5 Things My Dehydrator Made That Are So Much Better than Store-Bought
I literally never knew raisins could taste so good. And you've got try this watermelon jerky!
When I recently acquired a Brod & Taylor Sahara Folding Dehydrator, I transformed into a little kid on the playground, dehydrating things left and right. Because it has so many shelves, it’s possible to dehydrate many different foods at the same time. And let me tell you: I took this to the nth degree, dehydrating a different ingredient on each shelf during my very first go. Although everything I dehydrated was excellent, here were my very favorites that truly changed my perspective on what a food could taste like. I’m never going back to their pallid, store-bought equivalents again.
How good could a raisin be, right? It’s a raisin! The filler between nuts in a trail mix. The surprise you don’t want waiting for you in a chocolate chip cookie. But friends? Words could never be so wrong. You know when you bake raisins with butter (on a sheet of homemade granola or something) they plump up and become little juicy pockets that explode between your teeth? Dehydrated grapes have that similar juicy extra-ripe fruit quality, only they’re dried and last forever. I started with sweet tasting black grapes and dehydrated them at 135 degrees F for 24 hours to get them to the point where they were shriveled and resembled raisins. It was worth it. Next time I’ll be filling the whole dehydrator with grapes and am excited to explore other types of dried fruit, like dried apricot cheeks.
2: Watermelon Jerky
You might have heard of a lil’ chain store (rhymes Tader Schmo’s) that sells watermelon jerky. I tried it when it first launched and I was very underwhelmed — its flavor tasted slightly off to me, and its texture was brittle, quite unlike the texture of real jerky. However, I quite like the concept of vegan jerky. I tried dehydrating thin slices of watermelon (135 degrees F for 18 hours) and was completely blown away. The watermelon ended up dried but still chewy, and its flavor and sugars concentrated so it tasted more watermelon-y than watermelon candy. Next time I make it, I plan on lightly salting the watermelon slices and sprinkling them with smoky spices to achieve a more jerky-inspired flavor.
3: "Sundried" Tomatoes
Acidic store-bought sundried tomatoes have nothing on homemade ones. Even the plump oil-packed sundried tomatoes taste nothing like the tomatoes I dried in the dehydrator. I simply sliced cherry tomatoes in half and then dehydrated them until they were dry to the touch (135 degrees F for 6 hours). Then I added them into my pasta cooking water the next time I made pasta to rehydrate them. They tasted exactly like fresh tomatoes with even more tomato flavor. I’m excited to try this with peak season ripe and juicy plum tomatoes.
4: Dried Strawberry Snacks
Fruit snacks are expensive to buy, so why not make them yourself? I thinly sliced and dehydrated both bananas and strawberries (135 degrees F for 8 hours). The bananas were good, but the strawberries were excellent. Like everything else I put into the dehydrator, the strawberry flavor intensified without becoming acidic. I started mixing them into my morning oatmeal and cereal. They reminded me a bit of the petrified strawberries that come in instant strawberry oatmeal, but actually tasted like, well, real strawberry. Plus, they turned the milk a pleasant bright pink color and strawberry flavor. Strawberry milk, anyone?
5: Dried Capers
Capers sound like a wildcard. Why would someone want to or need to dehydrate them? Here’s the thing: if you’re anything like me, you’ll encounter a recipe that requires capers, buy a tall expensive jar and only use about a tablespoon. Then the jar will sit around in your fridge for ages and finally get thrown out. Instead, you could dehydrate the leftovers, pop them in a spice jar and have them in your spice cabinet to rehydrate at a moment’s notice. I did just this, gently drying off the capers and dehydrating them at 135 degrees F for 8 hours. Now when I reach for a spice, I quite often reach for some dried capers too — tossing them into marinara sauce or even pan drippings after I’ve cooked chicken breast. They rehydrate in seconds, turning into little bright pops of salty, briny flavor.