I don't usually stick a page out that isn't complete but this one is an exception as I'll add newly tried foodstuffs, tweak recorded figures were appropriate, and information on how dehydrated stuff reconstitutes in dishes. A lot of these foods may not at first glance be very bushcrafty but I can see me making a lot of jerky and fruit leather, plus the dried fruits will make excellent snacks and potentially additions to things like porridge. I'll also look to dry things like nettles, thyme etc and experiment with crushed up dried seasoning for dishes. I've purchased it at the tail end of the hedgerow bounty, but it gives me time to perfect timings for when it comes around again. Any text highlighted thusly is for me to review stuff when I redo it, do not adjust your monitors.
Apples and pears. Sliced to around 3mm (as per the manual suggestion), would perhaps go a bit thinner tried white/ brown sugar and cinnamon as toppings, the latter didn't come through, even with more added on the second go so will need even more than the amount shown in the picture).
Apple slices need cut surfaces wiping with lemon juice to stop browning (see the picture above to see a coated and non-coated one)...the juice of one lemon in a bowl will do about three apples and two pears. I initially did sixty degrees for seven and a half hours and then a couple more hours at forty degrees, but seventy degrees overnight was good in one hit. I experimented with a sugar dusting too.
Pears. The ones I got weren't at optimum ripeness and where a little bland at sixty degress for around. I did them like the apple rings with lemon juice and a light white sugar coating. They will be sensational when done ripe I suspect. Sixty degrees for seven hours but I suspect seventy degrees overnight may be the way forward. The pictures above are, left to right, an apple and pear slice.
Apple and pear chunks. As a trial I did some small chunks and again, gave them a sugar dusting. I did them overnight at fifty five degrees and came out squishy and pleasingly chewy.
Papaya. Not the brighest coloured one when chopped open to be fair but disappointing nevertheless. The colour has improved as it dehydrated but is dried on the outside and soft in the middle. I may try a really thin slice at seventy degrees overnight in the future. I do find papayas a bit hit and miss to buy as it goes.
Two sizes of cut banana...The larger ones at about four milimetres were ok but the thinner ones, around the two milimetre mark were buggers to turn during drying as they stick easily to the rack. Sixty degrees for seven hours but I will try longer to dry them a bit more, possibly with a sugar dusting.
Celery didn't set the world on fire as a snack when done at sixty degrees for seven hours, although it does work as an addition to a hot savoury dish. Par boiling for a couple of minutes first helped.
Fruit leather (from a small shop purchased plum punnet). The dehydrator I've got has the fan at the bottom so I wasn't sure how fruit leather would come out. I popped it on a piece of parchment paper with paperclips in the corners to make a low sided container. The plums are slowly cooked down, with a hit of brown sugar and a dash of water to stop it catching. It was then poured through a sieve.
I did it at seventy degrees for ten hours to find it still a bit sloppy. I then did three hours at forty degrees and this finished it off nicely. I will experiment with the settings to do it in one time hit. I cut it into strips and left the parchment paper on the back to help stop it sticking.
I have several ways to make jerky (and several blog pages too; an indoor, traditional and poshcraft set up with marinade details) and this was one of the dehydrator's acid tests (along with fruit leather). I sort of adapted the manual's recipe suggestion and liberally marinated the thin, across the grain topside pieces in terkiyaki sauce, garlic granules and Bart's dry jerky mix.
I tried experimenting with a quick pre smoke on our gas barbecue using wood chips in tin foil and smoke started to issue at 160 degrees. It didn't work that well but I suspect I may revisit this. That said, I thought I'd miss the smoky taste but actually I didn't. The jerky was a little crispy at seventy degrees overnight (the darker dehydrated one is above next to some traditional jerky). Perhaps either fifty five degrees overnight, or seventy degrees for say seven hours may be the magic combo.
Pineapple. I sliced a medium tin of rings (in natural juice) in half and you can fill a while tray with one tin exactly (if you eat one ring!). Overnight at seventy degrees did the trick. They reminded me of the fruit on pineapple cakes in taste and texture. I've read that chilli and pepper are a pineapples best friend so may experiment with this at a later date.
Mango. Seventy degrees overnight was a winner and you'd be hard put to tell it from commercially produced stuff. I sliced two thicknesses of about two and three milimeteres and the thinner ones were done, whereas the larger ones needed a couple of hours at forty degrees extra.
Pepper. This is a thinner, sweeter Romano variety. I did the yellow ones above as thin slices at 70 degrees for twelve hours, perhaps a bit wrinkled but still flavoursome.
The red ones are still thinner Romano ones but bigger pieces and dehydrated at fifty five degrees for twelve hours and are slightly softer.
Cooked savoy cabbage as an experiment (the sweeter inner leaves) for twelve hours at seventy degrees. A shade too crispy but another batch done at fifty five degrees for about six hours was better. I've got an idea for a great dish...Watch this space!
Fully cooked carrot slices. Carrot I did uncooked and not really a chewy snack, would be good in a campfire meal. These were sixty degrees for seven hours.
I tried par boiled and again, they were a bit chewy in a not nice sort of way. They were done at fifty five degrees for twelve hours it saw them looking pretty much the same.
Tomatoes on the vine. Cut to two widths (as shown) and half covered in a salt and garlic powder covering, the other half in salt and sugar. Intense flavour. I tried whole and halved cherry tomatoes, the whole ones didn't work and I removed them, the halved ones needed about twelve hours at fifty five degrees and whilst this time didn't fully dry them (they were wrinkled and squishy) the flavour was equally good.
Strawberries. I tried meduim sized fruits in halves and slices and the former were like the cherry tomatoes in texture, whereas the slices were similar to the freeze dried slices you get in cereal. Twelve hours at fifty five degrees.
Natural greens/ herbs. I tried nettles, plantain and yarrow from outside, and some leftover coriander all at fifty five degrees. The plantain leaves were done after about six hours, the yarrow about an hour and a half later. The nettles and coriander took about eight hours to be crispy.
Chillies. I tried whole and sliced at fifty five degrees. Like the whole cherry tomatoes I removed the uncut chilli as it just wasn't happening. The chilli strips seeemed to take forever to dry but at the ten hour mark it occurred that they had rolled up and therefore weren't drying that well. I will do smaller pieces at say fifty five degrees/ six hours (?) next time.
Onions. I did two three milimetre slices and par boiled one but not the other. I dehydrated at fifty five degrees for ten hours and both did ok but didn't fully dry. I'll try a higher temperature next time.
Potato. Fully cooked new potatoes with the cut surfaces covered in lemon juice (didn't know if it would stop browning like it does apple and pear rings). seventy degrees overnight made them like peanut brittle with some becoming almost opaque. Fifty five degrees for about eight hours seems better.
Raspberries. Put in whole as an experiment at sixty degrees for about eight hours and very disappointing, they have just gone soft and not even dried a little bit. Not sure any extended drying or slicing would help.
Horseradish root. peeled, grated and dehydrated at 40 degrees for about three hours. It dried really quickly and may well have gone brown if done any longer. It lost a lot of it's potency once dried.
With all the dehydrates vegetables I'd done I decided to make a basic vegetable soup. I used a vegetable stock gel 'cube' in around half a pint of water.
I cooked the assorted vegetables on a medium to low heat for around ten minutes that produced a soup that reminded me a little of packet soup mixes from my childhood...but better. Generally the vegetables reconstituted well but perhaps the celery and carrots could have done with a couple of additional minutes. The dried vegetables will be useful on future bushcrafting trips.
The dehydrated apple chunks and strawberry slices really worked well in a bowl of porridge and would be good when out and about.
So to the unit itself. It's a Vonshef dehydrator and is at the budget end of things. I based my purcahse on the sole review which bemoaned the lack of temperature guidance in the manual as the reason three stars wasn't four (I agree, it's tardy). The other budget ones made by Andrew James had reviews raising issues about brittle trays but since I purchased it another review has appeared raising the brittle tray issue with this model. Actually looking at the Andrew James ones they look very similar so I wonder if they are from the same stable? I'll be annoyed if they are as the Andrew James one is cheaper!
When I wash the trays I put my hand behind the bit I'm washing or wiping down as a precaution but that said I guess they will be a little vulnerable to damage simply because of them being criss-crossed plastic...The photo above on the right hand side shows the stacking options, you can either have them low like the bottom three shelves, or if you turn them around they stack a little higher for bigger food like the forth from bottom shelf.
It has a small temperature range of forty-seventy degrees celsuis (I would have preferred fahrenheit instead of celsuis) and a base fan (as opposed to one at the back). That all said I think this unit has a bright future, and won't end up as a future car boot item. There is a well used and friendly Facebook group too.
Vacuum sealer blog here