Create your own healthy, dried fruit and veg snacks and dried herbs with Lakeland’s easy-to-use Food Dehydrator. It’s also excellent for preserving seasonal fruit all year round to use in your marmalades, jams and salsas. If you follow a raw, vegan or paleo lifestyle, a dehydrator is an essential piece of kitchen equipment to help you make interesting tasty foods using the bountiful gifts of Mother Earth.
To use the dehydrator, simply slice your chosen fruit and arrange on one of the five height-adjustable trays, where a gentle heat from the base will flow evenly through, drawing away moisture without cooking the contents. Natural sweetness, flavours and aromas are preserved and concentrated, and shelf life is extended too. It’s super for making candied peel and can be used for drying out herbs too, or why not try making “un-sun” dried tomatoes. It can also be used to make fruit leathers and vegetable crackers but this requires experience and technique.
Dehydrating is the oldest method of preserving fresh food known as far back as Ancient Egypt. Today, the Lakeland Food Dehydrator offers a simple and effective way to dry a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and herbs. It consists of a heated base and 5 stacking food trays which can be adjusted to hold thin or thick food. The base heats up to 85°C whilst a fan circulates hot air around the food to remove its moisture content.
Please note that Lakeland’s Food Dehydrator should not be used to make jerky due to food safety issues concerning salmonella and E. Coli as pathogenic bacteria are likely to survive the low heat of a food dehydrator.
The drying process concentrates natural flavour, making for tasty ingredients such as dried mushrooms, tomatoes and herbs which will enhance your cooking. Dried fruits make an enjoyable, healthy snack and can also be added to home baking.
Drying times vary greatly according to the kind of food selected, the thickness and size of the pieces, and even the temperature of your kitchen. You may find it helpful to keep a record of how long different types of fruit and veg take to dry; over time you will soon get a feel for how long they take and how best to prepare them.
The height of each tray can be adjusted to suit thick food up to 2.5cm e.g. broccoli florets, or thin food up to 1.25cm e.g. banana slices. For the best flavour and colour, begin with fresh, fully ripe fruit, veg or herbs. Food will dry more evenly if the pieces are sliced to about the same thickness. Thick pieces dry more slowly than thin slices. Fruits should be sliced across the core. A food processor or mandolin is ideal for fast, even slicing. Try spraying the trays with non-stick cooking spray or lightly brushing with a flavourless oil to allow for easier removal of dried food.
With so many factors affecting drying times – the type of food, the thickness or size of the pieces, the room temperature – you will struggle with exact timings at first so it is best to check the food every hour, letting it cool before handling it to check for doneness. A good tip to remember is it is better for food to be slightly over-dry than under-dry as moist food is more likely to spoil during storage.
Another useful tip is to soak fruit for around 2 minutes in 480ml water, to which 60ml fruit juice matching the fruit has been added or failing this lemon juice. Blanching certain vegetables like green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and potatoes will help to keep their natural colour. Green beans and asparagus should be dipped in lemon juice for 2 minutes to give best results.
Dried fruit has a wonderful, natural sweetness and concentrated flavour. Tasty, ready-to-eat fruit snacks such as apple rings and banana chips can be made for a fraction of the cost of commercially dried fruit. Try adding dried fruits to breakfast cereal, muesli, natural yoghurt or home baking, such as flapjacks and biscuits.
Dried vegetables may benefit from being soaked in water to rehydrate them before adding to all kinds of home-made soups, stews, casseroles and sauces such as Bolognese. Dried mushrooms, tomatoes and herbs make tasty ingredients.
My Kitchen Food Dehydrator costs £49.99 and is available from Lakeland stores nationwide and online at www.lakeland.com