The first batch of dehydrating is complete. I couldn’t resist starting with the simple apple – after all my earliest memories of eating dried food were apple chips. This was a frequent snack while hiking in Boy Scouts.
The apples worked out well. We started with 4 different types which I purchased at the Market on the weekend. Each was cut to a similar width and placed on trays within the dehydrator at 130 degrees Fahrenheit for 4.5-6 hours.
I have learned that there is an art between too dry and not dry enough. Food that hasn’t been completely dried will likely spoil and produce mold. Food that has been over-dried will resemble shoe leather. Testing is done by cooling a sample piece of the fruit to room temperature, cutting (or ripping it in half) and squeezing and looking for moisture. You are looking for very little – none. About 5-10% moisture is maximum that can be maintained – when in doubt, dry it more.
There were a few lessons learned for the first attempt:
- We tried a few pears – they had a very high water content. Understandably they shriveled to almost nothing.
- We did not bring a pen to the market and forgot some of the names of the apples we bought. We also did not label the trays and multiple peeled apples look similar to each other – so we don’t know which pieces are sour and which are sweet (fun as a snack, if I were cooking with them it would be a challenge).
- Each piece shrivels to about half its size. I knew it would shrink a lot – just didn’t know how much.
- They take more room to store than I thought. Because they are large and inflexible, they create a lot of airspace within the jar. This is a case where a 1 liter jar may store a lot more than two 500 ml jars as they would like flatter.
- It is hot. There is no insulation in the dehydrator. The heat circulates through the dehydrator and into your room. This is good for dehydrating and fine for winter – in the summer I think the unit will be in the basement or backyard on a good day.
- Cleaning is easy – pull the trays, give them a scrub, put them back inside to dry.
- It is not entirely quiet – I kept thinking the microwave was on, which was especially strange since we don’t have one.
- The texture of the fruit is not nearly as harsh as a remember. The flavor is awesome though I can see how one could overdo it on the same fruit if you did too much in the same way.
It was a great start and a lot of fun. Now I just have to remember that just a few slices are actually half an apple!