Thursday, August 13, 2009

DIY: Dehydrating Organic Fruits and Veggies

Something I've realized about living a sustainable lifestyle and growing most of your own food is that you always have to be one step ahead of what's to come. This season you are preparing for next season, while reaping the rewards from the work you did the season before... (that was almost philosophical!) Right now is a really important time to prepare for winter - there's alot of organic crops that are producing tons of fruits and vegetables, fruit trees are dropping their bounty, and this is when ya find ways to save all that food for later.
There are a few ways you can dehydrate your own food:

1. Food Dehydrator: This is the obvious, but if you are really serious about growing and storing a bunch of food, it may be worth the investment- because it will save ya lots of money later you would have to be spending on organic groceries. My deal with these machines is that alot of them are made of plastic, and I don't think that heating plastic even at low levels is the best for our health- finding one with stainless steal trays is certainly best. Maybe there is one with glass trays out there? Any suggestions?

2. Glass Dish In The Sun: This is a really simple totally DIY way of drying food, I would call 'the quickie'. It may not get your slices as bone dry as a dehydrator (depending on your climate), but it will make some good snacks you can store in the fridge. I put my slices of apple, strawberry, pears, peaches, etc... onto a large glass dish (like a lasagna pan) and put them in an elevated spot directly in the sun. At once house I lived there was a shed with a flat tin roof that got very hot, so I would put the glass dish on top and after one day my fruit snacks would be ready to eat!

3. Oven: This is not the most ideal, as far as energy saving goes and flavor - but it does work. I have even made raisins from grapes in my toaster oven by leaving on a very low heat for two days. You have to spread out the slices on a flat pan, and leave the oven door open a crack to let out the moisture quicker.

4. Build Your Own: The ultimate energy saving dehydrator, with the most natural flavor, and safest way of heating is to build your own solar food dehydrator. My favorite is a simple one built out of glass, screen, and wooden frame that sits in the sun.
Here's some links to other ways of making your very own:


dehydrator fan said...

You can buy a stainless steel dehydrator, but they'll cost at least $100 than the best plastic one (Excalibur). Take a look at the Sausage Maker. Excalibur also makes a stainless one, but it's part of their commercial line and it's 150 lbs.

If you're worried about the food touching the plastic, you can try the non-stick dehydrator sheets. But, if the concern is that the food is in a hot plastic box, then that doesn't help.

Have you seen the plans from

Leslie @ the oko box said...

Thanks Dehydrator Fan! That is really helpful. If I invest in a machine, I definitely want to go with the steel and not with plastic - although 150 pounds is more then I weigh ;). Can't wait to check out!

linda said...

I'm just looking at the dryit site and they use interior grade plywood - full of formaldehyde - NOT good for food.

I've had my eye on the sausagemaker ones with SS shelves (not chrome) but haven't found a Canadian dealer.

Leslie @ the oko box said...

Hey Linda!

You are totally right about the plywood - you can't just use any ole' materials to build one of these things, because it is going to be exposed to the food you are eating. Aldehydes are not good for you (even though industries put them in everything we own).
The safest materials are natural wood, stainless steal, and glass.

Lou Cheese said...

I've noticed that many of the people who are serious about the raw food diet use metal dehydrators. I suspect the plastic ones are geared towards the casual market, whereas a metal one would be more durable with the higher volumes it would see with the raw food diet.

What if someone was lucky enough to live in a rustic paradise with a cast-iron wood stove and a bunch of resourceful hippies around? I bet you & Bort could convert the top part of the stove to a dehydrator, he seems to be quite the eco-engineer. It would limit the dehydrator to the winter season, but it would take advantage of heat you'd be using anyway. And your apartment would smell great ;)

Lou Cheese said...

Oh, and I almost forgot. My mom dehydrates apples and bananas often and she says the thinner you can slice them the better. She uses a mandolin slicer for most fruits, which slices them thin and uniformly, so everything is cooked consistently.

The great thing about dehydrated apples is they seem to retain all the natural sugar after dehydrated and they aren't quite as tart.

Leslie @ the oko box said...

Hey Lou Cheese!

I totally had the same idea, with the woods stove. Last year i cooked food in pots on the wood stove and it came out SO much better then cooking on the electric oven.
Drying apples on the wood stove was exactly what i was thinking about the last few days.