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So What Is A Food Dehydrator Exactly – And What Can It Do For Me?
[Updated 1 June 2020]I’m often asked about the best methods to preserve food when you have a glut, and questions around what is a food dehydrator or which is the best food dehydrator for a family, come up a lot.
Comparatively rare in the average kitchen it would seem, dehydrators for food are worth their weight in gold, if you grow your own food, or have no space for a freezer, but can get cheap produce in season and want to keep some back for later.
How They Work
Food dehydrators for home use consist of mesh trays through which warm air pushed by a fan, circulates drying the sliced fruit and vegetables for storing in something as simple as a polythene bag or airtight food container.
Commercial dehydrators work in the same way, look pretty much the same, just everything is bigger, much bigger!
I save a lot of shelf space drying tomatoes and fruit which are easily stored in bags in a drawer rather than on a shelf in a can or bottle, which takes up space and frankly is a much longer preserving process than dehydrating it.
For example, as any ‘grow your own’ fanatic already knows, zucchinis are easy as pie to grow, but you generally lose a few on the way to various pests and mildews. Maybe it was the hard winter, maybe growing them under polythene early helped, either way, there’s going to be a glut. There always is.
Sure, I give away bucket loads to neighbors, often swopping for their glut of something I haven’t got. But there are limits to what the locals can cope with!
There Are Some Things Best Left Unfrozen!
Freezing never works well, it doesn’t work with any really liquid-filled fruit or vegetables but read on because there is a better way to preserve them – plus a little known but very healthy way to use your surplus zucchinis – and other fruits and vegetables for months to come.
Grated then dehydrated zucchini works like gangbusters when you want to thicken up an autumn casserole, it adds no flavor to speak of, but will thicken the gravy leaving it with a silky sheen, rather like arrowroot. It takes up so little space too.
Cooking for an insulin-dependent diabetic has its challenges and thickening food without adding salt or more flour-based products have been solved with grated dried zucchini.
All winter long, the goodness of summer can be used to thicken soups, stews, beef or lamb casseroles and goulash. It even works with watery stewed fruits that need a little perking up – just a handful of dehydrated zucchini adds no flavor and thickens perfectly.
My grandmother used to dehydrate zucchini chips by slicing them real thin with a mandoline slicer then she’d leave them on a tray in the sun – fine if you live in California and even then a long process compared to a food dehydrator, some people might yearn for olden times, but not me.
If you’d like to find out more then head on over and read my food dehydrator reviews which have been put together with the help of colleagues (again!). The reviews are unscientific yes, but honest and what we use in our kitchens, also yes!
This leads me back to food dehydrators, and which ones are worth the cupboard space you have to donate for a good part of the winter. Mine works overtime from late May until the end of October, drying the last of the tomatoes for use in the winter when they offer a taste of summer past and the promise of summer to come. If you want some guidance on how to dehydrate – the process and how long for different veggies and fruit, you can get the National Center for Home Food Preservation guidelines here.
Small home food dehydrators are inexpensive and will pay for themselves in a season, larger more commercial food dehydrators are more expensive, but if you have a lot to dry, again they pay for themselves in a year or two –
Me? I guess I’d better go dig out the zucchini recipes again – there’s a lovely zucchini cake recipe here if you love a moist light delight!
If you have any questions you’re welcome to use the comments below, I’ll get back to you within 24 hours most of the time – and often much quicker.