Fun with Dehydration!

Since Christmas I’ve been playing with a new toy which has revolutionized my camping kitchen, a dehydrator.  It’s nothing fancy like those 400$ self-turning, regulated-heat-throughout, timer-included ones.  It’s just a simple and easy-to-use dehydrator.

What, pray tell, have I been sucking fluid out of though?  Insofar, a complete spaghetti dinner and I made an attempt at jerky.  Here’s how it’s gone.

With Spaghetti (a very heavy dish to carry), it’s been almost a miracle.  First I tried the red peppers, which I found was best to cut up into little chunks rather than long thin strips.  They were fairly easy. 
Second, and most impressive, was the sauce.  I spread it thin on some cooking parchment (you get it in rolls like aluminum foil and I cut it to fit) and after 8 hours blammo!  You get an easy-to-peel leather.  Rehydrating this was a bit tricky, but I’ll talk about that in a second. 
Finally, the piece of resistance was the ground turkey/beef.  I used ground turkey because it has next to no fat in it, which would spoil the meat if not cooked out before dehydrating.  I’ve heard if you get extra-lean beef it’s not problem, but I was curious to see how it would turn out.  Before cooking the meat, I kneaded in a healthy scoop of bread crumbs (1/2 cup per pound), these I feel are essential in order to absorb water better when re-hydrating the meat.  After it was properly cooked, I ran it under hot water to get rid of any oils which clung to the turkey, and threw it in the dehydrator (also on cooking canvas.

Most of these cooked for 8-10 hours at various heats.  I’m sure there’s a set temperature you’re supposed to do them at, but with mine everything seemed fine at around 135 degrees (with the meat I did 145 for the first 2 hours).  Rehydration for these was a breeze too.  Just pour not-quite-boiling water over top of them and wait 10-15 minutes and they’re back to their former glory.  The sauce-leather should be broken down into the smallest pieces you can manage though, and I’ve heard some people just throw it in a blender to make it into a powder (must try!).

One thing I haven’t perfected yet is the art of beef jerky.  It requires a fine cut of meat, cooked to perfection, soaked in a delicate marinade, and then dehydrated for 8 hours.  I did mine with a sloppy marinade, the wrong cut of beef (WAY too thin), and I overcooked them in the dehydrator.  Even though I made all these mistakes, after bite number three into the blackish jerky, you can see what I was going for.  It’s definitely something I’ll be playing with later.

I’m going to try fruit and snack-based dehydration next.  I also want to do the whole spaghetti-dinner meal all at once, so that I can say I can easily make a light-weight and easy-to-cook dinner on day three or four of a camping trip, with meat! 

Oooh, I think I just got shivers.


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