For someone who doesn't spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I have a slightly unhealthy affection for kitchen gadgets. Given that I've written about getting rich by thinking small, you'd think I'd be wise to it and avoid them all together. Alas, the heart wants what it wants. Sometimes I can avoid gadgets. When my automatic can opener broke, I replaced it with this awesome hand-powered OXO Steel Can Opener. (It's fun to open up cans now.) However, most of the time I end up with the gadget that you plug-in. Fortunately, when I've seen a few hundred Amazon reviews with a cumulative rating of 4+ stars it rarely leads me in the wrong direction (like with this Cuisinart SmartStick Immersion Hand Blender).
I have to admit great Amazon reviews are a significant part of why I asked for the Nesco Food Dehydrator for Christmas. When so many people find something is a great product, it intrigues me.
However, I can't simply buy anything with great reviews. If it were, I'd probably own some make-up kits.
The item has to have real purpose. I poured through the Nesco and got excited about what people were making with them. The return of Fruit Rollups - yes please!
One of the things that I learned when I joined Farm Fresh to You last year was that it was more fruit than the two of us cared to eat. Being able to dehydrate it and keep it around months longer is a great solution.
With our move across country, refinancing multiple places, and a number of other things that have popped up, I've only recently gotten to use the dehydrator. My victims have been apples, bananas, and strawberries... the basics. The strawberries in particular were a good experiment because they seem to go bad in a single day. They all came out, as you might imagine, edible... just like you'd get from the store. I've read that in combination with a FoodSaver and a freezer you can months and months from your dried foods... maybe even a year. That's with no preservatives... if you happen to be into that kind of thing.
One of the other reasons why I dehydrated fruit was that I was hoping it would make for a healthy snack. The Presidents of the United States said it best: "Nature's candy in my hand or can or a pie."
Let's be honest, all the fruit talk is just fluff... beef jerky is the meat of the topic (pun intended). I've always like the idea of beef jerky as a snack... you can't get much more Atkins friendly and the sodium content makes it good for long hikes.
The big problem with beef jerky is that it is expensive. Have you ever seen the price for a tiny 3 ounce portion? Even at the military commissary where things are generally very cheap, it's still fairly expensive. So I figure that maybe it is like beer where you can make your own for good savings.
I think I'm going to be wrong on that. I didn't think things all the way through.
When you dehydrate food, the process of taking out the water shrinks the food considerably. I can fit 6 whole large granny smith apples in a sandwich bag. A pound of strawberries only took up about a fifth of a sandwich bag. It's just like Elaine not knowing about shrinkage. When you take out the water you reduce the weight considerably, especially because some fruit is mostly water. The same it true for the beef jerky naturally. In order to make 3 ounces of beef jerky, it takes a lot more steak. Thus maybe making it at home isn't a big savings.
There's other things to consider when making your own dried foods. I had to slice up the fruit by hand. I'm not a master chef and I'm kind of new to it. I presume I'll get better with a little practice, but initially it isn't a fast process to core the apple and slice it up. On the other hand, once you get an apple sliced, you can sprinkle on some cinnamon and make something that's truly healthy and well, vaguely approximating apple pie.
In the end, I'll say this. Dehydrating food is a fun experiment. When Little Man gets older, I'm sure we'll have fun as make candy together. However, it is some work and, unless you value the fun of it, you might not save much money. I could be wrong about the later as I ramp up my experiment to do bigger batches at one time.
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