Tag Archives: Food Preservation

How To: Dehydrated Fruit Leather

Do you have a bunch of ripe fruit you don’t know what to do with? Frozen enough banana bread to feed the neighborhood for weeks? Kids are sick of smoothies? Dehydrating is a quick and easy way to preserve your overripe fruits, and the roll-ups will keep for a month on the shelf (I’ve read they will keep a whole year if wrapped well and frozen, although they’ve never lasted long enough for me to find out!).

I have a nice dehydrator that I use, but fruit leather can also be dried in the oven. The process couldn’t be easier:

  • Blend your fruit(s)
  • Pour onto tray
  • Dry
  • Store

Blending The Fruit

Basically, any fruit can be used, either singly or in combination with other fruits. Spices may be added for variety, if desired. I prefer to use overripe bananas as my base, and add other fruit to that. The batch I made this week had several combinations: Banana/peach, banana/plum, banana/strawberry, banana/peanut butter, and one tray of just pureed grapes.

The riper the fruit, the better. I like to take my bananas and smoosh them up as I’m placing them into my blender. I then add whatever other fruit I’m using (cut up small), and pulse until everything is blended, with a fairly smooth consistency. Some small chunks are just fine and add a nice texture to the finished fruit leather. I used approximately 2 bananas and two pieces of the larger fruit (peaches, plums) per tray. With the strawberry/banana blend, I used about a cup of berries to every two bananas.

Pouring The Mixture

I have a couple silicone tray liners for my dehydrator that work very well, but they can get pricey. If you don’t have the liners, a layer of parchment paper cut to fit your tray will work perfectly. If using your oven, simply line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Pour the blended fruit onto your parchment or silicone and spread out thinly with a spatula. I find that once I get the fruit spread out where I want it, I just lightly tap the tray on the counter and it evens everything out nicely.

Drying

To dehydrate in your oven, just use the lowest temperature, place the cookie sheet on the middle rack, and wait 6-8 hours. I usually set my dehydrator at around 135 degrees, and it takes about 8-12 hours. Your fruit leather is done when it is tacky, but not wet. When you touch the fruit leather, your finger should be a bit sticky, but there should be no visible fruit on it.

Storage

Peel the finished fruit leather from your silicone/parchment liner, roll up tightly, and slice crosswise into little rounds. They store well in a Rubbermaid container or Ziploc bag.

How To: Lacto Fermented Bread and Butter Pickles (Recipe/Instructions Only)

The Recipe: Ingredients

2-4 pickling cucumbers, washed, peeled, and thinly sliced (1/8″-1/4″)

1 medium onion, sliced very thin

1/2 to 1 bulb of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

2% brine (2.5 tsp pink Himalayan salt dissolved in 3 cups of boiled, cooled filtered/non-chlorinated water)

2 tsp mustard seeds, divided

2″ piece of fresh turmeric root, divided (Our local stores don’t have this; I substituted 1 tsp powdered turmeric with no problems)

A couple grape, oak, or horseradish leaves (optional, but enhances crispiness)

The Recipe: Assembly

Sprinkle half the spices and garlic into the bottom of a clean quart Mason jar. Add a leaf.

Pack the Mason jar a little more than half full with the cucumber/onion mix. Use a non-metallic utensil to gently tamp the produce down.

Add the second half of your spices and garlic, and another leaf.

Continue adding cucumbers/onions till the jar is full, then tamp down again. Add cucumbers until the jar is nearly full, then fill the jar to within 1″ of the lip with your brine.

Use the utensil to gently loosen the air bubbles trapped in the jar. Add brine to maintain a headspace of around 1.5″

Use another leaf to cover all the vegetables and loosely tuck it into the neck of the jar. Place the glass weight and gently press down until it is submerged.

Add airlock lid and place in a darkened corner of your kitchen, on a small tray.

Gently swirl and check vegetables daily. You will notice bubbles rising in the jar. Release pressure as needed and make sure all vegetables remain submerged. Remove any pieces that float to the surface.

On day three, it is time to start tasting! As the mixture sits on the counter, it will become more fizzy and tangy. Depending on room temperature, the entire process takes between 3-7 days. I usually like to leave my jars out for 4-5 days.

Once the pickles are to your liking, remove the glass weight and replace the airlock with a regular Mason jar lid and place in the fridge. If you are able to stay out of them, they get better as they age. Enjoy!

How To: Dehydrating Cucumber Chips

Dehydrated cucumber chips are an excellent way to preserve a summer bounty of cukes. One can only eat so much cucumber salad in July! These are great crumbled on a salad for some extra crunch. Also incredible for dipping in hummus, or just plain snacking. The picture above is my setup for processing the cucumbers. This is what I used:

  • Sharp knife
  • Peeler
  • Large pot
  • Mandoline (you can cut your slices with a knife, but a mandoline gives you perfect, consistent slices and you can plow through a whole bunch of cucumbers in just a few minutes)
  • Safety cutting gloves (Imperative. I cut the tip of my pinkie off once in Kentucky. Exquisitely painful–and bloody!)

First, wash the cucumbers and cut off an end. I just learned this year about then rubbing the cut pieces together, which produces a gummy white foam. This is supposed to “pull” the bitterness from the cucumber. I’m not really sure what the rationale behind this is, but I’ve been doing it this year. I’m sure you could skip this step and be just fine.

Then, peel the cucumbers. You can actually dehydrate the cucumber skin and powder it for use in homemade skin concoctions, if desired. I have tried dehydrating cukes with the skin on, but they were tough and not as enjoyable.

Ready for slicing

Next, you can either slice the cucumbers by hand into 1/8″ rounds or use a mandoline. I position my slicer on top of a big metal pot so the rounds simply fall into it. Again, the safety cutting gloves are a must: You WILL cut yourself. Mandolines are evil, malevolent contraptions bent on world domination, one fingertip at a time. There are food “holders” that help protect you as you slice, but I find them very inconvenient to use. I prefer to just hold the veggies in my gloved hand until it gets kind of small, and then just hand slice the last few rounds.

Safety gloves: Check. Note the ends in the tray, which I will then hand slice so nothing is wasted.

Now comes the most tedious part of this process: Loading the dehydrator. Rounds should be placed in a single layer without touching. I can’t remember offhand, but I think I was able to fit about 18 cucumbers into my 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator (I am NOT affiliated with the Excalibur company. I just really like their product). Set the temperature at 135 degrees and dehydrate for about 12 hours, flipping the chips partway through.

All loaded up!

When ready, chips will be totally dry and crunchy. Take a couple out to cool and test. If not completely dry, continue dehydrating for another hour or two and check again. Once they are done, I like to cool them and then store in Mason jars with a couple dessicant packs added. Leave on the counter and gently agitate the jars for a few days. If you notice any moisture on the glass at all, or if the chips aren’t totally crispy, it is totally fine to put them back in the dehydrator for a bit.

25 cucumbers ready for snacking!

A quick Google search will yield recipes for flavored cucumber chips as well. I tried them. My family definitely prefers the plain ones. Win for me: The plain ones are a lot less work!