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 how to dry carrots 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.
Carrots are so common in the supermarket that we tend to take them for granted. However, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating a just-pulled carrot, still warm from the sun, you understand that freshness counts with carrots. And although they may look tempting, know that most “baby-cut” carrots in the market are simply larger carrots that have been cut to appear like small specimens; they are often woody or less sweet than fresh, full-size carrots.
Select young, tender carrots with no hint of softness, darkening, or wet areas on the surface. Scrub with a stiff vegetable brush and cut off the tops; for more tender (but less nutritious) dried carrots, peel thinly with a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler. Slice crosswise into 1/8-inch circles, or dice into 1/4-inch cubes. For an attractive variation that also is quicker for both drying and rehydrating, cut carrots into 2-inch chunks, then slice lengthwise into1/8-inch-thick planks; slice these lengthwise into 1/8-inch sticks (referred to as julienne). You can also buy julienned carrots in small bags in the produce department, and these work fine for dehydrating. Dried shredded carrots work well in salads, soups, and even baked goods; thicker shreds are better for drying than thin, wispy shreds. Blanch sliced, diced, or julienned carrots until they are bright, deep orange and just beginning to soften on the outsides; the insides should still be crisp. Julienned carrots will take about 1-1/2 minutes in steam or 1 minute in boiling water; slices and diced carrots will take 3 to 4 minutes in steam or 2 to 3 minutes in boiling water. Chill in ice water, then drain and pat dry. Shredded carrots should not be blanched.
How to Dry Carrots in a Dehydrator or Convection Oven
For diced or julienned carrots, use screens on trays or racks; use solid sheets for shreds. Stir pieces after 2 to 3 hours. Julienned or shredded carrots generally take 3 to 6 hours at 125 degrees F; slices or diced carrots may take up to 9 hours.
How to Dry Carrots in a Non-Convection Oven
For diced or julienned carrots, use screens on racks; use baking sheets for shreds. Stir pieces several times during drying. At 125 degrees F, carrots may take as little as 2-1/2 hours to dry, or as long as 12 hours; julienned and shredded carrots dry more quickly than slices or diced carrots.
Doneness test: Leathery, shrunken, and deep orange, with no moisture in the center; julienned and shredded carrots usually twist and curl up a bit. Slices may be slightly flexible.
Yield: 1 pound of fresh carrots yields about 1 cup dried. When rehydrated, 1 cup of dried carrots yields about 1-1/2cups.
How to Use Dried Carrots
Julienned and shredded carrots may be added without rehydrating to soups and stews that will cook for at least 30 minutes longer. To rehydrate carrots, cover with boiling water and soak until no longer hard. Julienned and shredded carrots rehydrate fairly quickly, generally in about 30 minutes; slices or diced carrots take about an hour. Add rehydrated carrots to soups or stews for additional cooking, or simmer in the soaking water until tender for use as a plain vegetable or for use in recipes. Crisply dried carrots may be powdered for use in soups.
More from The Beginner's Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods:
Excerpted from The Beginner’s Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods © Teresa Marrone. Used with permission of Storey Publishing. Buy this book from our store: The Beginner’s Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods.