Excalibur dehydrator after using my friend's garage sale dehydrator for the past few months. Oh wow what a difference! I knew that Excalibur had a really good reputation, but I didn't realize how much more effecient it would be than an off-brand model. The main reason I wanted one was because they were square and were a better use of space than a round one.
But besides being a more efficient use of space, the heater/fan is in the back, which means that all trays dry at the same time. The front cover just lifts off, then the trays are easy to slide in and out, rather than the stacking kind that I had before. They remove for cleaning or yogurt, which I just placed right on the bottom of the dehydrator (pictures below). As Excalibur recommended, I left the sheets for making fruit leather on the bottom as a liner- and they just wipe off to clean!
This is a 5-tray model without the timer, and you can use as many or as few trays as you need. I think it's a great size. The trays are big- I was able to do 5 lbs of bison jerky on just three of them. When I showed my husband the trays of beef that were drying he was impressed with the size, "You could fit an entire antelope in there!" (he means once it's been butchered, perhaps this hunting season I could show more of that whole process- with ample warning to skip the post if you don't want to see!)
I know my dehydrator is going to get a workout this summer, I'm looking forward to preserving fresh local foods for the coming winter. We're moving soon, and our new place has an unfinished basement which is where the dehydrator will live during the summertime, and in the winter I bet we'll end up moving it into the living area again- it's nice to be able to reuse the heat it puts out.
The book Preserve it Naturally is inspirational to look through too. It gives directions for drying anything, and the pictures show you what to do. Hubby skipped right to the meat section, and I was curious about making fruit leather (which really is easy!). There was instructions for easy homemade cottage cheese in there too, which I'm going to try soon!
Some things I'm looking forward to using my dehydrator for:
- Found a great deal on ripe produce? Stock up and dry it for future use! We just bought a bunch of strawberries, and while we could have eaten them all in one day, we dried some to save for the future (pictured below).
- Spinach- I buy 3 lbs of spinach at once at Costco, and we don't always use it all before it starts to go bad, not to mention how much room it takes in the fridge. I have been using about half, drying the other half to use later. (pictured)
- Yogurt! So easy, stick it in and ignore it for 24 hours.
- Jerky- a great snack for day trips out, or even back packing if we were doing that. Save loads by doing your own, and only have the ingredients in it that you want.
- Produce from the garden. We just planted a bunch of tomato plants because store tomatoes don't even compare to home grown ones. I'm especially excited about drying them to use this winter in soups.
- Cleaner snacks for the kids: I love giving my children fresh fruit as snacks, but dried fruit is so much easier for when I don't have the option of
hosing them offwashing their hands and changing their clothes.
And some pictures of the first few things I used my dehydrator for:
Here's my yogurt (goat) - I fit a gallon in, though I had room for even more! The 24-hour SCD yogurt is easy to keep at a consistent temperature, since the Excalibur has a thermostat.
There are three different options for the tray- the wider one allows the most air through, this mesh one is great for little pieces so they don't go through, and then the solid sheet for fruit leather.
My yogurt, finished. I didn't have enough lids and doing 24 hour yogurt without a lid does evaporate quite a bit of moisture.
Banana chips- quickly turn on-sale ripe bananas into sweet treats! I bought 5 bunches of ripe bananas that were marked down for quick sale, sliced them up, and dehydrated on the dried fruit setting. I don't mind that they turn brown a little bit, I didn't soak them in anything to try to try to prevent it. There are instructions in the Preserve It Naturally book that show you how you can soak your fruits in natural solutions to keep it from turning brown.
* Excalibur sent me this product to review. All opinions are my own!