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Tales of a busy dehydrator: Celery

 

Photo: Dehydrated celery

Photo: Dehydrated celery

Well the Westfalia Food Dehydrator finally arrived from Germany. It took two weeks rather than the ten days stipulated on the website but it is the cheapest dehydrator on the market and I’m thrilled with it.

OK it’s a very basic model with no temperature control. It’s marketed as being perfect for the beginner. More advanced dehydrator folk run machines built like tanks and called Excalibur.

I hadn’t even considered home dehydrating until I read about them on various American websites. Dehydrate2Store.com has loads of web videos and advice. The more I thought about the benefits of dehydration the faster I moved away from thoughts of pulverised pot noodle eaten on a damp mountainside.

I suppose the scales fell from my eyes when I realised that I drink dehydrated tea everyday. It’s the word dehydration that’s off putting. Drying food would mean freedom from being overwhelmed by gluts, it would enable me to store food that is on offer and in season. My passion for Fenland celery could be fed all year (rather than just the few months when it’s in season) by drying heads of celery for use later. In fact celery is what I want to talk about today.

Apparently dried ground celery is a good substitute for salt. As Danny suffers from high blood pressure this could be the answer for him.  So the dehydrator whirred like a small salon hair drier and reduced a bulky head of celery to a small pack of green leaves and celery pieces small enough to serve in the dolls house. This is another benefit of dehydrating food – it takes up far less space in the larder. We ground these minute dried pieces fine and produced a tasty seasoning.

I also ordered a well reviewed book Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook.
This is packed with ideas and recipes fom trail mix to beef jerky. It even has a recipe to make your own vegetable stock powder – homemade ‘Marigold’ without the palm oil! You can dehydrate fish too but I’m sticking to vegetables and fruit at the moment. Meanwhile I’m off to town to buy some more Fenland celery to guzzle and dry for slow cooked casseroles and soup over the winter.


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17 Comments

  1. If I may try to answer the question from Katyvic,
    There are a few things that could of gone wrong. One is that the pears were not really dry enough. One way to find this out is to place them in an airtight jar and if you see condensation, then the product isn’t dry enough. This is a hit or miss test though.

    Also if you take one apart you might see that the inside is still juicy. What I do is cut things uniformly to around 1/8th of an inch. This dries everything but it won’t produce a commercial style fruit. For thicker fruits it takes a long time (rhaspberries took me 2 days as do grapes for example in an electric dehydrator). Always test to see if there is moisture inside before storing!
    The hammer test is not for all product (if you take a hammer to it, and it shatters its ready). Remember that commercial brands use industrial strength equipment so don’t expect the same results, but you can get close enough.

    Also if your area is humid, food will take up moisture again so air tight storage is mandatory. Keeping in a cool dry and dark place helps too.

    Was your jar airtight and sterile? Was it completely dry when you put the pears inside? That is another thing to consider.

    In our resources here in the U.S, oven drying is not recommended because our ovens don’t usually heat to the required temperature (140-150 Fahrenheit). Anything higher would cook food from the outside leaving the inside raw and anything less is considered to be susceptible to bacterial growth because it has to sit for so long. Perhaps rigging up a simple solar unit would work for you? Plans abound online and all look easy enough.
    I hope I have helped.

  2. Thanks Fiona

    I’ve tried a second batch already, and left them to air dry for an extra 72 hours. I’m going to try storing them today.

    This time they clatter!

    I guess I was expecting them to be like sultanas (which the previous batch was): still slightly bendy. The ones you get in packets must be treated somehow?

    Katyvic

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Susan

    I had not heard of them before this summer.
    So far the results have been spectacular – tomatoes are intensely flavoured. Some Shitake mushrooms – half price were turned into treats for winter soup.

    Hello Helen

    I’m so envious of you – I’d love a pressure canner. It would be great to hear how you get on.

    Hi LindaM

    The Excalibur dehydraters look superb. Thanks for your tips – the pizza toppings sound great!

    I can’t give you the recipe for vegetable stock powder as the book is copyright. But, knowing me, I’ll make my own version soon and will be happy to share that 🙂

    Hello Diane

    Our dehydrator is 250 watts so doesn’t use a lot of electricity. However most food needs at least 8-10 hours to dehydrate. I’m thinking of combining the car trick/a simple solar outdoor drier and the electric drier to finish them off.

    Hello Katyvic

    I don’t know what went wrong with your pears. I do know that if they’re not to be eaten immediately they have to be very dry indeed. Check out the dehydrate to store videos on YouTube. When she drops the food on the kitchen side it clatters.

    Hi Andy

    I got some little pears on offer yesterday. That’s the dehydrators work cut out for the day!

  4. Pears are the best thing for dehydrators – I don’t even like pears but I love them done in ours. We bought ours from QVC I think. Pears cut thin on a mandoline (watch fingers !) are lovely, almost toffee flavoured. Apples are good too. Tried jerky but prefer the oven on low, door ajar method.

  5. Wonder if anyone can help me….?

    I’ve got a glut of VERY small (55g), but delicious pears; and I have an Aga. So I was really pleased to find (on the Aga site) instructions for dehydrating pears and other fruit in the cool oven, after seeing Fiona’s earlier article on dehydrators.

    I put the pears in for 4 hours on cooling racks (cut into quarters, de-cored, but with the peel still on), which seemed to reduce them to a leathery, but still slightly moist condition. Then I left them overnight on the cooling racks over the (closed) lid of the hottest plate.

    In the morning I had tiny, thin chewy, delicious slices, a fraction of the original size and weight (much less than the recommended 1/3 weight). They were pretty similar to the dried pears you can buy in packs, but a bit less juicy.

    So far so good – but when they were cool, I put them in an old Le Parfait jar (which had a small chip out of the top, so couldn’t be used any more)and clamped down the lid. They looked great for days – and then started to grow a fine bloom of mould.

    sob!

    What did I do wrong???

    Any thoughts welcomed….

    Katyvic

  6. I have a pile of cherry tomatoes and I hear they are delicious dried but I have no dehydrator. If we get a stretch of sunny weather I may have to try the automobile method. Otherwise I’ll risk the oven.
    Our electricity rates are pretty high here. Do you know how much power the dehydrator pulls?

  7. Hi Fiona
    I have an Excalibur and it isn’t that complicated. If I can run it, then anyone can:) I chose it because of the actual square footage that it offers.
    If you have the Marigold recipe will you please share it?
    You can also dehydrate leftovers, such as split pea soup and if you make pizza sauce you can dehydrate that in the shape of the pizza and then lay it on the dough when ready to bake.
    I have made beef jerky (simple process) but not fish as of yet. Beef jerky is delicious and lasts about an hour around here.
    Anyhow, enjoy your machine. I am sure you will make the subject exciting here (I find it kind of cut and dry, pun intended:)

  8. I would love to know if it dries grapes to make raisins. We get through so many in our house I would love to grow our own grapes and turn them into raisins.

  9. Well how brilliant! It may be a while until I can follow your example however becsue I am waiting for a preassure canner to arrive, I hope that will keep me busy a while.

  10. I had previously thought about buying a dehydrator. Then I changed my mind, now my interest in piqued again. Let me know how you get on with it, I love the thought of being able to make my own beef jerky and dry gluts of herbs and produce!

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