A couple weeks ago, just as we were beginning to use it, our obnoxiously noisy Nesco brand dehydrator broke...again. The the third one in 4 years = junk. Now I know that many people have lots of luck with the Nesco brand dehydrators but we don't, perhaps they get used and abused too much by us...I really don't know. The other day I read an interesting post on the The Thrifty Garden/Home blog about junk products and how poor quality so many of the appliances we purchase are these days. That post really resonated with me and I have decided to do my best not to replace any more of our junk with more junk but to make do with what we have instead. Goodbye forever microwave, and Mr. Coffee, your turn is next!
So, yesterday I decided to make my own dehydrator, as I refuse to buy another Nesco or afford a more expensive model. In the summer we simply use the roof of our barn to dry things but that doesn't work so well with late crop apples, plums, pears, and tomatoes because there isn't much in the way of sun this time of year...mostly rain. Anyway, I read about building this dehydrator out of an old dorm refrigerator or one like this and they both looked like good possibilities. But, before I could start planning for either model a thought hit me on the head like a ton of bricks. I already have a huge totally functional dehydrator sitting right there in our kitchen, a pellet stove complete with hot air blowers...ha! This stove is used for a few weeks in the fall and early spring when the roof of our house is too dry to safely heat with firewood, the rest of the winter we rely on wood heat for warmth.
All I needed to do was concentrate the warm airflow that comes out of the pellet stoves blowers in a way that would allow for it to circulate around the produce I wished to dry. I used the best part of my Nesco dehydrator, the trays, as drying racks. A cardboard box plus two bricks completed the dryer assembly and 5 minutes later...Voilà! We now have a much more efficient and quieter unit. I set it up just high enough so that the air would flow in and underneath the trays, rising upwards through the racks. I first tested it with tomatoes and 14 hours later had perfectly dry fruits.:) Today, after contemplating the addition of a drip tray to the contraption, I will dry some pears. To think that all of these years what I really needed for indoor food drying was a simple cardboard box and enough brains to realize it.
Click on this link to see how others use to dry food in days gone by - National Geographic (June, 1917)
Note the dryer racks hanging above this old wood cook stove