Tag Archives | dehydration

How to Make Beet Raisins

Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones drops in to show us how to simmer and dry beet slices into beet raisins. It’s a great project for this in-between time, when we’re waiting for spring produce to arrive! -Marisa

Small slices of beets on a dehydrator tray will become beet raisins.

I’m not much of a cooking competition show watcher. The exceptions are the original Japanese Iron Chef, which I followed voraciously back in high school, The Great British Baking Show (of course), and a brief foray into MasterChef Junior — all shows that avoid the cutthroat, stressful nature of most reality TV.

So I can’t really blame myself for not knowing about beet raisins, with which chef Carrie Baird of Denver’s Bar Dough wowed the judges during an episode of Top Chef last year.

Cut beets on a cutting board for beet raisins.

A poster on the Food in Jars Community Facebook group mentioned them recently, and I was instantly fascinated. Beets are the kind of veggie I always wish I used more often. Now that I have an Instant Pot, it’s easy to quickly prep a bunch for a week of salads, but that’s as about as creative as I’ve gotten with them lately.

And while I’m waiting for the ever-so-slow unfolding of spring here in Philly, farmers’ market stands still have tons of sturdy storage beets in red and gold, harvested months ago. With strawberries still weeks away and grapes for actual raisins not available until high summer, I had to try this recipe.

Cut and peeled beets for beet raisins.

Baird’s recipe calls for melon balling the raw beets into uniform spheres, which is far more work than I wanted to put in. (A melon baller is also not one of the many culinary tools in my kitchen, and if I’ve managed to avoid getting one for this long, it’s not gonna happen now.)

So I peeled and trimmed my organic red beets, then halved them and cut each halves into five roughly equal slices, about half an inch thick and an inch or so long — cutting the pointy end, then slicing the remainder into quarters.

Cut beets in a pot that will become beet raisins.

Slices rather than balls also reduces waste, giving you more beet raisin for your buck. (My cuts gave me larger pieces in the end; if you want something more raisin-sized, do cuts closer to 1/2″ all around and cut the drying time.) The slices went into a pot with vinegar, sugar, water, and a pinch of salt.

Baird uses champagne vinegar, which you’re welcome to do; I used apple cider vinegar, because that’s what I had on hand (and I’m not trying to win a high-stakes cooking competition).

The slices simmered till they were very soft but not disintegrating, about two hours. Then, I drained the liquid — which you could use to make salad dressing, or add a little more salt and use it to quick-pickle some thinly-sliced hakurei turnips, for example — and let the slices cool for a bit.

Side view of beet slices on a dehydrator tray for beet raisins.

The cooked beet “grapes” then went into my Excalibur dehydrator at at 135oF, which is the setting recommended for fruit. After two hours, the beets were showing signs of dehydration, but their texture was still more like beets than raisins.

I upped the temperature to 145oF, which is the temperature I include in the recipe below. The beets took another three hours or so until they were sufficiently raisinlike for me to pull them out — next time, I might just turn the dehydrator up all the way to 155oF and see if that helps to shorten the dehydration time without overdrying.

When I did, they were wrinkly, chewy and toothsome, and pleasantly sweet and a little tart — just like real raisins! They’re super snackable and would be delicious in a bowl of yogurt with granola, or on a kale salad, as Baird served them on Top Chef. I could also see using them to top a tzatziki-esque cucumber salad along with lots of dill, toasted slivered almonds, and a pillowy pita.

Finished beet raisins in a small bowl.

They’re not quite as simple as stemming grapes and tossing them onto a dehydrator rack, but I’ll definitely be making these beet raisins again. Would you give them a try? Tell us in the comments!

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Marinated Dehydrated Tomatoes

Got a dehydrator and some tomatoes? Make these marinated dehydrated tomatoes! They are easy, delicious, and so satisfying come winter.

marinated dehydrated tomatoes in ziplock bag

The first summer I had a dehydrator, I dried everything I could get my hands on. I did peaches, apples, herbs, citrus, tons of fruit leather and buckets of small tomatoes. I kept that round unit running for days at a time, and found that I missed its constant drone when it was finally unplugged and put away.

sliced tomatoes for marinated dehydrated tomatoes

Since that first heady season, I’ve narrowed down the things I regularly dehydrate. It is still one of my favorite methods of food preservation, I just have learned more about which dehydrated things that work best in my kitchen and have stopped doing the ones that I didn’t manage to use up as well.

herbs and spices for marinated dehydrated tomatoes

Top on my must-dry list each year are tomatoes. I do them a couple of different ways. I always do two or three dehydrator loads of small tomatoes like grape and sungold to use in salads throughout the year. And I always (ALWAYS) make some marinated and dried tomatoes.

marinade for marinated dehydrated tomatoes

I first learned this trick years back from Kristina McLean’s blog Mouth From the South. She is an avowed tomato lover and takes the growing and preserving of tomatoes very seriously. So the first time I made them, I knew they’d be good. I just didn’t realize quite how life-changing.

pouring dressing into marinated dehydrated tomatoes

If you have a dehydrator, these marinated dehydrated tomatoes are incredibly easy to make. You slice up about five or six pounds of tomatoes and heap them in a bowl. Then you puree together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh parsley, rosemary, garlic, salt, red chili flakes, black pepper, and the juice and zest of a lemon.

marinated dehydrated tomatoes

Once the marinade is smooth, you pour it over the tomatoes. Using your hands, gently give it all a good stir and then let it sit. Because I rarely have enough space in my fridge, I only marinate for a couple of hours. You could also cover the bowl and tuck it in the refrigerator overnight if you’ve got more cold storage than I do.

marinated tomatoes on trays for marinated dehydrated tomatoes

Then you arrange the marinated tomatoes on your dehydrator trays, stack them up, and set it to 135 degrees F. I typically slice my tomatoes so that they’re a little more than 1/2 inch thick and they take about 18 hours like that. If you cut yours thicker, give them more time.

These days, I’m using the new Excalibur stackable dehydrator that I wrote about here. I particularly love the fact that it comes with the mesh screens that make it easier to remove the finished tomatoes (because they stick like crazy).

finished marinated dehydrated tomatoes

When the tomatoes are dry and chewy, they’re done. Then it’s just a matter of pulling them off the trays, heaping them in zip top bags, and stash those bags in the fridge or freezer (thanks to the oil, they really need the cold storage).

I often eat a few while thinking about what to make for dinner. They’re nice as a garnish on a bowl of soup or a grain salad. And for fancy times, I like to chop them and fold them into softened butter for tasty bread.

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Dehydrating Meyer Lemons and Limes

dehydrating lemons

It’s been spring for more than two weeks now, but today I finally felt it. I walked to work without a coat, though my down-the-hall neighbor did raise an eyebrow at my wardrobe choice as we rode the elevator downstairs together (my mother need not worry, living in a building with hundreds of retired Jewish women means I never lack for vocal commentary on my seasonal appropriateness. I have been told to go home and get an umbrella on multiple occasions).

dehydrating lemons

Last week, before this balmy weather arrived, I was doing everything I could to brighten both my mood and the state of the kitchen and so tackled one final citrus preservation project. This one is so easy that I feel a little silly even mentioning it, but the pictures came out so nicely that it would be a shame not to share them.

dehydrating lemons

I scrubbed two pounds of citrus (half Meyer lemons, half limes), dried them and cut them into slices between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. I pulled out my very basic dehydrator, laid the slices out on the trays and dehydrated them for 18 hours on the 135 degree setting.

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Stashed in tightly sealed jars, these slices should last for a very long time. I like to pop one into the water bottle I use each day, so that it rehydrates and gently scents the water with the flavor of fruit.

A few thoughts. If you do this, make sure to keep them going until they are entirely dry. Leaving them with any liquid means you run the risk of having them go bad quite soon. Store them out of the sunlight to further extend their lifespan. The one thing I haven’t done yet that I’m planning on trying is to pulverize them in a food process or blender and see if I can’t make citrus powder with them. I think that would be a nice touch in salad dressings and other good stuff.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, I’ve heard that you can achieve a similar effect in a very low oven (I have not tried it, but Kevin West has). Make sure to put the fruit on a rack so that the air can circulate and moisture can evaporate. I bet a convection oven would do a good job as well.

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