I have never been one for kitchen gadgets; a small hand mixer and a stick blender are about as advanced as it gets in my kitchen and that’s just the way I like it. But for a while now I have been taken with the idea of a food dehydrator (an essiccatore). One of my neighbours has one and having already tried her dried apple and kiwi, I decided it was definitely the way to go in food preservation!

This particular neighbour is fast becoming my role model: she makes her own bread and pizza in a wood fired oven, makes her own balsamic vinegar, has not just one campo but two, producing vegetables in almost commercial size quantities, does her own preserving of fresh anchovies in oil (her own oil, of course, from their 300+ olive trees), not forgetting the vast quantities of wine made from their very own grapes, wine which we are given, as well as her bread, in exchange for eggs (my one advantage over her – I have chickens!). It therefore goes without saying that not only did I ask her for advice first but I then chose the very same model (thanks to the generosity of my big sis who paid half).

It’s not the most discreet of gadgets but I feel it adds a somewhat semi-professional edge to the kitchen and my casalinga (housewife) tasks! It won’t be a permanent fixture, only coming out when needed and in time, once we have sorted electrics and space in the hay barn we may even run it out there along with our overspill freezer (which is already up and running with a temporary connection).

It seems that almost any fruit, vegetable or herbs can be dried (as well as meat and fish) but obviously the greater the water content the longer the drying time. Apparently you can even dry your own homemade pasta but that’s a step too far for me. I am particularly looking forward to my own dried figs (strangely hard to find in the shops here), not to mention apples, pears and even persimmons.

I’ve given the dehydrator a test run over the past couple of days, unfortunately choosing one of the hardest things to dry with the longest drying time: tomatoes! It may take a bit of time to get it right, but here are the results:

loaded drawers before drying

sliced tomatoes after drying

dried cherry and datterini tomatoes

The sliced tomatoes didn’t work as well as I sliced them too thinly to begin with. Although the manual gives guidance on this for a number of other fruits/vegetables, it didn’t for tomatoes but I’ve also tried a couple of courgettes which seem to have worked well:

So a few more jars to go with the sauces in the store cupboard:

In spite of the current heatwave it looks like we are going to be in with a bumper crop of most things so I am sure it will pay for itself before the year’s out.

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