Drying Foods

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:

  1. Cut out two sides of a cardboard box for air flow.   This is to create the cross wind to wick the moisture away.
  2. Cover the sides with mesh to keep the bugs out.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


About Hemet Sunshine

I am a homeschooling mom living in Hemet, California. I am interested in building a better community for the ones I love.
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