For my very first backcountry trip, ever, in 2002, I dehydrated all of my own food. Even back then it was popular and even more so as it was a lot harder to buy food already packaged and prepared in those foil bags like there is now. I mean, it existed but it was a lot more processed and not quite a delicious and good as the stuff they make is now.
In 2002, I had borrowed a dehydrator from a friend and made enough dehydrated food to last me for an entire season of backcountry camping. Eventually I gave the poor girl her dehydrator back and a few years ago I finally purchased my own.
I had been getting by well enough without one as with having colitis, dehydrated food isn’t always the best to have in my system. Especially with it being mostly fruits and vegetables which aren’t always the best for me to being with. Take out all the water from it and it’s even harder to digest. But, as I learn more and more about the illness and my body and what I can and can’t tolerate, I seem to be able to get away with eating more and more things the last few years, as long as I don’t overdo it.
I went to get a few groceries in the city the other day and noticed a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables on sale. I figured I might as well stock up and dehydrate some things, so I put a plan in motion.
I purchased 3 big containers of strawberries, 4 peppers, 2 yellow and 2 red, 2 cucumbers, 2 bunches of green onions, 3 tomatoes and 6 apples. I wasn’t sure I would be able to fit it all in the dehydrator but I gave it a go doing the easiest items first.
I have a 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator and am always happy when I go to do a run of food in here that I got the bigger one over the smaller one. I currently do pay for hydro, but when I do, I know it will be a big deal running this thing full just once for 6-8 hours instead of 2 or 3 times doubling and tripling that electricity cost.
I always begin by rinsing off all the fruit and vegetables. I am not a super germiphobe and peel most of the fruit and vegetables anyways, so I just give them a quick rinse. Once that is done, it’s time to peel what needs to be peeled and cut everything up.
I started with the strawberries and always make sure to remove any bruises or damaged areas of the item. If it is bad now, it will be bad later. I have always been told that you should use the ripest, healthiest fruit and vegetables you can find and I do my best to adhere to that. If you have a good product going in, you get a good product coming out. I like to use strawberries for pancakes, oatmeal and putting into water to flavor it for fancy drinks.
I cut up the peppers next, again making sure to remove any bruised spots. I like to use peppers to flavor food such as rice or pasta and also put them in omelettes sometimes. I find they add a great flavor to many things and it’s nice to have some on hand as I don’t use a lot of seasoning in my food.
Next I chopped up the two bunches of green onions. I did some of these last year and loved them. They were great to add to meals, again, for extra flavor and seasoning, like fried rice, pasta, etc. They dehydrate very quickly as there isn’t much to them and they last quite a while.
Next were the cucumbers. I like to have these on hand to flavor water for cocktails. Cucumber water and gin is a lovely summer drink and is very refreshing with some mint leaves. You can also eat them as chips if you like. I peeled them as the skin is far too fibrous for me and sliced them thin but not too thin. They get stuck to the trays if they are too thin and I can’t get them off.
On deck next were the marinated artichoke hearts. I love love love these on my camp pizzas. They are so good. I found a few jars in my cupboard and added them to the list for today so I would have some on hand. Basically I just pull them out of the jar by hand, squish the thick part of the artichoke heart flat with my fingers and separate the leaves? I guess you would call them? and fan them out. They are marinated so they are a bit oily but dehydrate pretty good.
Tomatoes were next. I just cut up a few to have some on hand. I also use these to top my pizzas and just like to have some for added variety of toppings. I sliced up two tomatoes, laid them out on the tray and they were good to go. I added two pickle slices to the tomato tray. I would test these out to see how they worked. I like to add a tester when I’m making up trays to dehydrate, finding something I’ve never done before and seeing how it dehydrates and rehydrates. As I do cucumbers, I thought pickles might work so I placed two slices on the tray and would rehydrate them when they finished to see if they were worth doing again. I was curious to see how they came out.
All nine trays were now completely filled and ready for the dehydrator. I put them all into the unit, put the front cover on and turned it on to 135°. Then I let it run while I did other things, checking on it after 2 hours, then every hour afterwards to see how things were coming along.
The cucumbers and green onions were the first things done. They were a bit thinner than I’d like them but they also dehydrated quickly because of it. They took about 5 hours. Once they were finished, I took them to the table, rolled the mat they were on to unstick them and put them in a ziploc bag.
The strawberries were done next. I rolled up all the trays to unstick them again as they usually got stuck and had to pick a few off by hand. They smelled so good, I coldn’t help popping a few in my mouth while bagging them up.
The artichoke hearts soon followed suit and shortly after the peppers were ready as well.
I loved the peppers. They were also so colorful and also very fragrant. I wasn’t too sure how much I liked them in strings. I think I would prefer them chopped up in chunk as I’d done them last year but figured I’d try something different this time. You never know until you try, right?
Last to be completed were the pickle slices and the tomatoes. The seeds hold moisture in them and I hadn’t cut them very thin so they took a bit longer than the rest.
Once they were ready, I took the pickle slices and put one in a bowl with a bit of boiling water in it so i could try it. The tomatoes followed the same process as the previous items, roll or pick them off the tray and bag them in ziplocs. All done.
A few days later I did the apples as I didn’t have room to do them when I did all the other items.
I peeled them, cored them and then sliced them up thinly, but not too thin. I liked my dehydrated apples with a bit of meat on them and not crunchy like chips, so I don’t slice them super thin. I put them in a bowl first and coated them with cinnamon, a new way I was testing out. I usually put the cinnamon right on the slices on the tray but it made the trays so dirty and tough to clean, I thought this might be a better way to go about it.
I enjoy eating apple slices as a snack or in oatmeal when in the backcountry.
The apple slices only took about 3-4 hours to dehydrate. Once they were done, I packed them up in ziploc bags as like all the other items and put them in the crisper in the fridge.
It was time to test the pickle slice. It was as rehydrated as it was going to get so I gave it a go. How was it?
Not very good unfortunately. It was a bit tough and lost it’s pickly flavor, but that’s okay. At least I know this isn’t something I will attempt again and can cross it off the list.
At some point, I will re-up my supply of spaghetti sauce and salsa but for now I still have quite a bit from last year. To make the sauces, I just spread them out as thinly as possible on one of the brown sheets (above) that I have that I purchased on Amazon to go with this specific dehydrator.
I hope you enjoyed my post on dehydrating. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments or just want to say hi, please leave a message.