There are many advantages that come with owning a food dehydrator. Dehydrated food comes in handy on many occasions for the do-it-yourself cook. For those who have avoided preserving food because canning is long, tedious, and messy, they’ll find that preserving food with a dehydrator is simple.
To make beef jerky, purchase ground beef that is between 85-90% fat free (the extra fat is necessary for making jerky), mix it with spices, and use a tool (at Amazon.com it is called the Metalware Open Country Beef Jerky Works Kit) to spread the meat mixture on the racks. The spice packages are sold at sports stores, specifically stores that sell hunting supplies. Set the temperature to the “meat” setting on the controls, unless your manual tells you otherwise, and let it dehydrate all night. In the morning, the beef jerky is ready. The jerky is much better than the jerky from the store. Once the jerky cools, place it in an airtight container or plastic bag.
Kids love to eat fruit leather. There are many recipes available online and in the dehydrator’s instruction manual. The main ingredients required for this recipe are ripe fruit, lemon juice to prevent browning, sugar, and spices like cinnamon. Check the handbook or instructions that come with the dehydrator for the proper temperature and time. Fruit leather tends to appear soft until it is removed from the dehydrator and cools, so it is important to check the instructions for the time and the how thick to place the mixture on the rack. Many dehydrators have a special plastic fruit leather sheet so that the fruit puree is contained while it dries. Also, consider the humidity in the air. The more humid, the longer it takes.
Another option is drying sliced fruit. If you have an apple peeler corer slicer (this just one tool that does all three jobs), it will come in handy because it will ensure that the apples are sliced to the same thickness. The apple peeler corer slicer cuts the apples to look like springs. Then, cut the apple springs in quarters and place the apples into lemon juice for a few seconds. If desired, add cinnamon and/or sugar, too. Place the apples on the trays, set the thermostat, and plug it in. Set a timer for the minimum time as found in the instructions.
American Harvest expandable food dehydrators allow people to dry fruit in bulk. This helps people have fruit for the winter, unless they love the dried fruit so much that they eat it all before winter. First, dry the fruit. Second, the fruit goes into quart or gallon sized storage or freezer bags. Since the fruit is not treated with commercial grade preservatives, the bag may be placed in the freezer for long term storage. This is helpful just in case all the moisture is not removed from the bag.
It is important for many people to get a good deal on the fruit before dehydrating. Perhaps you know someone who has an agreement with a few in-state orchards where you may buy the fruit in bulk at prices that beat the local farmers’ markets and grocery stores. Such a person takes orders from people. Second, an order is placed a few weeks before the intended pick-up date. Most of the time, the orchards will honor a schedule for this person, just like they do for grocery stores. When the weather changes the time the fruit ripens, pick up may be delayed or moved forward. The fruit is harvested the day of or the day before pick up. Since the fruit may be available on such short notice, it is important to have all the supplies for the recipes ready.
If a deal like this isn’t available, then shop around for the best deals at local grocery stores using their online advertisements, unless you get the ads with the newspaper or by mail. An alternative to looking at each grocery store’s site, visit one of the many sites that are dedicated to providing information about the best food dehydrators. Otherwise, visit your local farmer’s market(s).
Many people want to know if dehydrating food at home is cost effective. It is difficult to calculate how much it costs per pound to dehydrate one’s own fruit. It may be too challenging to estimate the amount of electricity, the gas involved in driving further than the trip to the grocery store, the time spent preparing the food, the small amount of sugar and spices in the recipes, etc. Instead, remember that what is made at home is healthier because you know what all the ingredients are and that it is as close to natural as possible. Therefore, it is well worth the time and energy. Do not worry about the cost difference between what was made at home versus what could have purchased at the store. Think about the health benefits as well as the control over the food’s texture, flavor, and ingredients.
Another advantage that comes from having a food dehydrator is gaining food preparation skills. It seems that there is a lot of social and economic instability these days. The more one can do on their own, rather than relying on manufacturers and stores, the better prepared they will be in the event of a strike or catastrophe. Along those lines, having fruit and berry producing trees and bushes in the yard will add increased freshness and availability.
In the end, a food dehydrator comes in handy when natural jerky, fruit leather, and dried food is what is desired. Make sure to read the instructions that come with your unit. Buy the best meat, fruits and vegetables you can afford. Have air-tight storage bags or containers available so your creations will be stored properly. Lastly, enjoy your food dehydrator!