Wild Berries – All About the Yeast

I love wild berries.  I don’t come into a supply very often but when I do I know that it’s going to be a good day!

My Mother grew up with all sorts of wild berries in Nova Scotia.  Blueberries were the most common for her there.  We’re fortunate to have a few stashes of wild raspberries near our cabin up North and run into a few other types of berries here and there.  But most of my wild berries come from farmers markets.

Wild Berries   All About the Yeast Yeast Foraging Fermenting [Read more...]

A Trick for Storing Dried Thyme

I store most of my dried herbs in mason jars.  It’s an easy choice because we have lots of them, they fit on our shelves easily and (most importantly) they have lids to keep humidity, moisture and dust away from our dried herbs.

But that’s not my trick.  Take a look at this photo and see if you can figure out another advantage of using mason for storing thyme:

A Trick for Storing Dried Thyme Thyme Herbs dried herbs [Read more...]

What Temperature to Dehydrate Food at

I wrote an article a few years ago that walked through the theory (i.e. WHY) of dehydrating food at different temperatures.  I also gave a few examples but fell short with a definitive guide.

Here’s a quick guide, courtesy of the thermostat of our Excalibur Dehydrator:

  • Herbs (95F/ 35C)
  • Living Foods (105F / 41C)
  • Raising Bread (110F / 43C)
  • Making Yogurt (115F / 46C)
  • Vegetables (125F / 52C)
  • Fruits/ Fruit Rolls (135F / 57C)
  • Meats/ Fish (155F / 68C)
  • Jerky (155F / 68C)

While that’s a decent guideline, there’s a few things to keep in mind, including some fine print:

  • The dehydrator gets warmer than those temperatures.  A thermostat on an Excalibur is set for the surface area of the food (which will never equal the ambient temperature of the air around it).  The actual temperature of the air fluctuates; at it’s highest it’s around 10 degrees higher than the numbers above (but the food is at the temperatures in the chart).
  • Many want to keep the integrity of living food in tact and dehydrate everything at a lower setting.  The disadvantage of doing so is that it can take much longer to dry things and be more expensive and some food (such as meat) isn’t safe at certain temperatures.  When I dehydrate Ghost Peppers (they are SUPER hot) I generally don’t worry about the temperature as I’ll never eat enough dried Ghost Peppers to gain any significant nutritional value.
  • Some food (especially meat and seafood) must be dried at an ambient temperature of 165F or more (the guide above says ’155F’ but the first bullet explains the variance).  I share this because dehydrating allows us to safely experiment a lot – but there are certain safety precautions you should always follow (I always look to the National Center for Home Food Preservation for such guidance)
  • Circulation is a vital component.  Herbs will dry at 95 degrees (and even less) if they have free airflow.  Jam them in a plastic bag and they won’t do what you’re hoping.
  • The above are guidelines.  Experimentation may reveal that you prefer different temperatures (I love to air dry mushrooms without added heat for example).
  • The end result matters.  I sometimes ferment dried hot peppers and dehydrate them at lower temperatures to keep as many of the nutrients/ bacteria in tact as possible.
  • Lastly, you might not have an option.  Many people dry food in dehydrators that don’t have a thermostat.  It’s not the end of the world as long as you’re following their guidance (some of these units call for pre-cooking of meat in order to make jerky as an example).

What are your tips for ‘the right temperature’ when dehydrating?

 

How to Store Dehydrated Food

It occurs to me that I’ve written tips on storing dehydrated food in different articles over the years but I’ve never really published a consolidated list of tips.

Storing dehydrated food is easy; here are my 6 tips for best results:

  1. Make sure the food is actually dry.  In order to check the texture, I remove the product from the dehydrator for at least 5 minutes before assessing (it will get harder as it cools).  For a guide on desired textures check out the last page of this pamphlet from the Colorado State University Extension Office (via the National Center for Home Food Preservation).
  2. Ensure that the container that you’re storing your food in is absolutely dry (and clean).  Residual moisture will be absorbed by food and leads to spoilage.
  3. Place a lid or cover your jar (this prevents dust).
  4. Store the container in a cool location with low humidity (over your stove where you boil pasta isn’t a great location).
  5. Keep the container in a dark area (towards the back of a shelf is often fine).
  6. Store food in large chunks (powder will lose flavor faster due to increased surface area/ air exposure).

What would you add to this list?

Dehydrated Apple Slices with Caramel – FAIL!

We experiment a lot (when appropriate). Fermenting and dehydrating are common areas of experimentation given the relative high safety (home canning is not a great area to toy with in comparison).

Not all of our experiments work out. Even the well-intended experiments that I’m confident will be an amazing success can fall apart. Even ideas like drying apples with caramel.

Dehydrated Apple Slices with Caramel   FAIL! mistakes Apple
This seemed like such a good idea too!  What went wrong? [Read more...]

Dehydrating 101: Slow-Drying Experiment

This is one of the geekier posts I’ve written in a long time.  And I’m ok with that – kind of proud to geek out.

When it comes to preserving, I love to experiment.  I’m insanely curious about preserving food and love to try different things (as long as I’m within safety limits).  Dehydrating food lends itself to such experiments with ease.

Dehydrating 101: Slow Drying Experiment jalapeno peppers Hot Peppers Hot Pepper [Read more...]

How Much Dried Vegetables Should I cook with? My Standard Ratio when Substituting…

We cook with a lot of powder.  No!  Not that kind of powder!  Powders like these:

‘Powder’ is made by dehydrating vegetables then blending them into a powder.  I generally leave them in larger chunks and blend them a bit at a time as this will preserve their flavor better (smaller flakes have more surface area and more contact with air and will degrade faster).  The biggest disadvantage is that larger flakes take more room to store.

When it comes to substituting powdered vegetables in the place of fresh ingredients it’s important to note that the size of the flakes can make a massive difference.  When in doubt, start with a little bit and add more as you go.

My general rule is this:

1 tablespoon of powdered vegetable = 1 cup of the fresh ingredient

A tablespoon of chile flakes – 1 cup of hot peppers.  A tablespoon of celeriac = 1 cup of celery.

I start with half the amount that I plan to use, allow it to cook for a while, taste and adjust.

The reason for my math (other than trial and error) is pretty simple: vegetables often contain 90-95% water.  If you multiple by 10, you get a very approximate idea of the volume of your powder if it was chopped whole.  Pieces of jalapeno take far more room in a measuring cup than the same quantity powdered which accounts for such a small amount delivering so much flavor.

If you use vegetable powder, do you have a similar ratio?

Homemade Celery Salt – Made in Minutes

We’ve written about how to make celery salt before, and it was easy:

  1. Wash celery root (also called celeriac).
  2. Peel root.
  3. Cut it with a mandoline into even slices.
  4. Dehydrate until completely dry (the length of time will depend on the thickness of the slices but usually about 12 hours).
  5. Store in flakes, grind a cup at a time (the larger pieces will retain flavors longer).

Although my process is essentially the same but it takes a whole lot less time!

Homemade Celery Salt   Made in Minutes October celery salt Celery Root Celeriac [Read more...]

Tomato Powder – Intro to Preserving (Dehydrating)

This isn’t our first time writing about making tomato powder but we’ve changed our approach a bit and thought it was worth sharing the results with you.

Tomato Powder   Intro to Preserving (Dehydrating) Tomato October

[Read more...]

Sour Cream ‘N Onion Kale Chips – Intro to Preserving (Dehydrating)

Today’s the day to share a recipe for kale chips. And that’s because today’s a special day: it’s National Kale Day! You didn’t know? Me, neither – I just learned that from Twitter!

Sour Cream N Onion Kale Chips   Intro to Preserving (Dehydrating) October Kale Easy Preserves [Read more...]