I got a dehydrator last year to preserve some of the lovely herbs I was growing in the garden. It seemed frivolous at the time, but fun.
I like fun frivolity.
However, it has proven to be incredibly useful and unexpectedly practical. You need the right tool for the job, my mom always says, and this is the tool for drying stuff out.
Buckets of tomatoes went through last year. Basil. Mint.
Kale dries like a dream but absolutely reeks. That whiff of funky kale-y smell you get when cooking it? Times a hundred. No, times a million.
We woke up after leaving kale to dry overnight and wondered who had attacked our kitchen with chemical warfare.
No more dried kale.
This year, I'm busting out the dehydrator for strawberries.
Mountains of strawberries are reduced to intense strawberry essence.
The last batch started off with 1530 g and came out of the dehydrator weighing in at 370 g: a net weight reduction of 75 %.
These are not crispy crackly, but still soft and pliable.
Dry but squidgy. They will not make that halo of pink mush in your baked goods like fresh strawberries do.
I am thinking scones. Muffins. Cakes.
Eating out of hand like popcorn.
Because they are not completely dried, they are not shelf-stable and do need to be kept in the refrigerator or freezer for long-term storage. Since they reduce in volume so dramatically, this is easy to accomplish. I pack a large mason jar full, but plastic bags or containers would work just as well.
Make as many as you want.
Gently rinse the strawberries and allow to air dry. Remove the stem and hull from each berry. Quarter berries larger than 1 1/2 inches (ca. 4 cm), and halve berries larger than 3/4 inch (2 cm). For berries smaller than 1/2 inch (1.25 cm), leave whole.
Arrange the berries cut sides up on dehydrator racks or cookie sheets lined with nonstick baking liners. Set the dehydrator or oven to 135 degrees F, and dry the strawberries until they have shrunk to about half their original size but are still pliable - this will take about 8 hours in a dehydrator and 4 in an oven.
Store the berries in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for up to a year.