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Dehydrating Food & Wetherbee’s Dried Cherry Almond Muffins

I don’t quite remember the very first food that I dehydrated. But I do remember that it was a collection of culinary herbs that I simply hung from a wooden drying rack near the fireplace. And I used the dried herbs to infuse flavor in many recipes long into summer.

Dehydrating herbs, vegetables and fruits is an easy and efficient way to preserve your garden bounty. Nutrients are preserved, the flavor becomes more concentrated, and–since 80 to 90 percent of the moisture is removed–food that is dried takes little space and is so much easier to store.

kris-harvesting-grapes

Hanging herbs in bunches to air dry is one of many ways you can dry foods. Some foods can be dried in the sun, but it’s a lengthy process and temperatures are inconsistent. Oven drying works in a pinch as long as you don’t need the oven for broiling, baking, roasting or cooking any meals.

Dehydrating Food at Home

The key to successful dehydration is to find that “sweet spot” which includes an air temperature between 95 to 140 degrees F, adequate air circulation, and low humidity (less than 60 percent). Foods can spoil if the temperature is too low or the humidity is too high. And temperatures higher than 140 degrees will cook foods rather than dry.

That’s why my drying method of choice is almost always the food dehydrator. The process is straightforward uncomplicated–you just load up the tray and plug it in. The food dehydrator does the rest by providing the “sweet spot” for successful drying.

making-raisins

Food dehydrators use a heating element to control the drying environment. Some models come equipped with temperature controls, while others have adjustable vents that help you regulate the drying temperatures. Models with fans or blowers dry foods remarkably fast. Fanless models are quiet, though you do need to occasionally rotate the trays for even drying. Drying time varies from several hours to several days, depending on the type of dehydrator and the type of food being dried.

Regardless of how they work, food dehydrators are definitely worth the investment. Kmart’s online store carries a nice variety, from fanless dehydrators starting at $60, to top-of-the-line Excalibur models that come fully equipped. I especially like the Nesco American Harvest Gardenmaster 1000 Watt Food Dehydrator.

I keep both fan-equipped and fanless models on hand and have dehydrated an endless array of fruits, vegetables and herbs. I also have a supply of airtight containers on hand for storing my dehydrated foods. Any tightly-sealed container, recycled glass jar or snap-and-seal storage bag will do.

Just think of the possibilities for preserving your garden bounty. You can dry grapes, pears, apricots or apples into fast and flavorful snacks. Stock up on seasonings and dry up a batch of your favorites herbs, celery leaves, onions or hot peppers to season soups and stews. Food dehydrators are also great for drying corn, onions, sweet peppers and other garden veggies. Toss dried tomatoes in salads, stir-fries, or to thicken up a sauce in a snap. Or make veggie chips by drying up a batch of thinly sliced and seasoned zucchini, carrots or kale.

Now quit thinking and start dehydrating! Then let me know some of your favorite ways to use dried foods in your kitchen. Here’s one of mine.

cherry-muffins

Here’s our Featured Recipe – Wetherbee’s Dried Cherry-Almond Muffins

No worries if you don’t have dried cherries on hand–just substitute dried grapes, apples, pears or blueberries for a new twist on taste.

Makes 12 Muffins

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries
  • 1/3 cup chopped raw almonds, divided
  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together both flours with the almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the chopped almonds as a topping for the muffins, then add the remaining chopped almonds to the flour mixture. Add the dried cherries and stir with a fork until coated with the dry ingredients.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until blended, then stir in the vanilla and almond extract. Add the buttermilk and sour cream, stirring until combined. Add to the flour mixture, stirring just until blended.

Spoon the batter into muffin cups coated with a nonstick cooking spray. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl, then sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon over the top of each muffin. Sprinkle the tops evenly with the reserved chopped almonds.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack and let muffins cool slightly before serving.  Enjoy! - Kris Wetherbee

Read Kris’ Recent Blogs & Guides

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  1. Kris,

    Thank you for writing this as I have been trying to find out about dehydrators for quite some time. I had an old cheap one and the trays started cracking right away. I study a lot about herbs and have wanted to preserve some in an easier manner. But, I also wanted to bake using some of the fruits which are not found dried or are expensive. One example is cherries. I especially like the taste of bananas when they are dehydrated. The Nesco brand was under consideration, but I did not want to take a chance without hearing some information. The special baking recipe is much appreciated as the photo looks yummy. I may not sleep now thinking of them and wanting to try it. I have to try and get a copy of that for the future.

    1. In response to For2Day

      So glad you enjoyed the blog! Once you have your dehydrator you'll wonder how you ever did without. My blogs are posted weekly and you'll find recipes on most. FYI, if you ever have any garden, food, yard or outdoor living question, post them at the Garden Solutions Center Q&A (here's the link below) and I will answer: https://www.kmart.com/community/category/gardensolutionscenter/question

  2. Thanks for the timely dehydrating tips. I tried your recipe and used dried blueberries instead of cherries and will be making them again and again. The muffins are delicious! Looking forward to seeing what future recipes you post on your blog.

  3. Can't wait to try all of your suggestions. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for the recipe, Kris! These muffins look amazing!

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