This week we experimented with the wonderful process of dehydrating. Removing the water from fruits, vegetables, herbs or meat serves several purposes: preservation of surplus produce, reducing weight (for trail food), and concentrating flavor. It’s a wonderful way to add value to goods with minimal effort.
We used three electric powered dehydrators to dry; apples, tomatoes, mint and chive flowers as well as lamb. Sterling does own a solar powered dehydrator, but as it was in dirty pieces and it was very cloudy (not exactly good for solar power) that day, we went with the electric ones. Although we have two different types of dryer they worked in essentially the same way. Drying trays are stack on top of each other, a fan moves heated air around the goods to remove the moisture.
Apples are a great candidate for dehydrating. There are so many apples here in Vermont
during the fall and not all of them store over the winter. The result is very tasty.
We tried to cut the apples into evenly thick strips. This helps insure that the different pieces will dry out at about the same time, though a little variation in moisture isn’t the end of the world. Apple, as you may know, will oxidize and turn brown soon after cutting. While this won’t really affect the taste it does make them a lot less appetizing. To avoid this we mixed about ¼ cup of honey in enough warm water to cover the apple slices. The honey water coats the apples and prevents discoloration.
We chose to dry Romas because, as paste tomatoes, there will be less water to remove; also they will likely have more favor after drying then your average slicer. As with the apples it is important to slice the tomatoes uniformly.
As a disclaimer let me say that I haven’t yet tried the cottage cheese. However, I’m told, by Jody, that the outcome is quite tasty.
This was a simple one to do. We spread the cheese on a solid tray and sprinkled pepper on top.
MINTS AND CHIVE FLOWER
Dried herbs are useful for cooking and making tea. We used to two types of mints, peppermint and spearmint. I also found a large cluster of chives growing near the spearmint so we decided to pick and dry the newly opened flowers with have a strong delicious taste.
Preparing the mint was very simple, we remove the leaves from the stalks and laid them flat on a couple of the drying racks. We did the same for the chives.
As a long time vegetarian I wasn't involved in making the jerky. I will, however, try to give as faithful account of the process as I can. The first step was removing the fat from the meat. Matt told us that without doing so the jerky could become rancid. Next a marinade was made for the jerky. Here is the recipe they used.
2/3 cup Soy sauce
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 Table spoon Honey
1 Table spoon Red pepper
2 tsp Onion powder
2 tsp Black Pepper
¼ tsp Liquid smoke
1.5 to 2 LB Lamb shoulder roast and tenderloin
While this was being mixed, Ethan and Matt went to the kitchen to cut the meat into strips.
When they returned the meat was added to the marinade and left for 6 hours.
We using the three dehydrators we carefully place the goods to be dried one on top of the other. In the first dehydrator we stacked from bottomed to top: three trays of mint, then two trays of the apple slices. In the next; one tray of chive flowers, tomatoes slices and the cottage cheese. The third contained the meat. The staking order is important. Flavor could be transferred so to the levels above. It is also best to stack the dehydrator so that the driest items are on the bottom. This means that they will dry first some they can be removed and other items will be closer to the heat source. Also, moisture won’t be transferred this way.
Now that we’d done the leg work it was time to turn on the dryers. It was 3:45pm. The herbs are dehydrated at a much lower temperature then the fruits above them, 95 degrees. So we started them at this on this setting turning them up as the herbs finished.
The first to be completely dry was the spearmint. The edges a appeared crispy and the mint was a little brittle if handed after cooling, perfect. It was done at about 6:00pm. The peppermint took much longer, finishing at around 8:00pm. The chive took the longest of the herbs they were done a little before 9:00pm.
I turned up the temperature after removing the mints to 125. The fruits remained in for another five hours and were turn off at 12:00 with the cottage cheese.
The Jerky was put in at 12:00pm and dried until 6:00am.
The apples are my favorite, but the mints should make good tea to. I also enjoyed the tomatoes, they would have been better with something though. I didn't taste the Jerky or the cottage cheese. I was a little put off by the crackly texture. However, many more of my classmates did enjoy it.
One parting not, because we didn't move the dried good from the rather moist room we dried them in the re-hydrated a little. While, this didn't effect the taste so soon after drying they're self life will be much shorter. Be sure to store any dry goods in a dry place.