Dehydrated garlic was great but the house apparently smelled, uh, whiffy (I was in heaven LOL).
Recently tried very thin cucumber chips with just a sprinkle of salt. Tasty, light, but get soft again quickly.
I'm going to try the plum tomatoes as you described with maple and cider vinegar. Yum!
The maple vinegar tomatoes are just too damn good! I still have a few left and I'm going to rehydrate them for pizza topping.
I did peach leather first because I had made lots of sauce and wanted to see how leathers worked. I figured I'd test them out on the neighborhood kids. They were such a big hit that I started making leather out of any fruit pulp I had left over from other projects. Made me feel righteous cutting down on waste and popular with the kids. That's mostly where the leathers go.
Yep, veggie chips no matter what kind, need to be consumed upon making it seems. I have recrisped them with a few minutes in the oven but they aren't the same and it kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it.
Oneo the best things I make in my dehydrator is ridiculously easy and gets such high raves it's embarrassing.
I dump a layer of cheap applesauce on my plastic sheet that came with my dehydrator (wish I had more of those), then I sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and cinnamon. Then I cut it into quarters, roll up in plastic wrap and take for camping breakfasts. People rave over it, but as you can see, it's sinfully easy.
My aunt who had a big garden and a big family used to do a lot of dehydrating. She gave us her dehydrator and it's been sitting in our basement unused.
So it's an old dehydrator. Would it be workable and usable do you think> I know you all have great new ones.
And what should I expect from it. We had been thinking of drying herbs during the summer but it sounds like it's not that good for herbs?
And those maple tomatos sound fantastic!
Break it out and give it a good cleaning inside and out. Don't want dust particles blowing into your food! check the cord and connection to make sure it's in good shape, then plug it in (empty) and see how it runs. Is the manual still with it?
I didn't dry any herbs in mine because I prefer to process them into sort of a pesto and freeze. But I was reading in the Harold McGee book just last night that it may be preferable to dry herbs in the microwave. The reason being that the water in the herbs comes to a boil and evaporates faster than the oils and thus less loss of flavor. Haven't tried it myself.