2016 wasn’t a good year, for myriad reasons. I won’t delve into that. One good thing that happened though, was that we purchased a Dehydrator from Cabela’s in Ottawa. No, it’s not a super-top-of-the-line Excalibur, but a higher-mid range Cabela’s store brand. It retails for about 225$, was on sale for 150$, but with the staff discount offered to first- responders and military over the 11-13th of November, it came out to 119$. Can’t complain about that!
Now, all I had to do was figure out how to use the damn thing!! It turns out that we had a Trail/Camping cookbook that was heavy on dehydrating. We thought it was just full of fun new recipes to make ahead of time, or variations of good old standards. What it held was a treasure-trove of info.
The dehydrator sat in the basement, out of the box and all ready to go until 1 January, 2017. We got our big-kid pants on, and while my better half was walking the dogs, I sliced up some apples for a test run. After verifying with the Trail cookbook, everything was a go (next time I’ll peel the apples so they dry better, and increase the heat a bit – the Trail cookbook says to dehydrate EVERYTHING at 130°F, except herbs, which are done at 110°F).
The apples were going along nicely, so I upped the game to kale chips. Yes, kale. We made a commitment to start juicing again in 2017, to get our energy and health levels back up. No point in having something that just collects dust, is there? Buy it and use it…but I’m not advocating a disposable economy, where we buy a new wardrobe every two weeks, even though the other clothes are perfectly fine. I suppose you can blame social media, corporations and the sheeple mentality for that.
Kale leaves ripped off stems, rinsed, dried with towels, sprinkled with olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of Slap Ya Mama seasoning from New Orleans (hard to find in Canada, but easy via Amazon), and into the dehydrator. A few hours later (about 4), we were happily munching away on kale chips (a bit too much salt) and apple slices that were almost ready (in the end, the apple slices didn’t quite make it; the skin being left on inhibited the dehydrating process, but we ate them anyhow).
On the 2nd of January, we tried to make juicer-pulp crackers from the remnants of our morning juice. The idea is solid, but we lack experience. We spread the pulp out and put it in the machine, and several hours later, removed and bagged the cracker-like mass. By the next morning, it was a soggy mess, as we did not get the thinness equal all over, so some areas were still wet inside, which rehydrated everything. Live and learn!
On the morning of the 3rd, I got damn good and brave. I’d gone to Costco and picked up a package of sirloin tip steaks. I then got me a fierce hankering for jerky. Enlisting the help of Google and YouTube, I learned how to (safely) make jerky. Did you know that only cooked meat should be dehydrated, UNLESS it has been properly cured and spiced in a brine or cure that contains NITRITES, or cooked until the interior temperature reaches 160°F? Nope, neither did I. Some/most brines require a 24 hour marinade process. Some cures are rub-and-go. I’ve done the rub-and-go Red Pepper Dry Rub & Mix by SmokeHouse.
Sirloin sliced, home-made marinade applied and then popped in the oven at 170°F for an hour or so to bring internal temp up to 160°F, then into the dehydrator for 6 hours. Damn, that was the longest six hours of our lives! Needless to say, that small batch of jerky didn’t survive 24 hours in the house.
Between 1 January and today, 8 January 2017, we have dehydrated kale, sirloin tip steak (side note: a package of 4 rather large steaks will run you about 18-25$ at Costco. Based on the average price of 7.00$ for a large bag of jerky found in most stores, our 20$ steak investment provided us with the equivalent of 160.00$ of pre-made, store-bought jerky. Just saying; the dehydrator has already paid for itself.), apples, juicer-pulp crackers (second batch in right now, and this time I used a rolling pin to create equal thickness) and bell peppers. I bought a big batch of peppers (8 large peppers) for 2.50$ at Farm Boy, from the reduced produce section (not a damn thing wrong with them, except for a few wrinkles). I had a massive tray of peppers that dehydrated down into a medium Tupperware container, now in the pantry. The idea is to add them soup or stew in the near future, but we keep nibbling on them.
The peppers, before and after:
We used to get rid of a fair amount of food, because we forgot about it, or didn’t have all the ingredients for a particular dish. Now, that’s irrelevant. If we lack something that moment, or it seems to be getting a bit wrinkled, we dehydrate it and use it later. So yeah. It looks like 2017 is going to be a whole lot better than 2016 (which can kiss our collective asses goodbye).