Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The not-so-scary dehydrator (A review)

(Special thanks to CSN Stores for sending us this dehydrator to review!  Come back tomorrow, because we'll be giving one away!!  Also, thanks to Brittany for being our guest poster today!)

Abbie and Hannah graciously let me test-drive this NESCO dehydrator.

I confess I was a wee bit nervous. But I shouldn't have been because it was easy-peasy!

The dehydrator comes with four trays, a fruit roll sheet (see above), directions, and even spices for jerky.

I decided to make apples and bananas because that's what was cheapest and what I felt I could dehydrate in good conscience (i.e. I didn't want to dehydrate something that I'd rather eat fresh). I used the "extra value price" bananas that were cheaper and more ripe--they turned out very well since they're sweeter.

For the bananas and apples, I peeled and then sliced them as uniformly as possible. It's important to have equal thicknesses so that they'll dry evenly. The apples don't have to be peeled, but according to the directions, the peels tend to make the apples take longer to dry and are also very brittle. So I went peel-free and didn't feel too guilty about leaving out the extra fiber.

After I peeled them, I put the slices into a lemon juice bath. My computer is on the fritz right now and I wasn't able to look up a good ratio of lemon juice to water, so I just put in a few tablespoons of lemon juice and added enough water to let most of the slices be submerged. Leave the fruit in for five minutes.

Very scientific, I know. You don't have to use the ascorbic acid solution, but it helps with the flavor and appearance of the finished product. (So the book says.)

Ditto with the apple slices. I didn't use mine because I was too lazy to get it out, but an apple slicer would be awesome for this step.

Arrange slices on the trays without overlapping. You have to put all the trays into the dehydrator, even if they're empty. This was two apples and three (I think) bananas.

The instruction manual tells you the temperature to set for different types of food--for these fruits, it was 135 degrees Fahrenheit. I just set it, plugged it in, and left it alone.

That's my kind of food preservation.

The apples were done after about 4 hours. They were crisp but had a bit of softness in the thicker parts--maybe I could have left them in longer, but you don't want to leave them in too long or valuable vitamins will be diminished. I'm sure it will be an experimentation process.

The bananas take a little longer--I left them in for another hour and a half, I believe. They were browner--perhaps more lemon juice next time? The bananas didn't turn out like the banana chips you see in the produce section, but these were much healthier and still delicious. They had a chewier texture than the apples.

The directions recommend one of those handy home vacuum-sealers, but as I didn't have one, I just sucked the air out of these bags and sealed them.

I store them in my freezer.

That is, I store what's left of them in my freezer.

Another awesome aspect of this dehydrator is that you can dry herbs and flowers, too! I just bought dried oregano and basil, which makes me very annoyed since I had these in my garden last summer but failed to dry any. Live and learn.

The final verdict: I found the process easy and understandable. This NESCO dehydrator is very user-friendly and I am thrilled with the fruit roll sheet (another post coming on that one). My husband isn't a hunter, but if we get our hands on some cheap good meat, I'll have to try out the jerky for sure. Anyway, dehydrating is a good method for storing extra produce that you can buy on the cheap, and this dehydrator is a great way to go.

Thanks again to CSN stores for sending us this dehydrator to try out!  CSN Stores sells all kinds of great items, including cookware, barstools, and neat modern furniture.  Be sure to check them out, and come back tomorrow for the giveaway! 


Morgan said...

Wow! Could I be so lucky to win 2 giveaways in a week? I want this so bad! :)

dehydrator said...

Nice, Nesco is a popular brand of dehydrators and always a best seller.

Shepherd Family ACAL said...

I found this great site, you might find something there too, great dehydration resource for ideas!

Lyn said...

At least some of the commercial banana chips that you can buy are really crispy because they are fried like potato chips, not dehydrated. There will always be some browning with the banana chips - your's look very much mined do and I always use either a lemon juice solution or fruitfresh solution (if I have it around).

Fruit rollup ideas - put ripe bananas in a blender with strawberry yogurt. Pour on to the solid fruit roll sheet - about 1 cup per sheet or about 1/8 of an inch thick.

Us, the Gilson's said...

I can hardly wait to get one of these! Especially with gardening season coming up!

kdonat said...

The Dehydrate2store.com site is great. She suggests using a temp of about 125F. for fruit and vegies if you want them crisp all the way through. It may take a little longer to dry them and the relative humidity where you live will make a difference too. I think a dehydrator would be a great addition before summer's bounty starts rolling in.

jared and megan said...

we have done our own jerky before with a deer jared killed. We borrowed a friend's dehydrator. It was SO GOOD. You have to try it.

Rhonda said...

My favorite vacation spot is Hawaii!!