In many ways, dehydrating your own food is easy with a dehydrator. The challenge I'm finding with this method (new to me) is the timing -- how long does it really take? So far, everything has taken me much longer than recipes have suggested. "Dry for 6 -8hrs" sometimes turns out more like 12 hours! Inconvenient when that ends up being in the middle of night, like tonight...
I do also wonder about the cost effectiveness of drying your own -- by the time you factor in the electricity to run the dehydrator for 12 hours, the amount of fuel it takes to get fresh fruit from where it's grown (California!) to my house, dehydrated, and then shipped back to California...
But alas, it's a LABOR OF LOVE, and some of the products are truly much better that what you can buy!
Being a novice deydratorette, I want to share my tricks of the trade I've learned so far:
1.) Start in the morning, in case it ends up taking twice as long...
2.) Take copious notes.
3.) To test doneness: cut or break pieces in two, and if no beaded moisture visible, it's done.
depending on the item and how long you plan to store it, it does not need to be "bone-dry".
4.) Package in ziploc bags, or for longer storage, vacuum-pack.
5.) For something like fruitleather or other "wet" item spread out to dry, "flip" it over half-way through -- when it can be handled and not fall apart -- this will greatly speed up the drying process!
6.) For thick liquids like bean soup or hummus, you'll end up with chips: use a food processor to chop it into a more user-friendly consistency.
7.) Don't attempt potato soups or mashed potatoes (as my daughter found out) -- something about the starch drying results in HARD TACK that's difficult to reconstitute!
This is the easiest place to start! Depending on the fruit, may need pretreatment if concerned about color. Apples, for example, can be dipped in an ascorbic acid bath to keep them from darkening, unless you don't care...
Canned fruit works too: Pineapple rings, from the can, make a great snack, and are so much better than the super sweetened ones you find at the grocery store!
applesauce, canned peaches, pears, etc... Just blend and pour onto the fruit leather tray. Dehydrate at 135 F. Flip over after approx. 6 hours, then go for another 6 hrs or so.
Pumpkin leather or Pumpkin Bark
1 15-oz can of Pumpkin
1/4 c maple syrup
2 t pumpkin spice
Slice carrots, parsnips, beets, squash.etc. (Mandolin is nice to use for this)
Drop into boiling water for 2 minutes, remove and cool in icewater. Pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Dehydrate at 135 F for 6 + hours.
On the trail, these can be added to pasta dishes and soups, or eaten plain like potato chips -- might even try some baked Curly Kale chips with that: coated lightly with oil, salted and baked in oven until crunchy.
Sweet Potato Chips
1 can sweet potatoes or yams (or cooked sweet potatoes)
3 T maple syrup (or 1 T brown sugar)
1/4 c apple juice or other liquid, as needed
mash well, and spread on dehydrator sheet -- flip 1/2 way thru drying (approx after 5 hrs).
Note: When sufficiently dry, the potato sheet will easily snap into chips. Continue drying if the potato sheet bends rather than breaks.
On the trail, these can also be rehydrated as mashed sweet potatoes for dinner.
1 can crushed pineapple -drained, save the juice
4-6 good size carrots, shredded
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c (or more) pineapple juice
Heat pineapple juice, dissolve sugar, and soak shredded carrots in this juice.
Drain through a sieve, squeeze, and dehydrate for approx. 5 hours. Makes approx 1 c+.
Save all the the juice, incl. carrot-colored. It's nice to drink for breakfast, or use in other recipes.
NOTE: I originally found a version of this on Recipezar -- and it called for 1 whole cup of sugar, and lemon juice and zest. Figuring this was WAY TOO SWEET, I quartered the sugar. I also replaced the juice with the readily available pineapple juice, but am sure the lemon would be nice too!
On backpacking trip: soak (equal amounts water and dried food) for 1/2hr-1hr. Eat as a salad or side-dish, optionally adding nuts.
Maroccan Root Stew
Great-looking recipe here from the Backpackingchef.
photo credit: http://www.food-dehydrator-pro.com