I have borrowed a dehydrator and am having great fun! My primary goal was to just make some beef jerky since it is a favorite snack of ours while on the road. Our favorite local spot to buy it is no longer there and our search for a replacement has been in vain.
Finding a good jerky recipe, as it turns out, is merely a question of preference. I like the teriyaki style, my husband likes it peppery. Above all it must be moist! None of that pressed cardboard crap they call jerky. Not fit for consumption.
My mother’s attempts to make jerky have been varied. All have been wonderfully tender and moist but so salty it was almost inedible. I was very nervous of making the same mistake and was a little over-cautious. It could use a dash more (curing) salt. I used a bbq recipe and added soy sauce until I liked the flavor. I sliced a flank steak (a very versatile cut of meat) thin and marinated the slices over night. I drained off the excess marinade and placed in the dehydrator. It’s good to check periodically during the process and remove the thinner pieces, as they become dry the quickest. Remember, no cardboard allowed! Delicious! We ate most of it before I could take a picture of our dried bounty.
I also wanted to try drying some fruit to see which ones we liked. Apples and pears are a shoo in, they have a great flavor and texture.
I wanted to try pineapple! I’ve always been fond of it (and it’s a common ingredient in many 50’s foods!) and pineapple is in season now. I bought two whole pineapples. Cutting and slicing is a bit tricky and very juicy but fun. I completely filled 3 trays and a few bits on the 4th.
Drying took almost 12 hours and the results fit into just one jar! It is so sweet and the intense flavor is fantastic! Nothing like those dried, candied nuggets you sometimes find in trail mix. This has been a favorite of everyone whose tried it so far.
I spotted the cantaloupe I had bought for breakfast and decided I had to try it too. The book said melons come out very candy-like. I was not a fan. My husband loved it. Cantaloupe has a distinct flavor that is intensified during drying (as all foods are) so I would recommend trying a small batch first like I did.
Pictured above are pears and raisins (store bought, and I’ve tasted better home-dried pears) and the pineapple and jerky. The first of many jars of dried goods that will go onto my new mini pantry shelves. I’ll share more of that another time.
I’m going to continue to experiment with small batches and see what we like. No sense in buying pounds of fruit to dry if no one likes the flavor! I hear strawberries wonderful.
Now i stare at my own pear tree whose pears are no larger than my thumb, and the neighbor’s apple tree, and see visions of sweet, succulent, shriveled gems of flavor! I can’t wait!
I have also planted a good number of herbs that I also plan to dry later in the season.
Here are some websites that discuss dehydrating in depth:
http://www.pickyourown.org//allaboutcanning.htm#drying (about 3/4 of the way down the page)
http://www.drystore.citymax.com/page/page/1346972.htm explains the basics very well. Q&A style
http://farmgal.tripod.com/Dehydrate.html includes specific drying times and several jerky recipes!
There are many wonderful(and mostly older) books on preserving and drying foods but I have discovered that while most of the recipes and techniques are valid, the technology is old. Dehydrating is one area that suffers a bit in that way. Unless you plan to build your own dryer or learn about solar drying I suggest researching online first as it is so up to date. Electric dehydrators are pretty common now and so easy to use!
Once you start drying foods you’ll begin to see everything as a potential dry, shriveled bit of joy!