Dried and true

homemade solar dehydrator

Jenn’s becoming a master at preserving fresh food through canning. Even if it does mean we had to find space in the little house for her diving bell of a pressure canner.

I don’t feel like I’ve done my part, so I’ve begun exploring a whole ‘nother way of preserving food.

I’m gonna dry some of it.

Take the moisture out of the food, and it stays good a surprisingly long amount of time. I mean, not like a Twinkie, but still. And you can eat it dried or re-hydrate it with a quick boil.

But to date my experience with dehydrating food consists of putting pieces of banana on a tray in a Ronco Food Dehydrator circa 1980. This thing was a beige piece of plastic the size of a cake tin. Taking a cue from the old Easy-Bake Oven, it did it’s work thanks to the heat inefficiently produced by an incandescent light bulb.

Now, I’m sure plug-in dehydrators have come a long way in 35 years, but I’m more interested in harvesting a little free energy via the sun. So last weekend I built an outdoor drying rack to go on our back deck. It was surprisingly easy. I was armed with:

I had to buy a few things — namely a 1×8, some insect mesh, a couple pieces of screen trim, a few 1×4’s for legs. Total out-of-pocket cost, including the secondhand window, was about $50.

Essentially you just build a box with tall front and back (the 1×8’s) to nest the window in. The mesh is stapled to the bottom to protect the food from bugs and springer spaniels and to serve as the drying rack.

We’ve still got some questions.

Like, will the insect mesh keep out the wee sugar ants?

Will the insect mesh keep out the Seamus?

And will it get hot enough up in there to dry even in the overcast, wet days we’ve been having?

We’ll soon see. First to go in will be slices of those sand pears we snagged from Pasaquan weekend before last. If all goes well, some tomatoes and peppers are on deck.

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