Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

The joy and the sorrow of leftovers :) (edited)

on July 23, 2012

After writing this yesterday I realized I left out some bits of information, like why I hated one dehydrator and loved another one. All I can do is plead exhaustion and brain fog lol. Work was nothing but tech issues all day and my brain was fried. So I’ve gone back and added some information that you might find useful. πŸ™‚

So the obvious joy of leftovers is that there is food ready and waiting to go when you get hungry. The sorrow is that I really don’t have anything to write about today lol. So I thought I’d write about food dehydrators since I mentioned them yesterday.

The basic idea of a food dehydrator is to dry food for preservation purposes. Some models are vertical and have a fan either on the top or the bottom of the unit with the trays stacked over or under the fan. The horizontal models feature a fan at the back of the unit that blows fan over the trays.

I grew up with my mom using a dehydrator to make everything from beef jerky and dried fruit to fruit leather (think home-made fruit rollups.) Her dehydrator was the horizontal model with two separate units stacked on top of each other and a wood butcher block top. On wheels, it was perfectly sized to fit at the end of the kitchen counter or double as an extra piece of counter top. I have no idea where she got it or the brand name. She’s had it for over 30 years and it still runs like a dream. I want it when she dies lol.

So to go back to discussing what I use for dehydration… Once upon a time I used a little round food dehydrator that I can’t even remember the brand of. What I will say is that I used it once, hated it, never used it again. There were a couple of reasons I hated it… 1. the round trays were SMALL and not designed to hold large pieces. So if I wanted to dry strips of something, it wasn’t going to happen. 2. while the fan moved the air, it did NOT heat the air. By using unheated air, the drying process was incredibly slow which is bad when working with something like jerky which can spoil quickly. So when I decided to get serious about dehydration about four years ago, I bought a MUCH better dehydrator.

I own an Excalibur 3900 horizontal dehydrator. I LOVE this machine. It’s got 9 trays that pull out and total about 15 square feet of drying space. This model does not have a timer (available on newer models) but it has a nice thermostat and does a good job of providing even heating. I’ve included a picture although mine is solid black. The reasons I love this machine are basically the reasons I hated the other machine. The large horizontal racks allow plenty of space for large items, such as zucchini or beef jerky slices. The thermostat heats the air and improves both drying time and drying quality. You also don’t have to worry about food poisoning from jerky that took too long to dry. (This isn’t such a problem in dry climates but is difficult in humid ones.)

You might be wondering what I’ve made using this nifty kitchen gadget… The most popular is beef jerky. I don’t know anyone (other than those poor vegetarian/vegan people out there) who doesn’t like beef jerky. It makes great gifts too. Stick a batch in a plastic bag, stick a bow on it and people are happy for hours (even days if they can manage not to eat the jerky all at once.) I’ve also dried fruit and made tomato leather.

I suspect you just blinked at the idea of “tomato leather.” If you take your tomatoes, puree them, add some seasoning and spread the mix on (the solid sheets you can get) racks in the machine, you can create a dried tomato paste. It’s a fabulous way to add tomato flavor to soups, stews, rice pilaf, etc without adding any extra liquid. The flavor becomes very concentrated and gives a gorgeous tomato flavor to food. This is also a good way to preserve the flavor of your summer home-grown tomatoes. I love tomatoes and always plant a ton of the each year. This year I have something like 9 plants producing and expect to have an insane number of tomatoes to process shortly. πŸ™‚

So now that you know a little (very little lol) about dehydration, I’m going to go eat some of that leftover lasagna πŸ˜€

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