Preserving the Harvest: Drying Food

Preserving the Harvest: Drying Food

Part of Ep. 2006 Urban Gardening

Canning and freezing are two popular ways to preserve the harvest but produce can also be easily dehydrated.  Even applesauce can be turned into easy fruit roll-ups.  We travel to Appleton to learn how.

Premiere date: Jul 01, 2012

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:

What do apples, lemons, and watermelon have in common? They can all be dried. We're talking about preserving the harvest with food dehydration. I'm with Darlene Schmitz. You are the national sales manager for the Metal Ware Corporation out of Two Rivers and an expert at drying food.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Yes.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So let's talk about it.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Okay, dehydration is the oldest form of food preservation. It's been around for a long, long time.

 

Shelley Ryan:

They didn't have freezers back then.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

No, and it's also a very easy method and an inexpensive method. It's a great method for families. Today we're going to be talking about commercial dehydrators. Some people swear by using their oven in their kitchen. I don't think it's as reliable as using one of these dehydrators. Also, it's more expensive than running one of these dehydrators.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Because you're using your whole oven.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Yes, and also there are some people who want to make their own dehydrator and do it out under the sun, but it doesn't work too good in Wisconsin with our humidity and trying to control the temperature the sun, and the insects. I would really suggest people look for a dehydrator similar to this. You can pick them up readily.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, they come in all shapes and sizes.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

They do.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You told me earlier that if you can get one with temperature controls, that helps.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Yes, it really helps a lot. This one has the fan and the power in the lid.

 

Shelley Ryan:

In fact, I got mine from my mom. It has none of that, but I've dehydrated a lot of food with it.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Absolutely.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, let's start, shall we?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

This is one of the most popular things that people dry and it's usually a snack for their children. I did sprinkle these with some cinnamon, but you don't need to. Very healthy. As the food dries, the sugars concentrate as the food shrinks. Everything you're going to dry is going to taste sweeter.

 

Shelley Ryan:

And more concentrated.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Because of the drying process.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Now, you need to add lemon, or something?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Any kind of fruit and vegetables that will normally brown you would want to treat them with lemon juice.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So, that's apples.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

This is what our apples look like after they're dried.

 

Shelley Ryan:

They've shrunk. They're very different from the ones in the store. The ones in the store are usually deep fried.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wow, really?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Yeah.

 

Shelley Ryan:

These look great. How do I know that they're done?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

You just need to make sure on both sides that you don't see any moisture.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, so we don't use a timer, it's almost by touch.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Your dehydrator book will tell you a range of times. Okay, but then you test by, you know, by crunching. You'll need to test.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Or by chewing.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Absolutely. This is probably one of my favorites. These are tomatoes from the garden. Brushed with a little bit of olive oil and they have Italian seasoning on. They're so good just to eat like this, just as a snack, or they can be added back into soups, stews on top of a pizza, anything you might like.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Look how different they are, though. They've really shrunk.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

One thing that's interesting about dehydrated foods is they can be stored in your cupboard for up to two years.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Really, in just a plastic bag?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

In a bag, or any kind of a storage container that you might want to use.

 

Shelley Ryan:

A cool and dry spot, I bet?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Yep.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Do these take longer because tomatoes are juicier?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

The more water that's in the product the longer it will take.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Because you want to remove that water. That's what's stopping the microorganisms so that the preservation takes place.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So use touch. Bananas, we don't grow so well in Wisconsin.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

No, but this is a great snack for kids. People buy these in the grocery store They are deep fried. These are nothing but bananas. We use this screen for sticky foods like bananas, and also small things like herbs and spices that would fall through. So this is a nice accessory to have. This is what they look like when they're finished. Nothing but bananas, compared to the ones in the store that you would buy that would all kinds of fats and oils, and additives, and preservatives.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Bananas aren't something I think of, but I tend to not think of them on my counter, too. So they get brown. Can you do something like this with overripe fruit and vegetables?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Yes, fruits and vegetables that are a little bit past their prime dehydrate just fine.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Excellent.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Instead of throwing them away, dehydrate them.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wow, okay.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Here are some pretty peppers that we did. They can also be cut into chunks. They don't have to necessarily be done in rings.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Yeah, but these are pretty.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

This is how they turn out, they shrink up very small. I took mine and I made pepper flakes out of them that can be used in recipes.

 

Shelley Ryan:

How did you do that?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

In a food processor.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Really, you just took these? Okay.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Great for recipes, great to sprinkle on pizza.

 

Shelley Ryan:

I have to smell this. Oh, that's like a fresh pepper flavor. That's wonderful!

 

Darlene Schmitz:

We also have some fruit roll?ups here. Instead of buying fruit roll?ups at the store for your kids you can make them yourself with pureed fruits or applesauce.

 

Shelley Ryan:

That's applesauce.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

After it's dried, it looks like this. You can add toppings, if you like.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Again, I'd think these take a little longer because they're very liquidy.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Yes, you can also do things like stews, soups if you want to take them backpacking with you. Any kind of liquid or semi?liquid can be dried on these trays.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You've added nuts to that one.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

And coconut to this one.

 

Shelley Ryan:

That's just another pureed fruit. This is a fruit, too?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

No, this is a tomato sauce. Wow, either homemade from your beautiful garden tomatoes or just taken from a can or a jar from the store. Dehydrated. When you're done, fold it up, put it in a bag like this. Either store it on your shelf or take it camping. When you get to camping, re?hydrate it with a little water in a pan, and you've got your spaghetti.

 

Shelley Ryan:

It's going to fit in a backpack much easier than a big can.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Oh, much easier, absolutely, and in your cupboard.

 

Shelley Ryan:

That's true, a space saver. So, what are some unusual things? What are some fun things that you've dehydrated?

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Lemon zest. Use your lemon rinds after you've squeezed your lemons. It's unbelievably wonderful. You can make corn meal with fresh, frozen or canned corn. It's wonderful. Watermelon takes a long time to dehydrate, but it tastes just like cotton candy. It's just really great.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Ooh, cotton candy out of a fruit, I like that. Thanks for these ideas, the recipes will be on our website. So, thank you, Darlene.

 

Darlene Schmitz:

Thank you.

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