Siskiyou Cooks + Chefs: Dehydrating food is time-honored, delicious
Preserving food by drying is the time-honored and most common method used by humans. All you need is a place to lay out the foods and low heat. The heat can be the sun, oven or food dehydrator.
Dehydration is defined as 'the application of heat under controlled conditions to remove enough moisture from the food so bacteria, yeast and molds cannot grow. To dry food safely use a combination of warmth, low humidity and air current. Surf the internet or sporting goods stores to purchase drying racks for your oven or outdoors, and electric dehydrators.
Buying or foraging foods when they are in season and drying them can have an impact on your grocery budget. I have successfully dried herbs like sage, rosemary and turmeric on sheet pans sitting near my wood stove. I used to borrow a friend’s dehydrator and then I was gifted a nine-tray Excalibrator food dehydrator. This year I dried apples, sweet potatoes, pears and plums. I’ve dried oranges, lemons and onions.
I always wash and dry produce. Removing the peels is optional and I opt not to most of the time. Generally, you will slice the produce in ¼ inch slices. Drying time takes as long as it takes. Leafy herbs like parsley and basil will take less time than rosemary and sage. Juicier fruits take more time than vegetables. The method you use, seasonal humidity and weather conditions can affect the drying time.
Onions can be ground into onion powder. Mostly, I just toss them in when I make soup or stews. No need to sauté they simply rehydrated in the liquid.
Oranges dipped in chocolate make a nice gift. A slice of dried orange is a lovely addition to a glass of whiskey or hot brandy. Soak a slice of lime in tequila for a margarita or gin for a tonic.
Apples and pears are a healthy snack for all ages. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon if you want. You could try out one of the recipes on the internet for dried apple pies. (It’s on my “to try” list.) Cut dried apples, pears or plums into 1/2 “pieces to add texture to a green salad or slaw.
Spice blends can be made with dried garlic, onions and herbs. Grind dried lemon for a lemon pepper mix or try an orange pepper blend. Have fun and create your signature blend.
Lauri Sturdivant is interested in how our friends and families gather around a table sharing meals and telling stories. In this column she shares recipes and stories from people in Siskiyou County, and restaurant reviews from her travels. Read full interviews, find recipes and reviews at TheBillPlate.com.