You can dehydrate vegetables, fruits, meats, herbs and even prepared meals with the instructions in The Beginner’s Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods (Storey Publishing, 2014) by Teresa Marrone. Each section includes food profiles with clear preparation instructions and recipes that feature that particular dried food, allowing the home cook to incorporate local and seasonal foods into a year-round diet. The following excerpt on dehydrating zucchini is from chapter 5, “Vegetables.”
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Vegetables are often the mainstay of the dried-foods pantry because they can be used in so many ways. Rehydrated beets, corn, cauliflower, and winter squash, for example, look just like fresh-cooked vegetables and can be served by themselves to bring the taste of the harvest to any meal, any time of year. Other dried vegetables work best when used in hearty soups, stews, casseroles, or other dishes. Dried vegetables are easy to store and take up less room than canned or frozen vegetables.
As used here, the term “summer squash” refers to squash with thin, edible skins and tender, somewhat watery flesh embedded with small, soft seeds. Zucchini are the most common summer squash; yellow squash (straight or crookneck) and pattypan squash are two other common varieties. (Winter squash have hard rinds, firm flesh, and a core with large, woody seeds).
Choose small to medium-size squash, which will have very small seeds. If you have monster zucchini in the vegetable patch, it’s better to use it fresh for zucchini bread, although you could quarter it and cut away the seedy center, then use the rest of it for dehydrating.
To prepare for dehydrating zucchini and summer squash, cut off the stem remnant and small, hard knob at the bottom of the squash. Slice unpeeled squash crosswise 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick; if the slices are large, you might want to halve or quarter them. You may also cut summer squash into 3/8-inch cubes or shred very coasely; the fine julienne blade of a food processor or mandoline work best for shreds. Summer squash requires no pretreatment.
For cubes, use screens on trays or racks. For shreds, use solid liner sheets or baking sheets lined with kitchen parchment; fluff the shreds every hour until they no longer stick together. Slices and cubes generally take 7 to 10 hours at 125 degrees F; shreds dry more quickly.
For cubes, use screens on racks. For shreds, use baking sheets lined with kitchen parchment; fluff the shreds every hour until they no longer stick together. Stir and rearrange slices or cubes several times during drying. At 125 degrees F, sliced or cubed summer squash may take as little as 5-1/2 hours to dry, or as long as 15 hours; shreds dry more quickly.
Doneness test: Crisp or brittle, lightweight and shrunken with dark, puckered edges; cubes should have no moisture inside.
Yield: 1 pound of fresh summer squash yields about 3/4 cup dried. When rehydrated, 1 cup of dried summer squash yields about 1-1/2 cups.
Slices may be eaten in the dry form as snacks; they also work well when crumbled and sprinkled on soups or salads as a garnish. Dried summer squash rehydrates quickly. Shreds may be added without rehydrating to soups and stews that will cook for at least 10 minutes longer; slices and cubes should cook for at least 20 minutes. Rehydrated summer squash is very soft and is not very good as a solo cooked vegetable. Dried summer squash is very easy to powder; the powder adds delicious flavor and valuable nutrients to broth and other soups.
Excerpted from The Beginner’s Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods © Teresa Marrone. Used with permission from Storey Publishing, 2014. Buy this book from our store: The Beginner's Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods.
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