Having strummed the final chord of the Marshmallow Bunny Blues (see my last post), I headed out yesterday afternoon to buy the professional, moulded, chocolate variety to distribute to the family on Easter Sunday. It wasn’t a happy outing to start with – I was very much in need of a pick-me-up after my frustrating morning, and amazingly chocolate eggs weren’t going to cut it. But then I found excitement and happines in the form of a food dehydrator/ biltong maker (biltong being spiced dried meat, hugely popular in South Africa and with those who visit South Africa and get to try it) and totally got my mojo back!
Now, not everyone will understand getting a thrill from an appliance (well, not a kitchen appliance anyway), but let me explain…
A week ago, mom and I spent some time at an organic artisan food market, where I tasted – for the first time – dried pineapple. It was an organic product from a relatively small enterprise and was one of the most delicious things I have eaten in a very long time. The taste led to a 200g bag purchase, which I polished off in a single afternoon. Not my proudest moment, but there you go. My only regret? That it meant there wasn’t any the next day. And even I couldn’t justify a drive all the way back to buy some more.
Before tossing the empty packet, I had a peep at the ingredients in this deliciously sweet treat, and was happily surprised that they read as follows:
Yep, that’s it.
Which got me thinking – how difficult could it be to dry pineapple myself? (Admittedly, this was when I still thought making marshmallow bunnies would be a hop in the park). As a change from the sugary confections, but equally delicious and sweet, dried pineapple seems a healthier response to the sweet tooth cravings that so often sneak up on one. (Or appear with full marching band. It happens.) I just knew I had to try it.
A quick google search confirmed the simplicity – all you need is a dehydrator. Nothing else. Except the fruit you want to dry, of course.
Being in the “make it yourself” zone that inspired my kitchen adventures and this blog, I actually figured I would make my own dehydrator. Again, couldn’t be that hard, could it? Well… in this case…
I had a good long chat to a great man friend of mine – the kind of man whose Mancard is platinum status, you know, he builds, repairs and modifies just about everything in his home himself. And he talked me out of the DIY route quite quickly with his insight into the materials, efforts, risks, time and cost. And he told me how cheap the bought versions are. I was a bit sceptical (cheap in his country is often hugely expensive here), and even doubtful that stores here would stock dehydrators at all, cheap or not. But he’d done enough to convince me making a dehydrator was a step too far.
Which brings me back to my appliance thrill – fully expecting to hear that they are not sold here, I not only found a simple decent one at the first store I tried, it was on sale for half the regular price! Which made it even cheaper than my friend suggested, and meant I could get it straight away and begin my pineapple drying experiment, which is bound to be a happier exercise than the bunnies. Of course, so is just about anything else.
Happy and inspired again, I assembled it today, and am in the process of drying my first batch of pineapple.
You simply slice the pineapple into 6.5mm (1/4 inch) thick rings (or half rings or pieces) and lay them on the dehydrator shelves. Drying takes 10 – 18 hours apparently, and I’ll be checking on it along the way, as I want mine chewy not hard. Here are a few photos of the process so far, and I’ll update every couple of hours till it’s done.
After 7 hours, the drying effect is becoming quite evident, though it’s also evident that it still has a long way to go. I may have to get up during the night to avoid overdrying…
I was so concerned about overdrying, I switched the dryer off after about 9 hours last night, and switched it back on at 6am. I needn’t have worried, though, because 18 hours into the process the pineapple is still not near dry enough to be called “dried pineapple”. Definitely getting there, but oh so slowly….
Another 8 hours, and I have dried pineapple!
Two pineapples in, 50g out (give or take, minus all the
tastes tests for dryness)
Adding up all the hours (I won’t switch off in between again) 26 hours for 50g of dried pineapple. A long time, but not long enough to put me off this idea, despite the eyerolling from others in the house. If nothing else, an excellent lesson in patience (which, I am told, I very much need).
So, without further ado (I didn’t say I learned the lesson) the next lot is already in the dryer. This time I’ve done apple, pineapple and a few grapes.
This time it’s more than just a drying experiment; I just really need to know whether dried grapes are indeed raisins and, if not, where the heck do raisins come from???