This is one of the geekier posts I’ve written in a long time. And I’m ok with that – kind of proud to geek out.
When it comes to preserving, I love to experiment. I’m insanely curious about preserving food and love to try different things (as long as I’m within safety limits). Dehydrating food lends itself to such experiments with ease.
I’ve shared a few articles on things to consider when buying a dehydrator (here and here). My advice can be summarized by the mantra, “You get what you pay for.” A dehydrator is a piece of kitchen equipment and one that is worth investing in.
One of the advantages of the more expensive dehydrators is a variable thermostat (aka temperature gauge). Our model allows us to dry food between 95 and 155 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower end is ideal for herbs and living food (which would scorch under high heat) and the higher end is ideal for meat for things like jerky.
Vegetables are generally dried at 125 degrees. The results are predictable – peppers, with the tops cut off (which allows warm air to circulate through the pepper) will dry in 12-30 hours.
I decided to experiment with lower temperature that would be much closer to warm summers days (winter is a great time to experiment and prepare for such things). I cut one end of each pepper and put in the dehydrated at 95 degrees for 24 hours (the dehydrator takes about the same amount of energy as a light bulb).
24 hours later I pulled a tray out; the peppers were slightly shriveled but showing no significant sign of drying.
I moved the temperature between 110 and 115 degrees and checked after the second day. The peppers were noticeably drying but still had plenty of moisture content left. I shut the door and continued to check progress (without changing the temperature) for the next 2 days (4 days in total). Most (but not all) of the peppers had completely dried.
Compared to my typical temperature (I’ve dried more than 100 pounds of hot peppers at 125 degrees), I noticed a few things:
- The lower temperature allowed the peppers to better maintain their color. Past peppers were dark (and almost black) while these remained very green.
- They are prettier. While the peppers became wrinkled, the wrinkles were more consistent. This doesn’t effect flavor but it was worth noting.
- The peppers dried thicker. While they are absolutely dry, the slow-dried peppers maintain more integrity than the ones exposed to a higher temperature. The higher-temperature peppers appear to be little more than skin and seed – these appear to be ‘meatier’/ fleshier than the fast-dried ones.
I don’t think that one method is better than the other but they are definitely different. I’m looking forward to experimenting some more soon!