Jul 29, 2014

Adventures in Food Dehydration

Add this to the list of things we don't like about our new home, currently. The Broiler. Or lack there of. 

At the old house we didn't use the broiler feature on the oven often, but there are some recipes that we enjoy that required it - including our Zucchini Lasagna recipe and my S'mores cookies recipe.

We lost the ability to broil with our new house's oven. Our oven has the function, but see, when you are on propane gas versus natural gas, the oven needs to be outfitted properly. And while the oven and stove-top were outfitted properly, (kind of - I can roast a chicken in the oven in just over an hour and things boil on the stove at the simmer setting) the broiler definitely was not outfitted, at all.  

During our house inspection this issue was brought up. Seriously, when the broiler is turned on the inside of the oven looks like it has a dozen blow torches on high. I've accidentally forgotten one time that the broiler was out of control and turned it on. One minute of listening to it and I remembered very quickly to turn it off and I haven't tried to turn it on again. Someday we'll get a proper oven and broiler, but I hope that day will be closer to the day we get to implement Phase 2 of the kitchen, so you know, that's a waaaays down the road. 

One day's Harvest back in May - we have so much more coming in now

But now our summer garden is producing zucchini in droves right now. Which has me wanting to make some Zucchini lasagna to freeze and eat this winter. But how could I prep the zucchini for the lasagna properly. Enter Cabela's. We earn points there with our credit card. A lot of points. So Cameron researched food dehydrators - even home-made, solar-powered dehydrators. Of course, the material costs for making a homemade version was just about as much as a commercial-grade dehydrator from Cabela's, and we had enough points with Cabela's to get the dehydrator for free. And all we had to do was order it and wait for it to be delivered versus find the time to build one. That was an easy decision. 

Image Courtesy Cabelas.com

Our dehydrator arrived a few weeks ago and the weekend after it arrived, Cameron busted out our commercial grade food slicer (another Cabela's purchase) and sliced up the giant zucchinis we had reserved for our lasagna needs. Three giant zucchinis, sliced, fit on six dehydrator racks. The dehydrator came with 10. And thus the adventure in dehydration began. 

Overall, we didn't have the dehydrator dry the slices to absolute crispness. Cameron got them to a dryness level he liked and then placed the slices in a food saver bag and sucked out the air and sealed it. As a precaution, we stored it in the fridge until I can get around to making a few lasagnas.

We also learned 1 VERY important lesson about the dehydrator. It needs to be run in the garage. It can take 5 hours to dehydrate the food. That's how long we ran it with the zucchini. So for 5 hours in the middle of summer, we had hot air being blown out the back of the dehydrator into our kitchen. 

But that wasn't all. It also makes white noise - like a fan in a bathroom does. Some people claim white noise is soothing, its recommended for helping babies sleep, blah blah blah. 

One weird thing about me? I HATE white noise. I hate bath fans, the sound of hot tubs with the bubbles on, etc. And, after 5 hours of the dehydrator being on, we discovered that not only do I not just like white noise, but it will actually affect my mood completely, in a not so good way, either. 

At the end of the 5 hours I was one irritated woman. Anything and everything was annoying me. I was literally on edge and it just felt like things were getting worse and worse. As soon as the dehydrator was turned off I felt a huge weight lift of my shoulders and my mood improved immensely. 

So while we could actually live with the hot air to some extent, we learned we can't live with ME with the dehydrator on. Which is now why if that thing is on, it can only be on in the garage - or I can't be home. 

Oddly enough, when I mentioned this idiosyncrasy of mine to a co-worker, I came to learn that she is the same way - and she thought it was just her; she was so happy to go home to her husband that night to say she was not alone. I have to say its the humming that drives us batty - we don't find it relaxing at all. That constant hummmmmm, just thinking about it makes me cringe right now.

But I am looking forward to testing this new toy out more. We just harvested a ton of tomatoes, so we may try our hands at some sun-dried tomatoes soon. I also read how you can dehydrate tomato skins to turn into tomato powder, which can in turn be used to make tomato paste or as a thickner in tomato sauce. All of this will be done in the garage, of course.

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