Tuesday, September 24, 2013

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been having fun with dehydrating.  These are the results from the past couple weekends:

Dehydrating fun
Left to right, this is:
  • tomatoes (about 5 each fresh red and yellow tomatoes, chopped and drained)
  • peas 'n' carrots (2 pounds frozen)
  • green beans (2 pounds frozen)
  • peaches (15 pounds fresh)
  • black beans (two 15 ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
  • ground beef (3 pounds when raw, thoroughly cooked and drained)
  • brown rice (1.5 cups raw rice, cooked)
  • peas (3 pounds frozen)
  • sweet corn (4 pounds frozen)
  • green peppers (10 large fresh)
  • apples (10 large fresh)

Except for the peaches, which were dried in August, all that was done in the past three weeks.  Of course the dried fruit is a favorite, and I must always have dried apples on hand.  In addition, I've also made a couple recipes for lightweight dehydrated hiking food (beef, rice and veggie variants) and they've been great.  Even approved by Emma!

I really like dehydrating.  I sometimes have a problem with not using up fresh produce in time, and it kills me to throw out food that spoiled.  I buy produce with great intentions, but then I'm too tired to cook, and I end up never making whatever it was I bought that great bunch of beets for.

Over the years I've learned that I do better with frozen veggies, since they have a longer lifespan.  I'm not much of a fan of canned veggies, except for navy and other shelled beans and corn and tomatoes.  Canned green beans and peas?  Ick.  Frozen, however, is usually almost as tasty as fresh.

The problem is that I have very limited freezer space.  Just the one on top of my fridge, and a small chest freezer (five cubic feet).  That space gets filled up fast when frozen veggies or meat go on sale.  Right now, most of my refrigerator's freezer is taken up with frozen cherries and peaches from July.  The chest freezer is mostly full of blueberries, chicken, and pork that were on sale last month.  Freezers run on electricity so I really don't want to buy a bigger one.

Dehydrating not only solves the spoilage issue, it solves the space issue.  And there is no energy cost associated with storing this food, other than the initial electricity to run the dehydrator.  The jars just sit on the shelf.  That big bag of frozen corn (not to mention the rest of that pile of veggies) would not have fit in my available freezer space.  Now that four pounds of corn fits in a single quart mason jar.  Huge space savings!  And since I discovered yesterday that the corn rehydrates beautifully, I feel great about that purchase. 

My summer adventures in dehydrating more than fruit started out as a way to make lightweight hiking and camping food rather than buying the pricy (and tasteless/salty/chemically) commercial freeze-dried meals, but I think it may morph into a more everyday thing as well.  Dehydrated food obviously doesn't always have the same texture as fresh, especially for fruits, but it's great as long as you pick the right recipe.  I would never expect a dried cherry to be the same experience as a fresh one, or even a frozen one, but dried cherries are better in oatmeal.

Anyway, I think there will be much more dehydrating in my future.  Coincidentally, I may or may not have bought myself a super-fabulous dehydrator on Sunday... Stay tuned...

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