I bought myself a fancy new dehydrator. Wait; that’s not entirely true. I did ORDER myself that fancy new dehydrator, but I didn’t pay for it. I had some credit laying around over at Fab.com and one day instead of boutiques comprised solely of upcycled vintage shabby chic repurposed milk bottle cardigans or whatever, they had this dehydrator. And I said to myself, “Self, I have always kind of sort of wanted a dehydrator. I think.”
And between that conversation and the fact that we’re not really spending money on anything, I became the proud owner of this here dehydrator a few weeks later. [Fab.com is awesome if you 1) want something random and 2) don't need it for at least a month.]
Here is where I would turn this all into a delightful and poignant metaphor if I’d had a little more coffee. You know—dehydrating food while I am constantly weeping and probably dehydrating my own damn self. It’s poetic. Or stupid. But I’ve only had one cup so you’re spared. Phew.
This is the time of year when I’m all about food, so the timing was certainly right. My garden runneth over! Surely I could exercise my inner Laura Ingalls and… ummm…
use my fancy dehydrator find new and interesting ways to put up the bounty for the long cold winter non-garden-season ahead. This was going to be EXCITING!
The first thing I did was read the instructions and recipe booklet that came with the dehydrator. My particular model has four settings, on account of that is fancy. There’s fan only, low, medium, and high. Nowhere in the enclosed materials (or after hunting online) could I ascertain what temperature those settings represent. But at least every single recipe I found dictated a specific temperature.
Oh, well. No matter! Sure the ENCLOSED RECIPE BOOKLET would tell me what settings to use for specific things, right? We had a pineapple sitting on the counter, and I had visions of delicious, chewy dried fruit, so I turned to the “fruits” section. There were all kinds of directives about preparing your fruit (“wash thoroughly and cut into uniform pieces,” for example, just in case you’re so hippified that you planned to just toss some whole apples you found on the ground in there), but then… “optimal heat settings and drying times vary.” Ooooo… kay?
Finally I decided to just go for it and set it on low overnight. Fine. I made Otto cut up the pineapple for me, because I’m a delicate flower and pineapples are kind of pointy. He did an excellent job, and I washed all of the dehydrator racks and then set about arranging the pineapple chunks on them for drying.
I’d guess the whole prep operation took about… oh, maybe 45 minutes. Finally it was all set up and I turned it on. This was a few hours before bed, so I checked it again before we turned in, and it looked about the same. But nothing was catching on fire, or anything, so I figured it was okay.
The next morning, the entire house smelled like pineapple. It was lovely. Instant luau! And the pineapple itself had shrunk down quite a bit. But it still seemed kind of squishy, so I let it go a few more hours before concluding that it was probably finished. Finally I turned off the machine and offered a piece to Monkey.
“Mmmm,” he said. “I like this better than regular pineapple! It doesn’t squirt everywhere!” Yes, that damn fruit and its natural juiciness. We certainly showed IT.
I carefully gathered up the shrunken pineapple chunks, and noted that an entire pineapple and fourteen hours of electricity yields… about a half a cup of fruit. No fooling. Monkey had a couple of pieces, Otto and I had a couple of pieces, and then Chickadee made short work of the rest of it the next time we went in to visit her. [Sidebar: It's hard not to feel like she's in prison when we attend regular visitation hours, which take place in the facility's little cafeteria and are heartbreakingly poorly-attended. Of the three or four other families we regularly see there, everyone but us comes in with fast food for their kids---Chick-fil-A, mostly, but sometimes something else. Us, we bring fresh fruit and sometimes something I baked. Chickie always gobbles down the fruit first, no matter what else we bring. I crack jokes about scurvy that are amusing only to me while she tears into the mango or fruit salad or dried pineapple like it's her long-sought-after hit of meth.]
Once the pineapple was gone, I turned to the garden.
Hmmm. Dehydrated green beans and zucchini seem… gross. I mean, I consulted the almighty Google, and people do dehydrate them and use them for soups and stuff, but I prefer freezing. Dehydrated tomatoes? Also a possibility, but ever since one of you—apologies, I don’t remember and am too lazy to look, maybe it was TC?—introduced me to this tomato sauce recipe, there is no such thing as surplus tomatoes ’round here. I make batch after batch of sauce and freeze it, and when the last bag is gone there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth from THE CHILDREN, who never before liked tomato sauce. So.
Of course, I do have zucchini coming out of my ears. Or, rather, my planting boxes. Stealth ninja zucchinis continue to hide from me until they’ve swelled to the size of Louisville Sluggers, and then I bring them inside and wonder if I have it in me to shred/freeze yet another mutant. So back to the Google I went, looking for something magical to do with my dehydrator and my giant zucchini.
And then, I found it! Zucchini candy! Perfect.
In my continuing quest to become a hippie, I decided that rather than sugar and Kool-Aid, I could make it with organic fruit punch, instead. So I peeled and deseeded and cubed my zucchini, and then I simmered it in fruit juice for about half an hour, and then I drained it and spread out the cubes on the dehydrator racks. I’d used one and a half GIANT specimens, so this took quite a while and used every last rack on my fancy dehydrator.
I let it go for a few hours, then rotated the racks, and then we went to bed. In the morning I rotated the racks again. And eventually it appeared to be done, and I scraped all of the now-gummy bits off the racks and offered some to Monkey.
“Yum,” he said. “This is pretty good.”
And it really was. Which was good, because the yield from this project was… about a cup and a half worth of snacks.
In conclusion: Using a dehydrator takes a lot of prep work, a lot of electricity, and a really long time. But at least at the end of it you have almost nothing to show for it.