Friday, May 6, 2011

Dehydrating Lesson Learned 1

Today's lesson is: Don't put the small stuff on top of the large stuff and get some screens. I dried diced carrots on top of cabbage. Oops. Don't do that. The carrots fall through the tray as they decrease in size. Believe me, it's no fun picking a half package of carrots out of a head of cabbage!

The last time I dried foods it was apples and fruit leathers when Josh was a kid. The problem with both was that they barely lasted past getting them off the dehydrator! With the apples, it was worse as the peeled and sliced apples barely made it to the dehydrator. He and his buddies, Melissa and Vanessa, just hung around waiting for the servant, me, to feed them peeled, seeded and sliced fruit.

I swear those 3 went through 2 fresh apples, each, every time I dehydrated apples. Then they went through the same amount the next day when I took the apples out of the dehydrator. I barely had the energy to get apples stored up at all.

It's been absolutely ages since I've a dehydrated anything, but I found some things I wanted to try. Since my original dehydrator is in storage, I got myself a Nesco Snackmaster and have been having a go at it. I think I got the Snackmaster. I'm not sure, though. The price was right, but after I got it home, I realized neither the box nor the dehydrator have the word "Snackmaster" on it.

Nonetheless, I'm very happy with it. It has different temperatures that range from 95° to 160°F. It came with four trays and the ability to hold 12; the other 8 have to be purchased separately. This model dries from the top down as opposed to my other one in storage which dries from the bottom up. The advantages of this that I've seen so far are that:

  • The bottom can actually be submersed and washed. 
  • The weight of the lid with the dryer in it seems to help hold the trays together and not losing air.
Now you may ask, "What's got you all hot and bothered to dehydrate?" I went on a little web surfing binge into preserving food because the recent tornadoes and flooding have me thinking a bit that a supply of food on hand wouldn't be a bad thing. 

Are you aware that if there was a natural disaster in your area that closed off roads, say due to an ice storm, flooding, a bridge gone out or downed trees, that the local grocery stores only have enough food to last three, yes, 3, days as of May 5, 2011?
When the ice storm hit here in west Kentucky a few years ago, it seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back on my parents' independence. The electricity went out leaving them without heat or light for weeks. The National Guard made it in and left MRE's, a few of which are still hanging around, BTW.  A neighbor made sure they had a kerosene heater. However, that event showed all of us just how bad off my parents had become. They couldn't even think enough to cook on their barbecue grill.

Now at that time my parents had plenty of food in their pantry. Since I've moved in, however, that's changed. I realized they hadn't a clue as to what was in their pantry. I went through it and got rid of everything that was over 5 years old. I realize now that I could have kept some of it, but somehow some of those cans of food marked "Best by 2005" just weren't appealing - not to mention the ones from 2001.

After doing that, their pantry was down to what most people keep on hand. However, having always been on the side of preparedness to a small degree, I'm worrying that if another storm hits or something else happens, there won't be enough food for two weeks, except for beans and macaroni. That can get old in a short time.

Max and I are in an apartment which leaves us little space for a pantry. I wanted to find a way to keep more food in a smaller space.  Canning is great, but the jars take up a lot of space. Dehydrating seemed an ideal solution. I found a channel on that's got me interested in exploring to see if I like the end product of dehydrated food. This lady's channel, imstillworking,  is sooo interesting.  The first thing I'm going to try is her method of making Chow Mein.


I've got the carrots and cabbage dried. Later today I'll take onions and celery out of the dehydrator. Then I'm going to try this recipe and see if we like the end product.  Even if it barely passes, it may be worth it for the space and conditions under which it would be used.

Here you can see the results of my drying/dehydrating. Going clockwise from the left there is a jar that has the precious leaves and tips of the celery. I use that for soups. Next is a jar of 2 onions. Following that is jar containing 9 potatoes in a large dice chopped with the Vidalia Chop Wizard (VCW), which I've shown below. Following the onions is a jar containing one (1) head of cabbage chopped in a rough/large chop. After the cabbage is a jar of carrots containing 2 lbs. of carrots chopped into a small dice by the VCW. The last jar is one bunch of celery sliced into pieces about 1/4". 

This is a picture of the Vidalia Chop Wizard, with which I've fallen in love.  If it actually lasts a while, it's a wonder.  If I have to replace it on a somewhat regular basis, I can live with that, as long as it isn't every 3 months. The cost was $19.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond. It didn't break the bank. If it lasts for a few a years, it's paid for itself.

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