I love the idea of solar dehydrators and I think our south facing kitchen window is prime real estate for some "solar drying add on" that could be extended out the window in sunny weather. But, I digress. As far as electric dehydrators go, we have a great one. The Excalibur, a gift from my mom, has been a workhorse when it comes to drying tomatoes. It costs maybe about 40 - 50 cents per 12 hour drying cycle or so, using about 400 watts. I can tomatoes and tomato sauce as well, but in terms of little work for big return, drying tomatoes is very rewarding.
|Jaune Flamme. A bit juicy for drying but I'll take it any day, any way. So delicious!|
1) Variety matters. Meatier, drier tomato varieties are better than super juicy varieties. Common sense, I know. Any variety works though, and will, eventually, dehydrate to a nice, leathery state. A few varieties that I have tried and really like for drying include my favorite, Juliet, and a new trial this year, Heather. Juliet is like a large grape, slice in half and dry, and Heather is a blocky, tennis ball sized tomato with not so thin skin, easy to slice and not much juice.
|Juliet. My go-to drying tomato.|
2) Rotate! Rotate the trays 1/2 way through. I find at about 130 degrees a full load of tomatoes dries in 12 - 16 hours, depending on how thick I slice them. I check every 6 or 8 hours and remove the dried ones and put the "not-done-yet" ones back in. About 1/2 way through, I rotate the drying trays 180 degrees since the heating fan is in the back of the unit, the back 1/2 of the tray dries first. Overall drying in the Excalibur dehydrator is much more even than the round models with a heating element in the bottom.
|Excalibur dehydrator. Comes in 4, tray, 5 tray and 9 tray models.|
3) Dream Tomato Sauce is easy. This involves rehydrating some dried tomatoes in hot water and then pulsing in a food processor with olive oil and herbs. Pasta. Parmesan. Sigh.
So, when your boiling water canner makes you tired just looking at it, consider dehydration! I think this type of appliance would be a perfect thing to share between households, since it does cost a nice chunk of change. I know this sounds like an ad, but trust me, I am getting no kickbacks for endorsing the Excalibur. It's just simply the queen of the dehydrator lineup.
|Dried and Fresh, together.|