Dehydration – Apple, Cinnamon, Strawberry, and Pear Fruit Leathers

Drying under the sun is still the most common method of drying food especially in traditional societies. Most home cooks use small electric dehydrators, a device that forces warm air over the food.

Drying food as a means of preservation has been around since times immemorial. During seasons of abundance, excess fresh food were prepared (cooked, sliced or peeled), treated (usually with salt or acid or other flavorings) and exposed to sun and/or wind to dry out to be used later when the seasons became harsher.

With the development of the global food system, the need for preservation as a means to survival has all but disappeared for much of the world’s population. Supermarkets and global food trade networks negate seasonal shortages and sadly with the rapid growth of urbanization, most of us do not grow our food anymore. If we need something, we simply buy it. When it is finished we simply replace it with more of the same.

So with food-on-tap and available in quantities that no longer represent seasonal abundance, our preservation knowledge and skills are no longer required, except for making biltong and droeë wors maybe.

I bought a dehydrator early this year, not so much because I wanted to preserve food, but for the creative possibilities it offered me as a cook.

As I discovered during the months since then, there is whole lot more to dried food than what meets the (traditional) eye.

When foods are dried, the water content of the cells is reduced from about 90% to between 5 and 35 percent. The most obvious benefit from the reduction in water content is that it prevents the growth of organisms that cause spoilage. With meats and fish, salt is often added to aid the dehydration process. Commercially dried fruits are treated with sulfur compounds to prevent oxidation and thus discoloration caused by enzymes. It also assists with the retention of flavour. Vegetables are blanched prior to drying.

Drying under the sun is still the most common method of drying food especially in traditional societies. Most home cooks use small electric dehydrators, a device that forces warm air over the food.

Fruits and vegetables are dehydrated at temperatures between 55 and 70°C. These low temperatures helps retain flavour and prevent the outside surface of the produce from crisping up and thus inhibiting the loss of moisture from the inside.

Dehydrating fruit pulp makes fruit “leathers”. The procedure is quite straightforward: whole fruits are blended and seasoned then spread onto a special sheet or parchment paper and dehydrated. Fruit juice, thickened with a small quantity of xanthan gum, when dehydrated, forms fruit “glass”. When fruits or vegetables are dried till almost no moisture remain, they can easily be turned into powders (just use a spice grinder) which in turn could be used to re-enforce fresh flavours used in soups or stews, and mixed with other seasonings (especially salt) to create a new seasoning (such as beetroot, bacon or celery salt).

Dried fish flakes are great for making stocks, and dried meat could also be used as seasoning instead of an ingredient. These powders make for more complex seasonings and could very easily be used as the basis for broths, stocks and soups.

My current favourite is smoked beef sausage powder that I use to season stews. But I also have a range of other powders on my kitchen shelf: beetroot, strawberry, mushroom, cucumber and !nabba to mention just a few. I am also experimenting with dried sauces (such as apple or mint sauce), dried flowers (such as hibiscus and roses) and have been successful in making a variety of “puffs” from pork rind and rice. When kept tightly sealed in jars my powders have lasted several months.

Perhaps the easiest products to start your dehydration career are fruit “leathers”. We are all familiar with the sheets of dried fruit that have become a staple for those among us who leads a more adventurous active life. So instead of one, I am including three recipes to get you started. If you do not have a dehydrator, all is not lost. Use your oven set to its lowest temperature, which should be around 70°C.

Apple and Cinnamon, Strawberry, and Pear Fruit Leathers
——————————————————————————–

Ingredients:

4 cups Large apples
4 cups Large pears
5 cups Fresh strawberries, hulled
1 tablespoon Lemon juice for each fruit mixture , 3 Tablesspoons total
1 tablespoon Ground cinnamon (for apple mixture, this is optional)
Stevia (or sugar) , To taste for additional sweetness (optional)

Directions:

1. Apple leather: Blend the raw apples in a high speed blender until pureed. Add in cinnamon and lemon juice and stir until combined.

2. Strawberry leather: Blend the raw strawberries (hulled) in a high speed blender until pureed and add the lemon juice. Stir until combined.

3. Pear leather: Blend the raw pears in a high speed blender until pureed. Add the lemon juice and stir until combined.

4. To dehydrate the leathers: Pour each mixture onto a separate dehydrator sheet lined with parchment paper. Set the dehydrator’s temperature to 70℃. Dehydrate for 6-8 hours. Theleathers are ready when they are no longer gooey and stick to your fingers. Check after 6 hours, and then every 30 minutes thereafter.  If you do not have a dehydrator, use your oven set to 70℃.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Did your mouth water? Did you laugh or cry? Let me know!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s