When the hubby and I gleaned buckets of food not too long ago, I immediately knew I'd be dehydrating some of it. Turns out that I dehydrated most of it and have discovered many great uses for dried foods.
Citrus is the center of attention this time and boy am I excited. I LOVE lemons on everything and since learning how to preserve them using salt, I can enjoy them all year long without making an extra trip to the grocery store. And now this method offers even more ways to love 'em. Great!
Choose your method of dehydrating: Sunshine, a low-temperature oven or a dehydrator (used here). Wash the lemons really well.
Evenly slice the lemons so they can dry out at the same rate. (And they don't have to be super thin.) Take out the seeds.
These particular lemons took quite a while since they were the juiciest I'd ever had in my life. It usually takes 8-12 hours on the top rack, but these went way over. I stopped keeping track of the actual time, and just physically checked them often. You'll know when they've dried completely by the center; it will still be pliable but very thin. The rind will be hard and the center will be darker... as if the colors were inverted. (Graphic designer speak. I sometimes can't help it.) And the lemon slice will feel lighter (in weight). Let them sit out and come to room temperature before *storing them.
Oranges, for the most part, will keep the same coloring.
I'll use the oranges mostly as a bath enhancer. You know, put a slice or two into a bag with other great-smelling stuff like rose petals, chamomile heads, a sprig of rosemary; it all makes your bath water luscious and FAB.
The lemons? I'll use them with food... can't help it. Some great ideas I've seen around the web include using the slices to freshen up a glass of ice water, laying them down as a bed to bake fish on, grinding to a powder and mixing it with dried herbs to create a rub for fish/chicken. And the list goes on...
But of course I won't stop at the citrus. I had a bunch of hearty tomatoes that I'd never be able to use up, so in the dehydrator they went. Although these withered down to practically nothing, I think the impact they'll have on some of my recipes will be major. I'll grind some to a powder** and just like tomato paste, I'm sure they'll add a dynamite punch of flavor to pasta or pizza sauce and more.
The rest of the tomatoes will be for "meal-in-a-jar" testing. I'll chop them up and put them together with (dehydrated) mushrooms and onions, add rice (or beans or pasta) and top it off with seasonings and make some sort of ready-made mix. Could be perfect for one of those nights when I'm too tired to even think about making dinner. Just throw it into the crockpot, add leftover meat and water... and voila!
*Tip: A jar is better for storing citrus and you can even add a moisture packet to keep it nice and dry.
**Info: The tomato powder worked out great. I tore the dehydrated tomatoes into pieces so they'd fit in the grinder...
...the powder stores well, and so far I used it in a pasta sauce. Gave it a deep, rich flavor and acted as a thickener as well...
...no more turning back. This method is a keeper!