We got a new toy for the New Year!! Actually, we bought it in November and it lay idle, still in the box until January 1st. And now, Soldier Boy has gone completely dehydrator-crazy!
There are a kabillion different dehydrators out there – ones that heat from the back, from the bottom, round ones, boxy ones, with any number of trays and qualities. We chose a Cabela’s brand, middle-of-the-road model since we didn’t know if we would use it but knowing that buying cheap sometimes just sabotages any effort to enjoy the item. We also waited for a good sale and got it at about half-price.
For me, the original idea for getting the dehydrator was to make good food that I could take hiking with me. It would weigh a fraction of its original weight, would fit nicely into my pack or bear can and would be fun and hearty food when reconstituted into a meal after a long day hiking. I also considered the benefits of having this type of food when visiting the cabin in the winter. The cabin is only accessible by snowmobile or ATV (which we don’t have yet) or on foot. So we need to carry in our drinking water and all of our food.
But for Soldier Boy, it is an incredible tool to help prepare for the end of the world. (He’s a little dramatic sometimes.)
In any case, we ended up so happy with what we were able to make, that we have been on a dehydrating blitz for two weeks now. We’ve made kale chips, sweet pepper sticks, jerky, dried apples and Soldier Boy even successfully dehydrated ground pork. Check out Soldier Boy’s write-up on our learning process.
Now, the dehydrator is electric, of course, which means we can’t use it at the cabin until the cabin has a reliable power source. So it doesn’t exactly meet the “off-grid” requirements for our future life. And it consumes energy so that needs to be factored in when considering mindful consumption of resources. But what I love about it is that we have considerably lessened the waste we produce. Our city has a great compost system but it’s nice when you didn’t have to waste money on produce that you didn’t eat in time and it’s even nicer when you don’t have to contribute to the compost in the first place. Mindful Consumption is about using what you need – just enough. So when fruits and veg start spoiling, it’s still a waste.
Not to mention, the amount of produce that a grocery store disposes of is absolutely ridiculous! In fact, the grocery store doesn’t even get all the fruit and veg that’s produced, they only get the fruit and veg that look good and fit into the size requirements. Which means that tonnes of good, healthy food is simply disposed of before it even gets to the grocery store. Here’s a link with more info and some interesting links. I highly recommend checking out the Instagram account of ugly fruit and veg. They are both beautiful and hilarious.
You’ll never find these carrots in a grocery store. But I’m pretty sure they taste the same.
While I can’t do much about what doesn’t make it to the grocery store, I can certainly try harder to not dispose of what does. The dehydrator has been the game-changer. First of all, we are not afraid of buying lots of produce, which means that we are generally eating healthier. And whatever’s left over, we cut up and dehydrate. Either we can save it for soups, stews and crockpot meals or we can munch on the dried fruit and veg. (Sweet peppers are like candy and kale chips are better than popcorn.) We can also save money and rescue fruits and veg from grocery store disposal by buying the massive packages of “clearance” veg that get wrapped up and sold for a pittance. We simply dehydrate it in the following day or two for later use.
We started juicing again as well, trying to increase our intake of natural vitamins. The one thing that we’ve had to contend with when juicing is disposing of the pulp. We often turn the pulp into compost muffins which are hearty and tasty. But sometimes, we just end up with too much pulp. Enter dehydrated compost crackers. Add some flax, rosemary and garlic to the vegetable juice pulp, spread it thinly on the trays, even it out with a rolling pin, score it with a pizza cutter and let it dehydrate for 8 hours, periodically flipping over. Voilà! Crackers for lunches.
It’s not pretty looking, but this green kale, celery and cucumber juice pulp gets dehydrated into tasty crackers. When finished, it easily snaps into pieces.
And I went on my first winter hike of the season a few days after we started dehydrating. I brought my regular snacks (carrots, cheese, protein bar, etc.) but also packed some homemade jerky and dried apples. And what were the only things that didn’t freeze? The jerky and dried apple. Just saying.
One of our future projects will be yoghurt leather. I’ve been told it’s like eating candy. But it’s not. In my books, that’s a win-win situation.
So far, we are really enjoying the dehydrator. It has been an excellent investment for our food storage, healthy eating, bank account and our conscience.
Do you have any favourite foods or recipes you like to dehydrate?