What do you use your dehydrator for?
My wife is keen to get a dehydator for herbs. I was wondering if anyone else had one of these, and what you use it for. I like the idea of having fresh herbs all year round, but not quite sure that justifies $60 and some counter space. Any thoughts?
I use mine anytime I have more of something fresh than I can use.
Lately I've been drying figs and cherry tomatoes. I can seldom use an entire head(?) of celery, so I always dice half of it and dehydrate. It gives a nice intense celery flavor to soups and stews.
I found it very useful when I was a member of a CSA - there was just way more food than we could go through in a week.
Much of the year my dehydrator is stored away, But during the summer it stays out and in use quite a bit.
I used to have a friend who used hers to make fruit leathers for her kids lunchboxes. She also had a beef jerky recipe which called for ground beef. So many of her husbands co-workers wanted it that she ended up with a modest little side business making it for them! (I don't think I ever got that recipe from her.)
Food dehydrator is on my wishlist. I am in Israel right now and they are so expensive here. $60 is cheap in comparison. I think they start around $150 or so and probably not even great ones. A friend of makes her own vegetable bouillon soup powder and it is like magic soup powder. Most of those soup powders have MSG, oils, sugars, and lots of other unhealthy things but things that make it taste good so I was very skeptical. Her soup powder is just as good and even better. She dehydrates a huge variety of vegetables and then pulses it in the food processor. She uses some vegetables that I would not even think of putting in a soup powder but somehow it just really tastes amazing.
I'm with Meatn3 in that mine is stored most of the year but has been working hard this summer. (Will try to remember your suggestion about the celery!) To go along with it I bought a FoodSaver at a good discount and love it so far.
Dried tomatoes--either completely dry for cupboard storage or akin to sun-dried tomatoes from the store which will keep a little while in the refrigerator or for a long while frozen. Used some in place of store-bought this past weekend and the flavor was great! Works for cherry or sliced regular tomatoes. Dried 4 ears of sweet corn and now it's in a pint jar waiting for corn chowder this winter. Dried hot peppers or sweet peppers. They won't have the same consistency as fresh when you rehydrate them but I'm thinking they will be fabulous in soup , chili and the like. And around here you can buy a half-bushel for 60 cents a pound--much cheaper than the grocery store and they are local and organic!
Sliced mushroms, (Costco...grrrrrrr)
Herbs, (mostly cilantro, parsley and bay leaves)
In addition to tomatoes, herbs and veggies for soups, its great for kale chips and beef jerky.
This is the jerky recipe I use:
1/4 cup soy sauce
2T worcestershire sauce
2T liquid smoke
2-3T brown sugar
1-2t. ground black pepper (or more!)
1t unseasoned meat tenderizer
1t garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1t onion powder
mix together and pour over meat, marinade at least 8 hours (overnight works great.)
The time in the dehydrator depends on how thick you cut the meat. I start checking it at 5 hours and pull the pieces out as they are ready but your dehydrator might be hotter/ cooler so keep an eye on it until you get the times you like down.
Honestly, I don't know how much meat. If whatever I've bought doesn't look like it has enough marinade I make more marinade. I've used any big hunk of meat that's on sale from london broil to roasts. I marinate at least overnight so I've never had any cut of meat not be tender.
I slice it with a meat slicer but if you don't have one, you can partially freeze it and slice- carefully- with a large serrated knife. Thickness is a preference thing keeping in mind it gets thinner as it dehydrates and thicker slices take longer to dehydrate. Slice with the grain so it doesn't fall apart.
I make homemade yogurt in mine. Works perfectly for holding that low temperature for hours on end.
I am currently using an Excalibur (it is my friends but I use it as much as he does) to dehydrate watermelon-it takes 18-40 hours depending on the pieces. It comes out like candy!! Earlier I dried strawberries and blended them into powder for strawberry shakes or for cereal topping- drying mint, herbs the usuals too- it does tend to get used most when the garden bounty comes in and I don't want to heat up the kitchen canning and my freezer is already full of corn etc... If you are thinking of buying a more expensive model I would suggest paying the extra for the model with the timer. Dehydrating things is nice because a watermelon shrunk down to a ziplock bag (small) and does not take up pantry space like canned goods and dried foods are not subject to power failures like frozen foods so in addition to being tasty it can be good for camping and emergency needs.
oh I'm stalking this thread, I got rid of old crappy dehydrator but am itching for an excuse to replace it with an Excalibur. I haven't made jerky in years, but my hubby loves it.
Hi Westy - In hindsight, I should have ordered a nicer model, instead of buying the cheap version locally. My dehydrator doesn't have a fan. It would be so much better with a fan, and I'd use it more. Something to think about.
That said, one of my favorite things has been dehydrating mandarin orange slices (when they're cheap and in season). Good organic whole slices grind up into a really nice flavor pop. I've used the powder in everything from cookies to a rub on a whole chicken.
I toss apple wedges in drink mix crystals and then dehydrate.
Once they are spongy dry enough for me I seal them in Food saver bags.
My cheapo Nesco makes a lot of ground beef jerky. I never even cared for the sliced meat jerky because chewing that fatty connective tissue stuff always turns me off.
But ground beef jerky--now that's a whole nuther animal!
I just mix extra lean ground beef with salt, onion powder, chili and a little cayenne and roll it thin between layers of parchment paper. Dehyrate until it is sturdy enough to be cut into smaller strips and finish dehydrating.
I use extra lean ground beef only because all the extra fat is going to melt out of it anyway.
I don't have a recipe. I just go by taste. Yes I like raw ground beef.
And for jerky, it can take more cayenne than I would put in any other ground beef dish.