Dehydration is the process of drying out a substance or removing the water from a substance. This is used for many different reasons. One being the food you dehydrate will preserve much longer. A lot of bacteria needs moister to reproduce so by taking that moister out, it prevents any bacteria forming on the dried out food. The Romans were the first record of how dried food can be useful, the roman soldiers had a ration of biscuits (not quite Mcvities) and these biscuits could last months without going bad. These dried food and substances are all around you, from leather to nuts, all of them have a drying stage, even your chocolate goes through a dehydration process.
There are a few ways to dehydrate. You can buy yourself a dehydrator from the internet, if you live in a hot climate you can use the sun to dry out what you want. If you cant afford a dehydrator and you live in a cold rainy place like Manchester, then you could use your oven. Here are some examples for each way to dehydrate.
Using a dehydrator
When you first buy a dehydrator, if you didn’t read the instructions (like us) then it may seem very confusing depending on the level of detail or how advanced your dehydrator is. The one we use only has a timer and a temperature gauge, so it’s rather simple to use. So when you first start playing around with the dehydrator and you start throwing in all sorts to see how they turn out the next day, you will soon realise how important it is too keep whatever your dehydrating at a consistent thickness or an even coating; for example, when making dried lemon wheels you will need to keep each wheel the same thickness or close to it, because the temperature of the dehydrator and the time you keep them in there solely depends on how thick your fruit is. The way that we find that works for our wheels is cutting each slice at around half a centimetre thick and this goes in the dehydrator for around 9-10 hours at 50-55 degrees Celsius or 122 – 131 degrees Fahrenheit.
Depending on how you want your slices of fruit to turn out, the instructions I put in the above will allow them to turn a golden yellow and will not turn out sticky. If you want them sticky so you can decorate them with a powder, take off about 2 hours. If you want the lemon wheels to turn black for a better contrast in a cocktail/ meal, then give them a day or so. If I wanted my lemon wheels to turn out brittle I would use the same amount of time but crank the temperature on full or really high, having them brittle can help when making powders or a decorative flake.
Using A Oven Or The Sun
When using your oven as a dehydrator its very similar to the first method but you may want to keep an eye on them depending on how low your oven goes. With the same method of cutting up your fruit to a half centimetre, place them on a baking tray with some Grease proof paper and place the fruit evenly apart from each other. Place the tray on the middle rack of your oven and leave for around 9 hours on a low heat setting.
If you live in a hot country or I hot and dry climate then you can use mover nature to your advantage, but this is a little different than the other two methods. When placing your substance in the sun for dehydration you want to keep in mind of animals/ insects may try to eat it, also bacteria may form so boiling the fruit before may help kill off any of the remaining bacteria. When using the sun, it could take a few days to full dry out your substance fully, but it is free and healthy to this planet so be mindful.
Tips for Dehydrating
When you dry out a piece of fruit you take away all the water that was subdued in the fruit and this only leaves the flavour of the fruit in a way it intensifies the flavour. This is a great way to infuse a flavour into something whether It being a strawberry vodka or some lemons in your water. Dehydrating fruit does also take away some vital vitamins though.
Use a blender to blend ingredients together, for example, strawberries and raspberries. Pour that mix onto grease proof paper, and it’ll dry to make edible leather.
Drying out syrups will harden to make sweats, which you can break up to use as a garnish.