A couple of serendipitous events led to my latest cooking adventure — that is drying apples in a food dehydrator. I can thank the generosity of several friends for this unplanned cooking experience. One friend gave me her brand new food dehydrator which she no longer wanted. Meanwhile, another family dropped off a very large bag of “Snackin’ Apples” as a kind jesture since someone in our family was sick. After several weeks of wondering if I’d ever use the dehydrator, it dawned on me that perhaps I could make “Dried Apples.” So, I set up the little food dehydrator and got busy preserving apples. The experiment was interesting; and now I have a stash of leathery, dried apples to use in recipes. Let’s get cooking and use those dried apples. What did I cook? “Overnight Oatmeal with Dried Apples” is delicious. It is so, so easy and has become my “go to” breakfast these days. I also made delicious “Colossal Dried Apples & Walnut Muffins” which is next week’s post. I am on the search for more recipes.
Why dehydrate foods?
Using a food dehydrator to preserve a bountiful summer harvest of fruits, vegetables and herbs to use during the winter months sounds like a noble idea. However, it also takes alot of time and effort to dehydrate foods. After drying apples, my little food dehydrator went back into the box. Apples are plentiful all the year around.
In my kitchen, I have decided that a food dehydrator is valuable for specific situations. For example, I grew far more hot chili peppers in my summer garden than I could ever use. Dried chili peppers work perfectly in many recipes. My game plan is to get the food dehydrator out again next summer to preserve and dry alot of those garden-fresh chili peppers to use over the winter months. Now, where did I store that dehydrator?
The food dehydrator might also be useful for drying expensive or “rare” ingredients such as unusual mushrooms. I am not into “foraging,” however, it is popular among some folks here in Louisiana. Here are cayenne peppers (from the LSU Burden Research Center) which I dried on my kitchen counter over a period of a month. Next time, I’ll use the dehydrator to dry them in about eight hours. Since peppers, when are red in color, are at their peak of maturity, drying them relatively quickly will help with spoilage and mold issues.
Buc-ee’s Freeze-Dried Vegge Chips
The “gold standard” for dehydrated vegge snacks, in my opinion, goes to the folks at Buc-ee’s — a combination country store and huge filling station. This chain is headquartered in Lake Jackson, Texas, and is gradually expanding throughout the country. The country store has so many offerings — Their specialities seem to be beef jerky, candy (fudge), and smoked brisket. The company offers an extensive selection of novelty dehydrated vegge chips — where else can you purchase dehydrated green beans, carrots and dried okra? My research says that their vegge snacks are freeze dried — and I cannot freeze dry at home — I will have to stick to my friend’s food dehydrator.
For the quintessential road trip, we never pass up stopping at a Buc-ee’s when traveling — mainly to check out and gaze at all the unusual food items. If you are travelling through Texas or surrounding states, it is worth a stop — just for fun! Where else can you find original art work for sale in the restrooms?
Christmas decorations, anyone? That’s my idea for using these dehydrated apples. In spite of my fussing about the food dehydrator, I like a challenge. Sometimes it is difficult to get a recipe perfected on the first attempt. It took a couple of recipe trials to get the dried apples just right. Here is my first attempt. Looks like these apples are well-bleached as I added a little too much oxidizing solution to the apples.
Using a Food Dehydrator
Food dehydrators come in all types of brands, sizes and prices. My friend’s dehydrator is a very small, simple one. Dehydrators work by blowing hot up air up through the racks and out vents in the top to remove moisture. There are holes in the racks for the air to flow through; it is imporant to leave unobstructed room between the pieces of food for this to happen. The food is dried on a low temperature and dehydrating food is a slow, slow process; sometimes taking eight or more hours to properly dehydrate a food.
This food dehydrator has five racks for drying foods. Since the ingredients have to be placed in a single layer, the most I could dehydrate at one time was only five small apples or three large ones.
This appliance has a temperature dial; but the accuracy of the heat was questionable according to on-line reviews of this dehydrator. I set the dial on the highest temperature. Several reviewers suggested not using this particular model to dry beef to make jerky because of unreliable temperatures.
Since the bottom rack is closest to the heat source, I had to rotate the racks during the drying process so that everything would dry evenly.
Drying apples in a food dehydrator is a simple process. You need apples and some sort of ingredient to prevent the apples from turning browning. I had citric acid on hand for another recipe and used it to prevent the apples from oxidizing. To make a solution, dissolve one teaspoon of citric acid crystals in a quart of water. Let the apples soak in the solution for two minutes and then drain and dry the apples. The citric acid had no taste; the dehydrated apples didn’t turn brown. (To bleach the apples for novelty decorations, use two teaspoons of citric acid in one quart of water.)
Yes, you do need some sort of oxidizing agent. Without it, the apples turn brown after drying on the racks.
Get ready for dehydrating
What apples are best for dehydrating? My suggestion is to pick apples which have a very aromatic flavor — they don’t need to be tart. Five small apples or three large apples filled up the five drying racks of this small dehydrator.
To get ready for dehydrating, I used an apple corer to remove the center core. On my first attempt, I used a mandoline slicer (with hand guard) to slice the apples. These made very thin slices.
On my second attempt, I sliced the apples by hand, making slices which were about 1/8″ thick. That wasn’t as difficult as I had guessed. I think these thicker apples slices will be more versatile.
The apples soaked in the citric acid solution for two minutes. Then I drained and dried the apples and loaded the apples on to the racks in single layers.
The racks are stacked and locked into place with a lid on the top. I had no idea of how long it would take to dry these apples. I re-arranged the racks every half-hour. For my first attempt, the apples looked dry and leathery after three hours. (For the thicker apple slices, I dried them for six hours.) You can see that the apples shrank up quite a bit. Done!
Let’s Re-hydrate Dried Apples and Get Cookin’
I was flabergasted when I read the food dehydrator manual chapter containing recipes. There was a simple sentence: “It is recommended that you re-hydrate the dried foods before using in recipes. It is best to rehydrate the foods overnight.” Really? Didn’t I just spend hours dehydrating the apples? If you plan to store the apples and other dried foods for several months, this makes sense. However, if you plan to use the dried apples immediately, why bother drying them?
For my “Overnight Oatmeal with Dried Apples” recipe, I simply chopped the dried apples and added them to the orange juice liquid along with the oatmeal.
However, for other recipes, rehydrating the apples is important. Otherwise the apples are leathery and chewy. For the “Colossal Dried Apple & Walnut Muffins” recipe, I dutifully soaked the apples in the refrigerator overnight to rehydrate them.
After rehydratring, the apples were aromatic and back to their normal size. The texture of the apples is different from raw apples — they are softer. Best for adding to cooked apple recipes.
“Overnight Oatmeal with Dried Apples”
I love old-fashioned oatmeal for a healthy breakfast or even a snack. “Overnight Oatmeal” is delicious and the flavor of the oatmeal really shines. This recipe is perfect for using the dried apples, since the apples soak in the oatmeal — no need to rehydrate them in advance. And, by soaking the oatmeal overnight, you don’t have to cook it the next morning. The oatmeal absorbs the liquid and softens as it soaks. The result is an old-fashioned “smoothie.”
To make the recipe, mix the all ingredients in a mug or other container, then cover and refrigerate ovenight. The ingredients are old-fashioned oatmeal, dilurted orange juice, brown sugar and a pinch of salt and cinnamon, plus dried, chopped apples. (You can substitute milk for orange juice in this recipe. However, I would not dilute the milk.)
The next morning, remove the oatmeal “smoothie” from refrigerator, stir and eat. A little yogurt added as as a topping is great. If desired, heat in the microwave for a minute or two. Delicious!
Food Dehydrating Experience
Drying the apples using a food dehydrator was an interesting cooking experience. It is extremely easy to use a dehydrator and I am tempted do dry more apples. Stop! Now, I’m busy thinking of other recipes for using dried apples as well as other foods which I can dehydrate.
Here, I dehydrated orange slices. These might make an interesting cocktail garnish. Hum. Or more Christmas decorations.
What do you dry your food dehydrator? Let me know, I’d love the hear.
Let's Make Dried Apples for Cookin
- 5 small aromatic apples or 3 large ones. (Select apples without blemishes.)
- 1 – 2 tsp citric acid crystals
- 4 cups (1 quart) water
Method and Steps:
- Rinse apples well and drain. Remove any blemishes.
- With apple corer, remove center core and seeds. Do not peel apples.
- Using mandoline slicer with hand guard, slice apples using the thickest setting. Alternatively, slice apples into 1/8″ slices using large kitchen knife.
- Mix 1 tsp citric acid crystals with water and stir to dissolve. (For apples which are bleached to a white color, increase citric acid crystals to 2 tsp.)
- Dip several apple slices at a time in citric acid solution and stir so that all are coated. Let soak for two minutes, then drain and let dry. Repeat until all slices are soaked.
- Arrange apple slices on drying racks on a single laters. ( I used a Commerical CHEF brand food dehyrator which had 5 racks.)
- Stack racks on the food dehydrator base and lock into place. Place lid on top.
- Turn dehydrator to 158 F degree setting. The appliance will turn on when the dial is turned. Set timer for 3 hours for thinly sliced apples and 5 hours for thicker slices.
- Rotate the racks every 30 minutes to 1 hour, moving bottom rack to top. Check apples and turn off machine when apples appear leathery and spongy to touch.
- Let apples cool to room temperature.
- Store in air tight container at room temperature.
- For use in recipes, it is recommend that you rehydrate apple slices in water overnight or for 12 hours.
Overnight Oatmeal & Dried Apples
- 1/4 cup orange juice*
- 1/2 cup water*
- 1/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1 Tbsp light brown sugar
- pinch salt
- pinch ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup chopped, dried apples
- Yogurt, optional, for serving
Method and Steps:
- Mix orange juice, water, old-fashioned oatmeal, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a mug or 1-cup sized container or measuring cup.
- Add chopped, dried apples and stir.
- Cover and refrigerator overnight. Occasionally, stir mixture.
- The next morning, remove from refrigerator and stir. It is ready to eat!
- If desired, loosely cover and heat in microwave for a minute or two to heat.
- If desired, top with yogurt for serving.
*NOTE: May substiture 3/4 cup milk for orange juice and water.