My first adventure in dehydrating was bananas on my Oster Dehydrator. One banana on each tray. Mr. Perky loved the bananas. The smaller units work well and I don't have complaints. Initially I focused on fruits I wouldn't be able to produce myself, so that I would have options. Particularly items like mangoes, bananas, pineapple, you know more tropical fruits.
It didn't take me too long to figure out for me I needed a much larger dehydrator with temperature control. Within a month I was saving my money for another dehydrator. My general rule of thumb in is to buy larger than I think I need and choose a higher quality product. We want these tools to last.
I did the research and decided on the Excalibur, 9 tray dehydrator.
The Excalibur Dehydrator is a true work horse. I use it constantly. Besides being able to dry 15 square feet of food at a time, the adjustable temperature is extremely handy.
I purchased the Excalibur in 2012. While I have mostly done fruits and veggies I have also dehydrated some cabbage, elderberries,
ginger chipped beef, milk, lattes, sweet potato treats and dog food for my furbabies. For the dog food I even added some leftover (spicy) Chinese food. Mixed up the veggies and leftover rice, dehydrated it and added it to their jug. They love it!
I probably have every vegetable imaginable dehydrated. When the cold weather sets in, it's time to make soup I just pick what veggies I want and toss them in the pot.
Even if you don't have a garden, you may even dehydrated packages of frozen vegetables from the store.
Using the Excalibur:
This week I did a boat load of blueberries and a plethora of pineapple. The blueberries I was using were grown without chemicals, but they were the end of season gleanings were frozen. Roll them out in a single layer before you dehydrate them. The temperature was set at the fruit/fruit roll setting (135-145 degrees). The blueberries took approximately 12 hours.
Some people will prick a hole in larger berries. I haven't had to do that yet.
Since mine are from the farm, they all tend to be larger. I don't take the time to poke them, since I am doing at least a gallon at a time.
When done the blueberries are crisp and will bounce on the counter top, or floor as my dog knows. This dog, Snooker is ALWAYS in the kitchen when I am working.
I was also doing canned pineapple, since I found some cans with the newer pop tops. I am trying to get rid of those cans since I have heard that those type of cans don't tend to last as long in storage. I just drained the juice from the slices and put them on the trays. Again the temperature was set at the fruit/fruit roll setting (135-145 degrees). The pineapple took almost 20 hours, because they were thicker slices from a can.
The pineapple is leathery in consistency.
While you are able to store fruit in Mylar bags, I choose to vacuum seal my fruits in canning jars. Honestly we use/eat the fruit fairly quickly, so I haven't determined the shelf life.
I just replaced my small dehydrator with a Presto electric dehydrator to replace my smaller dehydrator (I burned the motor out). This will be used in the garage to dehydrate the very smelly stuff like garlic, onions, etc. The scent of certain items are very overpowering for my nose.
In the end if the power does go out, I will simple use the trays outside on sunny days to dehydrate my foods. Until then I have two excellent tools to help me store up for in the present.
To answer the question "little or big?" I think that depends on how much you plan to dehydrate for storage. Maybe like me you will wind up with both.
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