Life on this little homestead is busy. So much to learn, so much to do. So much to learn. You get the idea.
A few months ago, I was so very blessed to score an Excalibur dehydrator from a fellow homesteader who is in the process of moving. In case you don't know, Excalibur makes the Holy Grail of dehydrators. The raw food people love it because it does not destroy the food enzymes. The Preppers love it because it holds a TON of food at once. Everyone else loves it because it cycles the temperature and so it dries food more evenly and thoroughly. I love it because, well, I am a gadget girl, and anything that makes food prep easier or more fun, well, I am all in!
Since I picked up said dehydrator (I think I am going to have to name it...hmmmm...) it has been ensconced on a shelf in the studio, waiting to fulfill its purpose in life. What is that purpose, you might ask? Well, it's made to dry things out, kinda like a bit of Colorado in a box! To get my feet wet, I tried drying some herbs, but got busy before they were done, then turned it off, and still busy, just let them sit there for a few weeks. As you can guess, this is NOT proper dehydrating protocol. I am quite surprised that the Excalibur people did not come and take the dehydrator away from me. I mean, there have to be protocols for things like that, right?!
Anyway, as I have been researching how to use this machine, and trying to figure out how to make it work for our family, I surfed across a blog from a woman who uses her dehydrator five days a week! "Wow", I thought "...FIVE days a week?!?" I kind of felt challenged. And being the competitive girl that I am, I decided to challenge myself to a "30 Day Dehydrator Challenge". Here are the rules. Dry something in the dehydrator six days a week for 30 days. That's it. Follow along, if you like. Or jump in and play along! It does not even have to be dehydrating...if you have a kitchen tool at your house you are not putting to good purpose...get it out and let's get going...it's GAME ON!
Day ONE - Leeks
For day one, I chose something simple, with a short time frame. Leeks. I found them on sale last night and we love leeks in our soup all winter long, but can't always find them when we need them.
First, I rinse the leeks, and then I start at the first place the leaves split. I cut a very shallow groove all around the leek, and peel the upper leaf off and discard it.
I just keep working my way up the leek, until all the dark green leafage is off.
I then make a slit along the length of the leek to check for dirt. They grow leeks in sandy soil, and sometimes it gets down in the leaves. If I find dirt, I just rinse it out.
Next, I slice off the root end. Not too close (it won't separate during drying).
All ready for slicing!
Next, I chop the leeks into rings.
And then split the rings in half. Sometimes I will split the leek in half lengthwise first, and then cut half moons...it just depends upon how fast I need to move.
Next I took the split leek rings and spread them out on the drying trays. I tried as much as possible to separate the layers, so that they would dry more evenly. Lesson #1: Dry fewer trays at a time, and take an extra drying sheet and put it over the leeks in the tray, so that they don't blow out of the dryer all over the floor!!
Now, put the trays in the dehydrator. All loaded up and ready to go. I was following the raw food directions, so I put the fan on high (145 degrees) for 2-3 hours. I was then supposed to come back and turn the fan down to 120 degrees. When I went back, (prepare for Lesson #2) there were not only bits of leek all over the floor, but 85% of the leeks were dry!! "But wait! What about my 120 degrees! I'm not done yet!" So lesson number two is leeks dry fast.
Now this, THIS is God's gift to homesteaders and to anyone who loves to store food!! I picked this up for nearly nothing (I would have to truthfully say, she charged me so little for it, I should call it a GIFT!), from the same sweet homesteading lady who sold me the dehydrator. It works thusly: I took the dried leeks, and put them into the jar. I did not pack them in, but I did tap the jar to get as much in as possible. Then you put a lid on, put the gadget on the lid, and push a button. All the air is sucked OUT of the jar, and the lid is sealed on tight. How cool, I ask you, is THAT?!?! Especially in the moisture laden air that I now live in...to be able to keep thins crisp and dry is a real bonus.
And this is the finished product. Two quart jars filled to the brim with beautiful, dried leeks! I see being able to use these for on the fly soup days, or maybe I will dry some celery and carrots and make some dried soup mixes...hmmmm...I do have 29 more days of drying to go!
So what are YOU doing?