Aldona Bird, Contributors, Latest News

Having fun testing foods in thrifted dehydrator

Recently, I found a food dehydrator while thrifting. I hadn’t been on the hunt for one, because for years my family has planned to make a solar dehydrator. Nevertheless, it was a good deal and I figured I could give it a try.

The one I found has five trays, adjustable temperatures and seems to work as it should.

The first thing I dehydrated was tomato skins to make tomato powder. I saw it on Instagram — not the most reliable place to get recipes perhaps, but it looked interesting.

I used peels from tomatoes I was canning whole. I immersed each tomato in boiling water for a few seconds until the skin split, then scooped it into a bowl of cold water. The skins easily pulled off. My daughter enjoyed this job and peeled a whole batch of tomatoes for me.

We carefully laid the skins on the dehydrator racks to maximize the number we could fit without overlapping, set the temperature to 125 degrees and let them go for four hours or so.

Once they were dry and brittle, we (I say we, but my daughter actually did this job as well) ran them through a coffee grinder and ended up with a few tablespoons worth of a very pretty red powder. I tasted a little bit of the powder — it is tangy and quite tasty.

I read that you can add this powder to soups for a kick of flavor, or just rehydrate it into soup. I can’t imagine how many tomato skins it would take to make even a bowl of soup worth. However, I think as a seasoning it will work well.

My daughter tried tasting a dried tomato skin before grinding and liked the flavor — and has since munched on a few as snacks. While it probably doesn’t have many calories, and so isn’t filling at all, I’ve always heard that there are a lot of nutrients in the skins of produce.

Next, I tried a more traditional dehydrated snack: apple slices. My kiddo also helped with this project. She was with me when I found the appliance and was ready to make dried apple slices the minute we decided to buy it.

I’ve made dried apple slices in an oven and they came out quite well. But I looked forward to trying it in the dehydrator because I always worry about burning them in the oven.

Instructions online said to dehydrate at 130 degrees for about 12 hours, which we did. They came out leathery — like dried apple slices from the store. We liked them, but I want to make more and dry them until they are crispy.

After this, it was back to tomatoes. This time I canned tomato sauce rather than whole tomatoes. Making sauce, I strain the skins, seeds and some pulp out, then boil down the juice.

The first batch I made (pre-dehydrator), I gave the strained extras to my chickens, who enjoyed the treat. The second time, I threw it into the dehydrator in globs.

The globs came out leathery, like the apples. I may store them in an airtight container, or maybe pack them in oil. I think, like the tomato powder, they could add flavor to stews and other dishes.

I have some corn ready to go into my dehydrator — and who knows what I will try drying next.

I’m having fun with this new kitchen tool, although I do wonder how much power it is sucking up. Although I’m enjoying this thrifted version, I will leave the solar powered food dehydrator plans on my to-do list.

ALDONA BIRD is a journalist, previously writing for The Dominion Post. She uses experience gained working on organic farms in Europe to help her explore possibilities of local productivity and sustainable living in Preston County. Email