The (dried) fruits of my labour

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!

Tomatoes and zucchini in jars

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.)

A cascade of dried plums

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.

Apple chips. Yum!

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!

Leathery dried pears

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.

Lemons, oranges, and limes, oh, my!

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…  

2 Replies to “The (dried) fruits of my labour”

  1. That looks like a wonderful bounty! My next thing is a dehydrator also- can’t wait & I’m sure I’ll be asking for tips!! 😊
    #Food should be free!

    1. Oh, yes! You should get a dehydrator. They’re super easy and it means you don’t have to worry about garden waste. And if you like fruit leather, it’s a great money saver because that stuff is expensive!!

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