This is slowly gathering pace. I’m using The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dehydrating Foods (Kindle version) for, er, guidance, as it gives temperatures and times for a wide range of foods. Being an American book, it’s in Imperial units (and bloody cups** see footnote – when are Americans going to realise scales are more accurate?) and degrees F, so when converting to degrees C I round up to the next 5 (so if the C temp is 51 it gets rounded to 55. If it’s 55 it goes to 60, and so on. Two things accrue from this – faster drying times and more even drying, with no detriment to the product.
The Guide gives a time spread of several hours. Carrots, for example, take 6 to 10 hours assuming they’re cut into ¼ inch thick slices. That, for me, is far too thick, I never cut carrots thicker than pound coin. As I want them purely for adding flavour to, for example, the piece of brisket currently sitting in my slow cooker with stock, dried leeks and dried carrots, I cut the carrots into fine julienne, using a mandoline (next time I’ll try fine slices, using the processor), set the temp at 55C and the timer to 6 hours. They were ready in 4.
Carrots, before drying.
And after (note the shrinkage – they take up far less storage room). I rotated the shelves once an hour, moving the top to the bottom and the bottom to – Oh damn! You guessed…
And this is the brisket with dried carrots and dried leeks (just the green parts, as they won’t be eaten), to which I added a tasty beef and vegetable stock, celery salt, some diced dried onion, and a scattering of peppercorns.
The first things I made were apple and date rings. Braeburn apples (disappointingly bland), cored, thinly sliced into rings, with the mandoline, and sandwiched together with date purée, before being dried. And very nice they are too, despite the apples lacking the sharpness I was expecting. They’re in an airtight plastic box and, apart from an occasional tasting, I’m waiting to see what happens to them. So far, that’s nothing, which is as it should be.
I dried the onions and leeks (as well as the apples), some weeks ago, and they’re perfectly fine sitting in their jars. No moisture has gathered on the glass (again, as it should be), and they smell clean and fresh.
Of course, every time I open the jars, or box, potentially moist air gets in so, once I get production into full swing I’ll vacuum-seal them in portion-sized bags, which will solve the problem.
I’m not sure it’s worth drying onions or carrots, to be honest, as I always have some in the fridge (though drying my favourite Sweet Spear carrots and Echalion shallots, as a hedge against their occasional disappearance, might be a good idea). Drying leeks is good too, as otherwise the fibrous green parts would just get tossed, which is a pity as they have a lot of flavour even if they’re not pleasant to eat.
Red peppers, Romano, the long, pointy ones – I always want them when I don’t have any – could be roasted, skinned and dried to great advantage. You can buy dried bell peppers but they taste of so little it’s hardly worth bothering, but Romano are much better.
One thing I want to try is Tofu. No matter what you might read about its ability to absorb flavours, it’s all rubbish – the flavour never penetrates more than a millimetre or two. However, I reckon that by cutting it into bite-sized pieces and drying it first, before either marinating it or putting it in a very tasty sauce it will hoover up flavours and draw them deep into itself after which they can either be eaten as they are, or deep-fried. I prefer marinated then deep fried, and eaten as is or frozen for future use – frying gives the stuff a much better texture.
I’ve got a couple of blocks of Tofu in the freezer, so watch this space.
I have, of late, been beset by brain fog – not surprising, I suppose, given how much is wrong with me, the constant pain and my drugs intake (63 tabs and caps on an average day, 69 currently, plus inhalers). The main victim has been a recipe for a Cumberland sausage casserole, which, although I’ve now made it – and very nice it is too – hasn’t been written down. I’ve tried – god, how I’ve tried! – but it’s just degenerated into incoherent rambling and I have absolutely no idea what I was trying to say other than it’s …
A Recipe for a Cumberland Sausage Casserole – With Cherries, Apple, Dates and Cider…
And it tastes way better than you might be thinking.
2 packs Sainsbury’s TTD Cumberland Sausages (Not the best Cumberland you’re likely to come across – the meat is not coarsely chopped, nor well-seasoned enough, but fine for this)
And that’s it – my mind is still an almost total blank. I say almost because I can recall quantities for the ingredients above, but the rest of it is gone. The best thing I can do is beat a retreat and go and read for a little while, just relax and see if anything comes back to me. As this is about the third attempt, I’m not confident!
And rightly so. Fell asleep for a few hours (that was yesterday), but can still remember sod all so, good though it might be – and it is – the recipe will have to wait until next time I make it.
And to be honest, this is scary. It’s not just that I can’t recall the details – where this recipe should be is a chunk of my brain that’s as blank as an empty mirror.
Footnote: I have no idea why Americans hang on to cups so grimly. I do have a theory as to why they used them in the first place, though I have no idea if it holds water. I suspect scales fell out of favour during the settlement of the West when, jouncing across the continent in the back of a wagon meant they rapidly lost whatever accuracy they’d once had, whereas cups (actually tin mugs of the type you see in almost every western movie) had nothing to go wrong unless run over by a passing wagon.
Equally, they might well have originated with the field kitchens of the American military.
Whatever the origin of the cup measure it has long outlived its usefulness and there really is no excuse for it still to persist today. Use scales, you dozy buggers! (NB: a cup is popularly believed to hold 8oz – but 8oz of what? Almost everything you can put into a cup will weigh differently – a cup of sugar, for example, is heavier than a cup of flour – you don’t even need to weigh them to know that. But I did weigh a couple of items, and a cup of golden granulated sugar weighs 225g while a cup of wholemeal spelt flour weighs 148g, both scraped level, not packed down.
By the way, I read recently that the US is one of only 3 countries that still cling to the outmoded Imperial system of weights and measures, while the rest of the world has embraced the simpler metric system. Go figure…
Spoonie note: If you buy a US-made powerchair or scooter, be prepared to invest in a new toolkit if you do your own routine maintenance.