I finally splurged on a new dehydrator in late August and kept it running pretty much non-stop until last week. And, oh, what a glorious result I’ve had!
The biggest reason I wanted the machine was so that I could preserve the apples, pears, and plums from the fruit trees in my garden. I also spent a couple of weeks tending someone else’s garden whilst they were away, providing me with far too many tomatoes than I could eat fresh, so I dried most of them. Oh! And I also decided to do a bit of citrus fruit to use for cocktails, mulled wine, and punch.
It’s been many, many years since I last used a dehydrator (pre-widow life) so I had to “relearn” some of the best practices. But because drying foods is something I’ve done since childhood, it was easy enough to pick up again. And as I love dried fruit, but hate the expense of it, it was well-worth the return to “school”.
I began with golden cherry tomatoes and a couple of zucchini (courgettes) from the garden I was tending. They were really easy to prepare and made for a great “test subject” for me to set up my processes. I will be further preparing some of them by soaking them in olive oil with some fresh garlic. That will make for some nice additions to my kale salads!
Next, I began to process the plums, which was a bigger task than anticipated. They just kept coming and coming, and each tray took quite a while to prepare because the stones were difficult to remove. They also took at least a full day to dry, if not longer, which meant that I worked on the plums for 3-4 weeks before they were done. (I was away in England for a few days, which slowed me down, and I didn’t process plums each day after that because I was too busy with work.)
When it was time to begin working on the apples, I decided to buy an apple peeler-corer-slicer to make the job easier. I had one before (passed on when I cleared out the house, and left the home, I shared with Paul), so I knew how wonderful it would be to have one again. Indeed, I was able to get a complete set of trays (4 of them) ready in just a few minutes.
I like apples with the skins on, so I didn’t use the peeler part of the gadget, but the corer and slicer were heaven! Then, depending on the size of the apples and how they were arranged on the trays, I either dried them in rings or as half-rings.
In the end, I had more than twice the volume of dried apples than plums, but it only took half the time.
I dried pears alongside the apples but had fewer trays for those. It was also the first time I’ve dried pears and I was really pleased with the process. I really enjoyed the texture and found that I can dry unripened pears with great success (they seem to have more sugar flavour when dried than ripe ones do). I will certainly be drying pears again next year!
I also dried some lemons, limes, and oranges. I had never dried citrus fruit before so there was a learning curve for how thick to cut them as well as how dry they need to be before removing them from the trays. I think I did a good job though and I am excited to try them with cocktails and such. Although they are not something I’ll do often, as they are more decorative than practical.
Ultimately, I am excited about this because it means very little food waste from my garden and some delicious snacks for the next several months. But I am also excited because I love growing and preserving food. It reminds me of my childhood and of my parents – especially my mother who spent so many hours drying apples and plums from our trees when I was growing up. And, of course, it’s a massive money saver. And I do love saving money!
I had wanted to do some wild foraging for mushrooms and other edible goodness this year, but I haven’t had the time to get out into nature to harvest her goodness. So, that’s a goal for next spring and summer. I might break the machine out this winter, too, so that I can try my hand at drying soups. (Advice on that is welcome!)
But for now, I am looking forward to enjoying the (dried) fruits of my labour…