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Although we’ve shared our excitement about dehydrating citrus before, this post is as much about a surprise benefit of owning a dehydrator.  It’s a rather logical advantage but one I rarely thought about before getting one: it cuts food waste down considerably.

I don’t shop with lists.  This is in part to being a member of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program where most of my food is chosen for me and largely because I like to see what items are at the absolute peak and available when I’m shopping.  Most of our items are local though I’m on a giant kick of using lemons and limes right now (as I continue to learn about the important role of acid in the kitchen).  This includes Holiday Shopping – I stock up on ingredients which are the best I can find and make up the menu as I prepare it.

Over the Holidays we had excess citrus – limes that weren’t added to cocktails, a few lemons that were just a few too many and some mandarin oranges because it’s a Christmas tradition I find very difficult to give up on.  By the time we took our tree down, the lot of citrus were starting to turn the corner and I knew it was time to overdose of them or find a back-up plan, so they were chopped up and tossed into the dehydrator overnight:

The optimal way to dry citrus is to slice it as evenly as possible, remove visible seeds (we left ours in as I was lazy) and put it in the dehydrator until the flesh is dried and fragile (i.e. crunchy).

We’ll share ideas on what to do with eat but here’s a few random facts:

  • They will lose over 90% of their weight.
  • Other than seeds, everything is edible.
  • Especially because everything is edible, I highly encourage you to use organic produce
  • The lime and (especially) the lemon flesh will darken a lot.  This is fine – it just looks dark; when you cook with it you won’t even be able to see the flesh (exception: tea which you could grind the lemon for if it bothered you that much).
  • The peel of the lime is the most bitter of all and most find it difficult to eat even small slices.  You may want to chop it thinner before drying, or use some of the solutions below.
  • These will keep a very, very, very long time – just store in a sealed jar out of direct sunlight (our ‘Great Wall of Preserves‘ is hidden from the sun at all times despite it being in our kitchen).

What to do with dried Oranges

What to do with dried Lemons

  • My favorite use is to smell them.  I know that must sound ridiculous but I swear by these as a natural way to open your sinuses; they are an awesome way to stimulate your senses, wake up or clear your breathing.
  • Add to tea – either whole or ground into pieces.
  • If you want to add them to water (i.e. for drinking), rehydrate them in a small bit of boiling water to make a lemon concentrate that could be added to a larger portion of water and chilled to serve.
  • Throw a few into any stir-fry – or add to rice as it cooks.

What to do with dried Limes

  • My favourite thing is to turn them to a powder (we use a coffee grinder) and mist that powder with salt and/or sugar.  It’s a great dusting for cocktails and an interesting use in vinaigrettes.
  • Remember that this one is very bitter.
  • There was a pretty good slew of ideas shared on our drying limes post as well.

There are all sorts of uses for all of them.  If you’re looking to chop them small when cooking, I recommend adding them to what you’re cooking first (they will absorb moisture and soften) before cutting into the dried ones as they’ll mostly shatter and send lemon shrapnel across your kitchen.

What would/ do you do with dehydrated citrus?

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I now believe there are only two different types of people in the world.  To find out which one you are, reflect on the next sentence:

Our loft has smelled like bacon for 3 days.

That`s either a wonderful thing – or a horrible form of torture.  Around these parts, it`s just par for the course!  Candied bacon jerky is a fun novelty that is as fascinating to eat as it is to make – it is full of bacony goodness.

Before we share the details of bacon jerky, let`s answer a few pressing questions:

  • The best jerky is made from lean meat.  Fat does not dry well and stores worse.  This recipe is not shelf stable – it`s for quick eating or for the fridge.  We`ll share our caramel recipe that we made this for tomorrow.
  • The mess isn`t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be to clean up.
  • Meat has a danger zone when exposed to temperatures between 40-140 farenheit.  Our dehydrator has temperatures up to 160 degrees; if yours doesn`t go that warm I would advise not making jerky of any type in it.
  • The final product is a little greasy – even more so at room temperature.
  • Lots of people eat this just the way it is and love it.  While it was really interesting and very good, I prefered it as an ingredient to use.  Since we were using it in caramel, I upped the sweetness when drying it.
  • This is far more like bacon candy than candied bacon.  This isn`t bacon that`s been sweetened – it`s a sweet that`s made of bacon.  That`s a world of difference.  The bacon almost explodes in your mouth and is an intense concentration of bacony goodness.  Yes, I said bacony goodness.

Here`s a few photos of the process before we share the details:

The basics of the recipe:

  1. For every pound of bacon, mix 1 cup of brown sugar.  Try to distribute sugar so that the bacon is wearing a good coat of it.
  2. Place on trays for the dehydrator.  Leave lots of space for air circulation.  Set dehydrator to 160 degrees.
  3. Allow it till dry until all moisture is removed from the bacon.  Although some advocate 36 hours for this process, I was far more comfortable with 60.
  4. Check periodically (i.e. every 12 hours).  Your bacon will go through a stage where it will be almost see-through.  Be patient, it will become dense again.
  5. After the first 24 hours, separate the bacon from the tray – this will make it easier to remove later.  Flip at this stage if you`d prefer.

Here`s a few things I`d consider doing differently next time:

  • Part way through I would have emptied a tray of bacon onto another tray (keeping all meat in the dehydrator at all times) and washed the empty tray.  I would continue to rotate like this until all trays were clean.  This would remove the small amounts of liquid fat that filled the screens and slowed air circulation (and the process).
  • Because I was going to be using these in `bits`, I would have crumbled them part way through the process – which would have also sped things along as small pieces dry faster.

I hope you’ll give it a try!

If the idea of your house smelling like bacon for 2-3 days sounds great to you, we hope you’ll share this with others to inspire them to the same level of maddness. 🙂  You can eat this as-is or use it in other recipes – like this one for spicy bacon caramel.

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A lot of people are surprised that you can (or would think of) roasting something like a hot pepper before dehydrating it.  Many hot-pepper fans are familiar with a chipotle (essentially a dried smoked jalapeno) and when you connect the two ideas, the concept of drying something that you’ve roasted doesn’t seem nearly as foreign.

We’ve shared a lot about drying hot peppers before:

This year we’re trying to perfect out approach to dehydrating roasted peppers (we are using jalapenos).  The ones we made last year were fire-and-brimstone spicy but they essentially looked like sheets (or the thinnest vegetable ‘leather’ you can imagine).  They were full of flavour and full of heat but they looked a lot like bats.  Yes, bats (photos in the first link above).

The  biggest modification to our approach can be seen in the photo: we are roasting the peppers with their tops on.  I used to cheat and chop the tops off (they roasted faster) but I was left with a sheet that was tasty but tough to store.

The second significant modification is our use of temperature.  In the past we used a moderate heat and shut the lid.  We now turn the heat as hot as it will go and are constantly vigilant, turning, monitoring and looking for the skin to just start to blister and char before turning.  If you wait too long, the pepper will char throughout which creates that ‘lovely’ bat-like colour.  By just blistering the skin you will leave the inner flesh in tact (although it will darken in the drying process).

Note that cooking this many can also make breathing a little difficult if you’re not carefull.  If it’s a windy day, stand up wind from the smoke.  If it’s relatively still, try to avoid placing your head over the peppers when flipping them to avoid inhaling smoke or just the spicy fumes created by the process.

Once the peppers are removed from the heat I put them in a sealed container (a pot will do) to cool and sweat.   This will make the skins easier to remove and easier to handle.

When I remove the skins, I wear gloves.  This quantity of hot peppers is enough to cause some serious pain that will stick around for days (rubbing your hands with olive oil can help reduce this pain).  Jalapenos often are more stubborn than a typical bell pepper (their skin and flesh can both be thinner and don’t separate as easy).  Don’t drive yourself wild – take what easily comes off and leave the rest.

Finally we chop the end off (this facilitates drying) and either dehydrate whole or cut once to have halves.  They enter the dehydrator around 125 degrees and, with proper spacing, should be done in 12-18 hours.

We’ll share the results – and what to do with them – before long! 

If you’re looking for more ideas about hot peppers:

 

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There are always exceptions to every rule and many in this community provide the exception to the following 2 rules but the following paradox is on my mind and I see it so often when speaking with people about dehydrating food:

  1. Many Chefs/ Cooks don’t see drying food as cooking; many don’t get involved in it, trained to it or practice it.  They don’t see it as a means to cook and it gets small attention (there are many more reasons for this such as the practicality of studying a relatively obscure and labor-intensive craft like preserving compared to the practical skills of classic cooking techniques).
  2. Many Food preservers (this is my category and is meant in no way as less knowledgable than category 1) see dehydrating as a way to preserve food – but not as a form of cooking it.  It is often a way to preserve an ingredient – but not a dish or altered ingredient.

My main use for dehydrating is, of course, to preserve food in its purest form that can become an ingredient later.  But why stop there?  After all, we are constantly playing with flavour combinations when we pickle, ferment and can our ingredients…

Last year we dehydrated more than 30 pounds of tomatoes which were quickly bathed in cider vinegar and maple syrup.  “The Tomato Bomb” was a successful experiment which took a perfectly wonderful tomato and raised its acidity and it’s sweetness (the two essential components of a tomato) and created an intense tomato treat.  We’ve used these tomatoes all through the year and have found that they taste only like tomato and they are some of the best dehydrating we’ve ever done. 

Adding a variety of spices to sweet potatoes before dehydrating them turned them into BBQ chips that were outrageously good.  There are other similar recipes to this online but this was an example of using the dehydrator to alter (and perhaps enhance) and ingredient closer to cooking than what is typically thought of when dehydrating. 

We began to talk about ‘redehydration‘ in June although we haven’t shared the results yet.  The initial flavour profile of the following is AMAZING but I want to test the shelf life before recommending it (assuming that it keeps, which I believe it will, we will show these at the start of the harvest next year):

  • Dehydrated strawberries rehydrated with 25 year-old balsamic vinegar and dehydrated again.
  • Dehydrated rhubarb rehydrated in maple syrup and dehydrated again (a kind of natural sweet-and-sour candy).

For this years Brickworks Picnic, we’re serving an all-alum dish.  It’s vaguely inspired (“vaguely” being the operative term) by an all-season chip.  At the center of the dish will be a piece of pickled garlic but we need more texture and flavour to add to it – thus today’s post – the salt-and-vinegar leek chip.

I knew these would work based on our experience dehydrating wild leeks (or ramps) earlier in the year.  You will note that the larger leeks turned more ‘abstract’ than their wild brethren:

These will bring texture and an element of savoury/umami to the dish.  Chef David Kinch(we introduced him here) really rung my bell in March when addressing the crowd at Terroir V by claiming that his team assesses EVERY dish for evidence of umami and if its missing, they add it.  I’ve been very conscious of this ever since and it’s brought a focus to my cooking that was previously missing.

Umami (the taste of savory) comes in many forms but is often associated with things which are aged: cheese, ripe tomatoes, fermented products and cured meats.  My garlic is a quick pickle (meaning vinegar is added vs being fermented) so I’d need to turn somewhere else for Umami.  I turned to Umeboshi (Japanese plum vinegar) to provide the savory element of our salt-and-vinegar leeks.  They are delightfully salty while also providing a deep flavour that wouldn’t be there without this fermented vinegar.

A final note before discussing how to prepare these: they are interesting to taste on their own – but you wouldn’t want to eat a bunch of them.  These are awesome companions for pickles, sauces or something sweet.  By themselves they are intensely salted.  I also adjust my salt in my cooking to compliment/ account for this.

Directions:

  1. Using a mandoline, cut slices of the white part of your leek.  I do this directly over the tray that goes into my drier which saves handling the delicate pieces later (a lesson learned the hard way).  I use the mandoline and a great deal of care.  Don’t cut too finely as they will dry very thin (we were about an 1/8th of an inch).
  2. Spread the leeks out – they shouldn’t touch or overlap.
  3. Complete for all trays before moving to next step.
  4. Stack your trays over your sink.  Splash vinegar on the top tray (you should hit most pieces but don’t worry about catching all of them).
  5. Season tray with fine salt (umeboshi is also salty so you will want to account for that when deciding how much to use).
  6. Move top tray to bottom of stack and repeat – it will gain more vinegar as you splash the other trays.
  7. Dehydrate at 125 degrees.  Time will vary depending on thickness – ours took about 8 hours.

While this doesn’t taste exactly like a salt-and-vinegar chip (which would be somewhat tragic), you can imagine a chip if you allow your imagination wander when eating it!

Store in an air-tight container.  You may wish to crisp briefly by toasting in a pan (like you do with spices) at time of serving).

 

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There is an old adage in preserving circles that a whole lotta food makes a little amount of preserving.  That’s only true in some ways for hot peppers.

We dried 7 pounds (112 ounces) of hot peppers this week to end up with 10 ounces of finished product.  But that little product still has all of the heat and flavour of it`s original bulk with the advantage of a much smaller volume of space required to store it.  In other words, less is equal or maybe even more than it’s original content. 🙂

Drying peppers is easy work.  Cut the stems off and throwing them in the dehydrator at 125 degrees.  We cut them in half to speed up drying time (the large pieces took almost 24 hours) but still keeps them reasonably large (the bigger the piece, the longer the flavour will be retained due to less surface area and therefore limited exposure to the air).

All of the lost water content can put a few spicy fumes in the air.  If you have a garage, you may want to do these in there – if not, it’s not the end of the world uncomfortable, just a little sharp.

The prep work on these was less than 20 minutes and the final result is stellar:

We rehydrate them in sauces, soups or stocks before chopping them finely and returning them to the pot they rehydrated in.

If you`re a chilehead, we`ve shared an entire series of posts about the hot stuff including reviews of 9-different types of hot peppers you may want to know about.

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There`s not a lot of mystery in how to dehydrate a melon:

  • Remove rind
  • Cut in even slices
  • Place in dehydrator at 135 until thin, dry and leathery (near brittle but not quite).

The process takes  12-18 hours – but is greatly dependant on the thickness of your slices (our quarter-inch slices were pretty close to 18 hours).

There is however some tricks to getting even slices.  Rather than describing the process of squaring-off a watermelon (we eat the rest fresh), it`s easier to show you:

It almost looks like a loaf of bread!

The bigger question for many will be – `What does it taste like?`  It`s definately not like chicken.  The flavour is nearly sickly sweet with a texture somewhere between fruit leather (or roll-ups), cotton candy and space food.  Many adore it – I`m not sure it`s my cup of tea.  But I`ll reserve my vote until the middle of winter where sweet flavours are less plentiful and this may make more sense in that context.  If I don`t love it, I`ll bet I can find a bunch of people (and kids) who will adore it!

Have you had dried melon before?  If not, would you try it?  If so, what do you think of it?

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Is there anything so lovely as a beautiful, juicy flavour-packing cherry?  I didn’t think so.  That’s why I thought it would be far more fun to dry them and get rid of all of that juicy goodness.

Before we talk about drying them, let me assure you there’s a method to my madness.  Dehydration is the absolute best way I know to save the essence of the pure flavour of the fruit.  By removing the water over a prolonged period of time, one is left with only the essence of taste; you don’t need to add sugar, heat, vinegar or anything else (all things I love – we’ve preserved almost 2 cases of preserved cherries this year and have almost a dozen different types of preserved cherries in our pantry).  I just have a special place for drying them because they dry so well and their taste is preserved almost in tact.  They also shrivel up and take a tiny amount of space to store compared to preserving them whole in simple syrup.

Drying them is easy – especially if you have a dehydrator (we can do up to 20 pounds at a time – though the final yield is about 10% of what went in to the dryer).  The writing on the subject is all over the Internet and cookbooks – prick or pit them, place in a dehydrator around 135 degrees and wait until they are leathery (12-24 hours).  That’s it.  You’re done.

HOLD THE PHONE. 

Remember nose to tail fruit?  Yeaahhh Booyyyeeez – it’s time to lower the boom on cherries and talk about how to get something else from drying them and it’s a great way to steal from other techniques and help diversify your dried fruit.

Joel’s ‘Secret’ Dried Cherries
Day 1
Pit your cherries.  Weigh them (after pitting).  Toss in 5-10% sugar.  Cover and place in fridge overnight in a big non-reactive bowl.

Day 2. 
Strain liquid into a bowl.  A pound of pitted cherries will make at least a half cup of cherry simple syrup.  We did 20 pounds and ended up with 3-4 liters.  You can dry the cherries as-is or rinse them to remove residual sugar (I don’t mind the small amount of extra sweetness).

That’s it!

That extra liquid is instant cocktail, spritzer, addition to salad dressing or sweetener for iced teas.  It can easily be added to a lemonade or even water (add as much as 3,4 or even 10 times the amount of water for just a taste). 

Dehydrating removes the liquid from the fruit and evaporates it into the air – so why not use maceration to coax some of the liquid out.  In the end you’ll save time and energy in your dryer – and you’ll be able to drink away the ‘angels share’ (this is a term from Scotch which describes the amount lost to evaporation each year as it ages in barrels).  We’ll Share our adaptation of Julia’s cherry pit liquor soon as well…

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