Using a food dehydrator is an excellent way to preserve foods from foraging or the garden. Often times I am left with only so much room in my freezer, so dehydrating is a great way to store food. A food dehydrator offers a way to increase the shelf life of vegetables, fruits, and berries. Dehydrated vegetables are great reconstituted in soups. Fruits and berries are nice in some homemade trail mix. Food dehydration has been around for centuries and is still being used to this day. In this article, I will show you how I dehydrated some cranberries that I had in my freezer from my last cranberry forage.
The use of food dehydration was discovered long ago by early civilizations. They discovered by leaving certain foods out in the sun; it was still edible when dry. This lead to a whole new way to preserve food. These civilizations discovered a whole new way to preserve meats and vegetables by drying their food.
Today we don’t have to rely on the sun upon to dry our food. The advancements of food dehydrators offer a reliable way to dry and preserve your food. Most of the food dehydrators work about the same way. You place your food on the provided trays, select your drying time and wait until the food is done. Some foods take longer to dry than others. The Nesco FD-60 Snackmaster Express Food Dehydrator is the food dehydrator I used and would recommend:
Nesco FD-60 Snackmaster Express Food Dehydrator
- 500-watt 4-tray food dehydrator dries in hours instead of days
- Top-mounted fan
- Adjustable thermostat from 95 to 155 degrees F
- Converga-Flow drying system; flavors don’t mix; no need to rotate trays
- Includes fruit roll sheet and 2 original-flavor jerky spice and cure packets
- Measures approximately 13-1/2 by 13-1/2 by 9-4/5 inches
The first step is to thaw your cranberries. I previously froze my cranberries, so I had to let them thaw. You can place them in a strainer in the sink, which will allow the excess water to drain off. If you have fresh cranberries, you can skip this step.
After most of the excess water had melted, I then placed the cranberries on cookie sheets on the porch to continue the thawing process.
Preparing Cranberries for Dehydrating
I used two different methods to dehydrate them. I wanted to find out which worked better. One method is to gently submerge them in low simmering water until they burst. This will allow the cranberries to open and speed up the drying process. The other method is to place them thawed whole in the dehydrator. This step takes a bit longer, but in the end, I think it resulted in a better-tasting berry.
I used a slotted spoon to place and remove the bursting cranberries into a metal strainer. You will see the cranberries begin to open up after a few moments. Be careful not to overcook the berries, or they will turn to mush. I then placed them on a cookie sheet to cool.
Using The Drying Tray Cranberries
Once your cranberries are cooked, you can place them on the drying trays. You can also sprinkle the berries with some sugar to sweeten them up before you place them on the trays. I did not do this step because I like the tart flavor. Place a couple of pieces of parchment paper on the bottom of the dehydrator to ensure no staining from juice and falling cranberries. Make sure to allow some space between each berry so they can dry properly. Fill each tray and stack until full. I used all four trays, but you may find that you may not need all of them.
Since the cranberries are open from the cooking process, the dehydrating time was around 14 hours. Place the top of the dehydrator on the tray stack and plug it in. Set the dial to 130 degrees. The heating fan will begin to turn. You should check back from time to time and rotate your trays to ensure all is good. Make sure that all the berries are dry; if not, you may have to place them in a bit longer.
The second method I tried was placing the whole thawed cranberries on each of the trays to dehydrate. This method took almost twice as long. Again make sure you rotate your trays halfway through the process.
As you can see, the cranberries keep their fullness, and the flavor is much more profound.
When the cranberries are done, place them in some ball jars for later consumption. Each method works well. If you are looking for a mild flavor, then use the simmering method. If you want a full-flavored cranberry, then use the whole berry method—experiment for yourself.
Book I Used
The Dehydrator Bible
I would highly recommend buying The Dehydrator Bible. It is full of over 400 recipes and different ways of dehydration.
Dehydrating is a great method to preserve your harvest or foraged foods. Many of these dehydrated foods will last years if done properly. It does require some time, but in the end, it is worth it. You don’t have to limit yourself to just cranberries. The possibilities are endless.
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