Drying foods the easy way
Perhaps the oldest and easiest form of food preservation is sun-drying. But variable weather and bug curiosity make this an iffy proposition. The simple solution is a food dehydrator. The devices function in any season, but it’s during the summer, when copious amounts of ripe fruit are available, that I routinely use one – not so much to preserve the harvest bounty as to make healthy snacks.
Even the simplest food dehydrator with a low-temperature heating element, such as the five-tray Ronco (about $35), dries many, many foods effectively – the tempting balsamic strawberry crisps that follow, for instance. Fancier dehydrators, with heat regulators and fans to circulate the air, work faster, but the price can zoom to several hundred dollars for serious preserving tools. You’ll find food dehydrators in cookware and hardware stores and in the cookware sections of department stores.
Thin chips of sweet-tart dried strawberries turned up recently as the garnish on an opulent dish of foie gras prepared by Tim Kelley at Seattle’s Painted Table. I was taken by the tasty bonus. At home, I went one step further, capitalizing on the affinity of strawberries for balsamic vinegar. These chewy-crisp tidbits are every bit as addictive as potato chips but are much more wholesome. They can be dried easily in a convection oven, but if you want to keep your kitchen cool, use a food dehydrator.