Grainlady, dehydrators, please

caliroseOctober 18, 2010

Can you explain the difference between the two dehydrators. Are the drying methods the same? I need a small unit but should I get an expandable one? Do you think that I will increase drying products as I become accustomed to it? Or, should I sell the smaller unit if that becomes the case and purchase a larger one. It is just the two of us, and I don't think DH will eat much of it. I know you can't decide for me, but I value your opinion. I am looking to dry mainly fruits and vegetables. And how to store? I would like to be able to store in small quantities.

Thank you so very much!

Here is a link that might be useful: nesco

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When it comes to dehydrators, Excalibur is "the" name for excellence, but I'm not to sure about the Economy Series ED-2400 -- only because it is only 220 watts, while the Nesco is 700 watts, and the Excalibur is so much more expensive. You must be paying for the name!

I have an old round Nesco Snackmaster Express (500 watts) and was VERY glad I could expand it - especially right now during apple-drying season. It came with 4 trays and can expand to 12. I would say I normally use 3 - 6 trays most days I use it, except during apple season when I fill it to the brim.

I also love using the fruit leather sheets and the flexible clean-a-screen sheets, which are wonderful for sticky food like pineapples, tomatoes and bananas. These are also available for the square model. If I had to mess with laying out plastic wrap for making fruit leather - I'd never make it. It's a pain somewhere lower than the neck... I also dehydrate mashed sweet potatoes on the fruit leather sheets. After they are dry enough to peel off the sheets, I lay them on the trays to finish drying. When CRISPY dry, they are done. Cool to room temperature and grind to a powder in a food processor or a blender. You rehydrate sweet potato powder in hot water to make mashed sweet potatoes.

You will find the square Nesco will do an awful lot of dehydrating - especially at that price. Having only had a round Nesco, I can only think a square one would be an advantage for loading the food on the trays; but I've dehydrated in a round one for somewhere around 15-20 years of great service and excellent results from the only dehydrator I've owned. A Nesco was also the most popular in the classes I've taught about dehydrating. Good quality and great prices.

You might check your local stores for models (Wal-Mart, ACE Hardware, True Value Hardware...). They tend to come out for Christmas gifts and are often on sale. Check on-line for free shipping and best price.

Proper storage of home-dehydrated food is VERY important. I use canning jars and vacuum seal the lids on with my FoodSaver jar sealer for long-term storage. Oxygen-free and stored in a cool, dark place will aid in longer storage time. Clear glass will allow you to check for any moisture accumulating (meaning you need to finish drying the contents), or mold formation (which means you need to toss the ENTIRE contents of the jar). Both good reasons for storing in small jars.

Recommended storage times for dried foods range from four months to one year. Food quality is affected by heat, so keep the temperature of your storage area in mind. Most dried fruits can be stored for one year at 60-degrees F, six months at 80-degrees F. Vegetables have about half the shelf-life of fruits. Don't store the food-filled jars in the light. The light will degrade the nutrients in the food.

Every time you open a jar to remove something from it, the humidity in the air will begin re-hydrating the food. So avoid times when you have a lot of moisture in the air to open the jar. Some foods I divide into certain amounts for specific recipes I use. For Dried Apple Pie - 1-1/2 cups (1-cup dried apple slices yields about 1-1/4 c. cooked or refreshed apples).

I'll place apple slices in small snack-size zip-lock bags and place them in a 1/2-gallon jar and seal it with a FoodSaver Universal Lid, which is easy to get into and quickly reseal. This way I can open the jar and take out a few bags to use as a snack or to put in hubby's lunch box, or to make into 1 or 2 servings of applesauce, or to add to a quick bread recipe. The apples in the bags won't take on any moisture each time the jar is opened.

If you do potato slices, they are notorious for molding and take a little more preparation, and are best stored in small amounts. One reason they mold is because of uneven thickness of the slices when you slice them with a knife by hand. A cutting mandoline will cut the slices the same thickness - which is very important.

Try drying like-sized pieces together. Dry the smaller end slices on one tray (or one side of a tray) and the large center cuts on another tray. That way each size of slices will be done at approx. the same time and you won't have to fish through a try removing the small pieces as they finish drying sooner than the others - then the medium pieces - while it will take longer to dry the large slices.

You can also extend storage time of your food by storing it in the freezer. I always store dehydrated meat and jerky in the freezer. You can dehydrate 1/2-inch cubes of lean, COOKED meat. Great for making dehydrated soup mixes and adding to soup and casseroles.

There is also a method called dehydrofreezing where you only partially dehydrate food, and then you MUST store it in the freezer. Benefits of dehydrofreezing... Food will be tastier, have better color, and will reconstitute in about half the time it takes for traditionally dried foods. It also takes up less space in the freezer. The low temperature of the freezer inhibits microbial growth.

You'll find more information at the National Center for Home Food Preservation - (click on the left side: How do I: DRY).

The link below is also full of good information.

Check your local library for books on the subject of home food drying. My three favorites:

"Making & Using Dried Foods" by Phullis Hobson
"How to Dry Foods" by Deanna DeLong
"Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook" by Mary Bell

Good luck on your choice!


Here is a link that might be useful: Quality for Keeps - Drying Foods GH1562

    Bookmark   October 18, 2010 at 9:03PM
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Thank you so very much! I am copying and saving to my computer AND printing it out so that I don't lose it! I knew I could depend on you to help me understand this. I really appreciate your efforts on this and other forum subjects. I will look for those books and am checking out the link now.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 7:04PM
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