Posts Tagged With: dehydrator

Yet Another Plug for Kale Chips. Worth It!


Check me out!  I made one of those fancy pictures-with-words button thingies!  It took way longer than it needed to, but I couldn’t decide on the font I wanted to use, and then I REALLY couldn’t decide on the COLOR of the font I wanted to use.  I’m still not super content with it, but eventually you just have to say to yourself, “Chelsea, it’s a picture.  Going on a blog.  You have children who want lunch.”

My new camera took this shot!  Cool, huh?  I'm still amazed by some of the stuff this thing can do all on it's own!

My new camera took this shot! Cool, huh? I’m still amazed by some of the stuff this thing can do all on it’s own!

Anyway, I know, I know.  KALE.  Sigh.  It’s all the rage.  Everyone is talking about it.  I’m supposed to rise above the commonplace recipes of the world and post about canning salmon and other interesting things that people aren’t going to find all over Pinterest.  But darn it, kale is good!  And this is totally relevant because I’m using my dehydrator instead of an oven like everyone else…  heh heh!

Actually, the first 10 times I made kale chips (which, by the way, is the only way I’ve ever eaten kale…) I used my oven.  I followed a few suggestions I found online at various degrees of temperature for various amounts of time.  The results were always the same:  One third of the chips were still soggy, one third were burned to a crisp, and the remaining third was edible and addicting.  So finally my husband actually suggested the dehydrator to me!

Folk, we have a winner!  THIS is the best way to make kale chips.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, it’s time to invest in one.  Go on craigslist and get a used one.  You’ll use it for lots of things, but for now you’ll be running it all week making kale chips!  These are just as good as everyone says they are – unlike the crunchy chickpea scam!  (Anyone else disillusioned by those?)

Dehydrated Kale Chips

What you will need:

There’s lots of variations to make these, but the best that I’ve found is salt & vinegar.  You can use regular vinegar, cider vinegar, or leftover sherry vinegar from your preserved garlic experiment!

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Vinegar
  • 1 tsp fine salt or 2 tsp coarse salt


Tear leaves away from stems, wash and pat dry with paper towels.  In a gallon-sized resealable bag, add kale, oil , vinegar and half the salt.  Press air out of the bag, and massage the liquids into the leaves.  No need to be gentle!  These leaves are tough!

Tear leaves away from stems, wash and pat dry with paper towels. In a gallon-sized resealable bag, add kale, oil , vinegar and half the salt. Press air out of the bag, and massage the liquids into the leaves. No need to be gentle! These leaves are tough!

Spread the kale onto two trays, sprinkle with remaining salt.

Spread the kale onto two trays, sprinkle with remaining salt. Set dehydrator to Fruits/Vegetables (135*F), turn on.

After about an hour, they should be done!  They should be perfectly crispy, no sogginess at all.  Enjoy!

After about an hour, they should be done! They should be perfectly crispy, no sogginess at all. Enjoy!

And here's the top picture without the text mussing up our view.

And here’s the top picture without the text mussing up our view.

Categories: Dehydrating, Vegetables | Tags: , , , ,

Bacon Jerky, Bacon Bits, Smug Satisfaction

Your mouth just watered, didn’t it?

Saturday, my Dad offered me a piece of store-bought bacon jerky and changed my life.  Bacon, any time of the day?  Bacon you could eat without getting your hands (too) greasy?  Well, okay!

So I immediately went home and took some bacon out of the freezer.  Except I couldn’t wait a whole day for it to thaw, so I defrosted it in the microwave.  It was still partially frozen when I stuck it in the dehydrator…

This bacon came from an impulse buy at the IGA a few months ago.  It was like 14lbs for $10.00, or something ridiculous, and naturally, you get what you pay for.  This is terrible bacon.  I hate cooking it because it makes my house smell like some strange chemical, not delicious bacon.  As you can see from the above picture, it’s also really fatty, and looks more like ham than bacon.

Anyway, I though “Hey!  Maybe it will taste good like this!”  So I trimmed off all the excess fat, and diced all of the smaller pieces into bacon bits.

You’ll need a fruit leather tray for bacon bits, so they won’t fall through the grid.

Turn the dehydrator on the hottest setting, and check back in 2-3 hours!

I actually over-dried mine slightly.  I think they would have been a little chewier a half an hour prior to when I remembered them.

The bacon bits turned out really good though.

The Verdict

This is a total game changer!  I can’t believe I never thought to make bacon jerky before!  I’m definitely going to do this again soon with some GOOD bacon, because the underlying chemical taste was still present, unfortunately.  I recommend starting with good bacon, and not cheap discount boxed bacon that you have to sort into 1-lb increments.  Go figure.

I will say that I’m pretty pleased (aka, “smug”) to have made my own bacon bits.  What a money-saver!  I feel like I just freed myself a little from the grocery store.  (Never mind that I still have to get the bacon there…)

And both of my children loved it, so that’s a huge score to have a handy protein snack on hand for them.

Note: While I think it’s probably fine to leave the bacon jerky out on the counter in a baggie or jar since most bacon is cured with preservatives, I have been keeping mine in the refrigerator and it has not affected it’s quality or texture.


Categories: Beef, Dehydrating, Leftovers, Venison | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sun-Dried Tomatoes Vs. Dehyrator-Dried Tomatoes

I stumbled upon a book a few weeks ago that immediately intrigued me.  The title alone drew me in:  Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation.  I mean, come on, any book that completely summarizes it’s contents within it’s own title has to be a quick, easy read, right?   As it turned out, most of the recipes in there were a little far-fetched even for me.  It is a pretty interesting book, and I do recommend borrowing a copy from your library.  It’s basically a cookbook with a collection of authors almost exclusively from charming French provinces.  While I can appreciate the nutrients saved by not subjecting foods to extreme heat or cold to preserve, most of the recipes were obscure enough (chestnuts in vinegar and a bucket?) that I simply couldn’t see myself actually consuming the products.  And who has time to put up food they won’t ever eat?  The different methods of preservation NOT involving the ones that are so common and available to us today (canning and freezing) are pretty cool though.  I mean, this is hard-core Prairie Mama stuff, and normally I’d be all over such adventures.  But as I said, I just cannot see my my family passing oil-packed cottage cheese that’s been stored in my basement around the table.  Ick.

There was one recipe I did immediately try, however.  Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil.  Easy-peasy, right?


Nothing is ever easy-peasy for this Prairie-Mama-Wannabe.  I probably would have starved my 14 children if their existence depended soley on my food preservation skills.  (That and the fact that my husband wouldn’t shoot a deer if the darn thing was foaming at the mouth.)  Although at least we’d all be skinny…

I digress.  Let’s get to the point of the post, shall we?

Sun-Dried Tomatoes packed in oil

What you will need:

  • Small tomatoes, like cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Gauze or cheesecloth (or a old window screen, if you’re a hillbilly)
  • Coarse salt
  • Oil


Wash your tomatoes and slice them in half the long way.  I was able to catch my daughter’s nap and prepare mine while watching repeat episodes of “The Nanny”.  I will subject you to Dagny’s perfect baby cuteness now:

Don’t you just want to pinch those sweet chubby thighs?

I placed my halves on one of my dehydrator trays, but any platter will work.  Next, sprinkle the halves liberally with the salt, cover with the cheesecloth and set in the sun.

Yeah, that’s a window screen you are seeing.  I didn’t have any cheesecloth and I live out in the middle of nowhere and wasn’t about to drive 30 minutes just to have a classier picture to post.

Not that I didn’t seriously consider it…

Ok, what really happened was that I assumed I had cheesecloth or at least something that would have worked and went ahead and cut up all the tomatoes and salted them before confirming that fallacy.

Can I get some props for creativity?  It actually worked to my advantage anyway because we had some pretty intense wind the days I had this outside, and I think it would have created a problem with anything lighter than my window screen.

Anyway, this is the tricky part of drying foods in the sun:  They actually need to BE IN THE SUN.  Not the dark, not the rain, and definitely not the hail.  Seems pretty common sense, but common sense and Chelsea Daniels have very little in, well, common.

The directions say to turn the tomatoes twice a day and to bring them in at night ‘lest the dew undo the day’s drying.

The first flip

You know what else completely undoes a day of drying?  A storm.  A big, country-style, tornado-looking storm, complete with hail.

That’s right.  I thought to take pictures of The Storm, but didn’t think to Bring In The Tomatoes.  Doh!

It’s okay, the next day was sunny and warm.  I was kind of starting from scratch again, but by the end of the day they were shriveling nicely.

At the start of Day 3, I left to go grocery shopping, remembered my tomatoes and texted my husband (at the store, not on the road 🙂 ) to please set them out in the sun for me.

At the start of Day 4, I remembered my tomatoes and realized they spent the night outside.  In the dew.  Oh, and the rain.  Of course.

Let’s just skip forward to the “done” part.  What should have taken 2, maybe 3 days of attentiveness took ME 7 days.  But sun-dry they did finally do, and NOW we get to the true easy-peasy-ness of this recipe.

Slap those time-sucking shells of what once ’twere tomatoes into a mason jar, fill it to within 3/8 inch headspace with olive oil, screw the lid on, set it in your pantry and stop wasting any more time on them!

Except I couldn’t quit thinking about them.  I was irritated that they had proved to be such a task for me, and I was irritated with myself for being irritated.  I decided to see if there was any true benefit to sun-drying them as opposed to sticking them in the dehydrator.  Do they taste better from the sun?  Sun tea does have a slight advantage over stove tea.  Suntans have a serious advantage over tanning bed tans.  Surely true sun-dried tomatoes have a magic in them that the dried bits from my dehydrator cannot match.

Of course I tested this theory:

Dehydrated Tomatoes

The brand name is kind of ironic, since I used these in the dehydrator…

What you will need:

  • Small tomatoes
  • A Dehydrator
  • Coarse salt (optional, but recommended)


This truly is easy-peasy.  Slice up the tomatoes, lay them on the dehydrator tray, (I only used one tray because we just don’t consume many dried tomatoes) salt them, turn it on the “fruits and vegetables” setting, and in about 6 hours (depending on how packed your dehydrator is) you’ll have dried tomatoes!  Pack them in a glass jar with oil to 3/8″ headspace, seal them with a lid tightly, and store in a cool place.

The Verdict

If you aren’t as flighty as I am, sun-dried is the way to go.  The sun-dried tomatoes had a richer, fuller-bodied flavor than the dehydrated tomatoes.  I actually forgot to salt the dehydrated tomatoes (I said I was flighty!), too, and the salt on the sun-dried ones was really a nice touch.  If you are prone to forgetfulness like someone else I know, the good news is that the dehydrated tomatoes are still quite tasty, and absolutely worth it.  I was pleased to discover that I really liked the oil-packed tomatoes, and can envision myself wrapping them in basil leaves for a snack, or scattering them over a fresh salad.  I will be making these again, and I will most definitely be using my ditz-proof dehydrator!

Even Dagny wants to try one!


*Note* This recipe did not say how long these tomatoes will last.  Use your discretion and inspect the tomatoes for any spoilage before consuming.

Categories: Dehydrating, Fruit, High-Acid, Leftovers | Tags: , , , , , ,

Beef Jerky

The first post!  I have to admit, it’s a little intimidating, starting a blog.  I chewed off most of my nails just trying to come up with a snazzy name for my blog, and then discovered I only had one nail left to work on while I wrote my About page!  Fortunately, I have a very good, very underpaid editor at my disposal.  (Thanks, Erin!)

But one thing I did not need to lose nails over was my first post.  First of all, there’s no doubt in my mind that beef jerky is one of the best inventions out there.  Secondly, and not quite as important, I’m still waiting for my super cool new pressure canner to arrive;)

So let’s dive in!  I’ve decided to do a comparison between using a dehydrator and using an oven.  I happened to have free access to a dehydrator (aka, stole it from my Mom…) and I’ve been making jerky and dried fruits for years in it, so had never thought to use my oven.  But my sister-in-law, blogger, homesteader, and podcast-extraordinaire, asked me in our interview if there was any way her listeners could get started preserving foods now, even if they don’t own canners or dehydrators. Well, I’m a gadget-girl, a marketers dream-come-true, but I do have an admiration for the back-to-basics and I love to learn all the ways of doing things.  So I figured, while I am learning new things, why not be a guinea pig?  Let’s see what the difference is between a dehydrator and an oven:

Dehydrating Beef Jerky Using a Dehydrator

What you will need:

  • A Dehydrator, I have my Mom’s 20-year-old American Harvest Snackmaster, and it works like it was purchased yesterday.  
  • A Jerky Gun or children to use as slave labor. (or you can always roll out the strips yourself, I suppose.  But that goes against my lazy Gadget-Girl grain.)
  • Spices, either homemade or store-bought.  I like this all-in-one spice pack from Nesco.  (Note:  See What I Learned below)                                            
  • Ground Beef, Turkey, or Venison.  GROUND BEEF?  I can hear you protesting already.  But truly, ground meat makes the most delicious and tender jerky!  Trust me, and more importantly, try it!  If you don’t like it, send it to me.  I can fit 2 lbs at a time in my 4-tray dehydrator.  So, about 1/2 lb per tray.  If you have more trays, you can use more beef.  (Or less trays, less beef.  You get the picture.)

(I know you know what a lump of ground beef looks like.  I don’t know why I felt the need to include a picture)


Mix the spice pack and cure into the ground beef.  If you’re like me, you’ll have a 4-year-old hovering over your shoulder asking to help, and when you offer to let her mash her fingers in there, she’ll stare at you like you’re insane so you’ll end up being the only one in the kitchen with dirty hands.  Once the spices and cure are all mixed in, you’re ready to load your gun!

Aww, even the beef is excited to become jerky!

You can fit about 1/4 lb into the gun at a time, or you can be smart and invest in a bigger gun which claims to hold a whole lb of ground meat.  I wasn’t smart enough to get the big gun, and I let my daughter help, so it took about 4 times as longer than needed to prep the trays with strips                                                  .

She did have fun though…

And how many 4-year-olds can say they’ve made beef jerky?  Anyway, my gun came with two attachments.  One makes the strips flat, and the other makes them into little ropes.  Each works perfectly well, so it’s really a matter of preference.  I will say that the long attachment is better for saving space on the trays.  You can fit more of the rope-style pieces on a tray than you can with the flat pieces.  My husband likes his jerky spicy, and I prefer the “original” blend, so I use the flat attachment for my jerky, and the long attachment for his.  (Gee, Freud would have a field day with that, wouldn’t he?)

Once your trays are loaded, set your dehydrator to the “meat” setting.  On mine it’s the highest setting, at 145 degrees.

Now we wait.  Let me tell you, women: if you are trying to entice a man, invite him over when you’re making beef jerky.  He will walk into your house and propose right then and there, it smells that good!  My husband practically renews his vows every time I make it.

Back to the jerky.  Depending on how full your trays are and the humidity, it takes about 4-8 hours for the jerky to dry.  Every 1-2 hours, turn off the dehydrator, blot the pieces of jerky with a paper towel to soak up the grease, and flip them.

They’ll start turning dark and will shrivel a little.  Once you start suspecting they’re done, tear one in half.  If the inside is still wet, “glistening” or pink, they’re not done.  If the inside is the same color as the outside, take a big bite and pat yourself on the back.  They’re done!  Now pull all the pieces off, wrap them in a few paper towels and let them sit on the counter while you do the dishes and clean your trays.  After 30 minutes or so, they’re ready for storage.  You can leave them out on the counter in a container or Ziploc bag if you know you’re going to inhale them (or are having a football party or something), or you can keep them in the fridge if you want them to last a little longer.  I keep mine in the fridge and they taste just fine cold.

Learn from my mistake:

The first time I made jerky, I used ground turkey.  It turned out delicious!  I did not realize, however, that the gun disassembles as much as it does.  I thought, “Wow, this thing is really hard to clean” and went about my merry way.  The next time I made jerky, I made venison jerky that we never got to try because I discovered, after wondering what that smell was the whole time, rancid turkey trapped behind the plastic thing.  Duh!  The white tube unscrews!  So don’t be a Chelsea.  Unscrew the white thing and WASH THOROUGHLY.  Otherwise you will have to waste venison jerky, and that will make you cry.

Dehydrating Beef Jerky in an Oven

What you will need:

  • An oven…
  • 2 spice packs, or this recipe:
    1/3 c. soy sauce
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1/8 tsp. salt
    1/8 tsp. pepper
    1 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2lbs ground beef


I’m going to do a test here.  I’m going to use one of my spice packs for 1 lb of the beef, and the recipe above for the other lb.  At the end I’ll let you know my verdict on which spices make the best jerky (Nesco’s premade pack, or homemade spices), and which method of drying makes the best jerky (a dehydrator or an oven). 

You’re pretty much going to follow the same steps as above, substituting dehydrator racks with oven racks.  I wrapped my oven racks in aluminum foil to give the jerky some security.  They were afraid of falling between the racks to certain doom.

One con I noticed right away with the oven method is that it offers me less space.  I was going to do my usual “flat for original spices, long for the test spices”, but discovered immediately that I didn’t have enough room.  So I used the long attachment on my gun for both flavors, but made the last bit into a “T” for “test” and a “C” for “control”, or the original spices.                                                        

It was kind of funny, because my husband, came in and laughed when he saw the T and the C because he thought they were for “Ty” and “Chelsea”.

The directions from this recipe say to “Dry in 150 degree oven with the door ajar for 4 to 8 hours”.  My oven will only go as low as 170 degrees (it’s a very small electric oven).  I let it bake for about a half an hour with the door ajar, but when I stuck my hand in there to test a theory, discovered that it was rather cold.  Plus one of my cats was making me nervous… 

I decided to play it safe and closed my oven completely.  I checked it every hour, turning the pieces and blotting with a paper towel like you would with a dehydrator. It needed it!  The foil on the racks collected a lot of the grease.  I also rotated the racks every hour  because I do have an electric oven and I know from experience (mostly bad experiences) that it cooks unevenly.  It took about 6 hours at 170 degrees for the jerky to dry.  The same amount of beef took about 4 hours in the dehydrator at only 145 degrees.                     

Again, when you break open a piece and it’s no longer moist inside, it’s done.  Layer the pieces in paper towels and set them out for a little while so the grease will absorb.  I had to hide mine in the microwave because of all the furry thieves in my house.

What I Learned:

My spice packs I’ve used for years will kill you.  I never thought to look at the ingredients at the beginning of this post, because that’s something I started doing recently and I’m not totally in the habit yet.  But while searching the internet for a good recipe for ground beef jerky (there’s a lot of recipes for marinades for sliced beef jerky, not a whole lot for ground beef), it occurred to me that I never read those ingredients.  Sure enough, the spice pack is laced with MSG and nitrites, which according to a friend of mine who reads all that stuff, will kill you.

The Verdict:

Well, I can’t think of any pros to using the oven.  If you don’t own a dehydrator and an oven is your only choice, then at least you can still make jerky.  But a dehydrator is definitely a good investment if you plan to do a lot of dehydrating. The oven took 2 hours longer, had less space, and while the jerky tastes fine, it is not as savory.  (I do not deny the fact that the extra work I put into using the oven may be tainting my opinion of oven jerky…) A dehydrator takes all the mystery out of dehydrating, too.  You prepare the food, put it on the trays, turn it on, check back every now and then.  With the oven, I think laying foil on the racks may have added to the time it took to dry the jerky, and it was kind of a pain to have to switch the racks every hour.  So my official recommendation is to go scour your mother’s basements and steal her unused dehydrator.

The Taste-Test Verdict:

Truthfully, the jerky with the Spice Pack of Death tasted a little better.  Perhaps because I’m more used to it, but also perhaps because it also turned out a lovely shade of red whereas the homemade spiced jerky just looks like commercial jerky.  (You can kind of tell from the above picture) I think the next time I make jerky, I’ll play around with that homemade recipe some more and add paprika, onion powder and maybe a little curry too.  Ty really likes the homemade spiced jerky, though, so I would definitely recommend trying it over buying the spice packs!

Well that is all for today!  In the time it took me to make 4 lbs of beef jerky we’ve already consumed 1 1/2 lbs of it, and I cannot stress enough on how delicious it is!

Categories: Beef, Dehydrating, Leftovers | Tags: , , , , ,

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