There are good detailed instruction at Pick Your Own on dehydrating that I have used as a guide. I combined that information with my solar cooking knowledge and came up with this:
The instructions say I need temperatures of 130 degrees F to 140 degrees F to dry. I know that on a 95 degrees F day, the car dash is 180 degrees F. That is the lowest cooking temperature. Fortunately, I don’t need 180 degrees F. I say that so you understand it is not hard to reach 140 degrees F.
Here is what I have done:
- Cut out two sides of a cardboard box for air flow. This is to create the cross wind to wick the moisture away.
- Cover the sides with mesh to keep the bugs out.
- Top the box with a piece of glass to focus heat into the box. It would help to darken the inside of the box with non-toxic black paint.
- Place food on 100% cotton fabric or baking parchment that is draped over a cardboard tray and put it in the box. I use parchment for drippy foods and cotton for non-sticky foods. The tray needs air circulating around it so place it on stilts made with 4 empty tin cans.
- Keep an oven thermometer in the dehydrator if you want to watch the temperature. I did at first to see if my design was working.
This method of drying works in Hemet because of our very dry climate. I also have a Ronco Food Dehydrator. The cardboard dehydrator was made because I needed to dry a lot more food than I had drying space for. Here is a much nicer design then what I made:
When I harvested mallow, I had way more than would fit in my dehydrators so I spread it out on a 100% cotton sheet on my bed and let the leaves dry during the day. At bedtime, I gathered the four corners and set the whole thing aside. In the morning I spread it out again. After three days the leaves took up a 2/3 less space. I then loaded them into the dehydrator. They were totally dry after one day in the dehydrator. When I finished, I had a years worth of yummy mallow and was very pleased with the results.
I also dry foods in my solar oven, but I have to add enough a lot of ventilation between the lid and the oven or I will be cooking instead of drying. I have not dehydrated meat, yet, but that is my next dehydrating goal. Here’s the homemade jerky recipe I may try:
Here is the easiest dryer. Keep it in the house or car it in front of a sunny window to protect it from critters.