Jen here. I got a new gadget this week that led me to join two new Yahoo groups, which is my solution to any time I have community-answerable questions. I am now a proud member of FoodPreservationDryingCanningAndMore and preserving-food. I was given a 3rd-hand (at least) Waring Dehydrator for the original purpose of making apple chips. I haven’t found an owner’s manual yet, but I now have a contact with somebody who owns the same model and does have the manual. I’ve received answers to my questions already, and have successfully dried a can of pineapple (recommended as a good starter because you don’t need to do any prep-work besides draining), two cans of peaches (inhaled by my 2-year old) and several Clementines just because they were there.
I love it! I now have a use for the cases of peaches in my garage. Dehydration is an imprecise science lending itself to busy folk everywhere. Prepare your product (some things need or want pre-treatment . . . I’m still learning but there are ample resources available through both of the above Yahoo groups), put it on the racks, turn it on and check it every couple of hours, length of time to be determined by product, thickness, humidity, phases of the moon, toddler mental states and more). It is extremely versatile too. You can prepare your own trail food, food for long-term storage, seasonings, jerky, fruits, vegetables, meats, soup mixes, flavorings, powders and more. I’m considering making fruit leathers, yogurt leathers, tomato powder and candied orange peels (a treat I remember my mom making and enjoying).
It seems, though, that if I were to get into this in greater detail, I would want to get some sort of vacuum food saving device with a jar sealing attachment because one of the best ways to preserve these preserved items is in vacuum sealed jars. Well, one semi-necessary appliance at a time. We’re not even going to talk about upgrading dehydrators . . . the Excalibur is the product to own if you’re really serious about dehydration. It’s larger, has an adjustable thermostat and really cool kinds of sheets and racks. I do have to remember that storing things that require rehydration isn’t always the best way to store when living through a drought, even if it takes up less space. I’d hate to have shelves full of “hamburger rocks” and dried spaghetti sauce, and still be starving because I don’t have water at hand.
I’ll keep you updated on what comes out of my kitchen.