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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dehydrating Carrots: Steam Blanched or Not

A couple of weeks ago sweet husband did me the favor of digging all the carrots out of the garden even though I told him he could just cover them up with straw and leave them there all winter long.  So now I'm having to do something with all the carrots.  We had a little box and a sackful he brought inside and our camping cooler full out in the yard.  Now it's too cold for them to be out in the cooler--they want to freeze in there--so the cooler of carrots is in the kitchen and if you know my house, there really isn't room for them there.  So I'm taking care of carrots.

First on the list was to give some away!  So I did that and still had a bunch of carrots.  Of course the kids are eating them raw and are perfectly happy, but a cooler full of carrots?  They'll never get them all eaten before they go bad.  So I'm down to canning them or drying them and since I still have some bottled carrots from a couple of years ago (the kids like them that much) I opted to dehydrate a bunch of them.

When you dehydrate carrots, you can either put them on the trays raw or steam blanch them before drying them.  I did some of each.  Don't know which one you want to do?  Read on and decide.

The first step either way (after digging your carrots out of the ground or buying them at the store) is to wash and/or peel them.  These are out of my garden, so I just scrubbed them good with a little scrubber brush and did not peel them.  With a cooler full of carrots I did not think peeling was the best use of my time.

Once they were all nice and sparkly clean, I used my crazy slicer to slice them into rounds.  The blade on my food processor cuts them a little too thin for me, so I had to hand slice them with the V-slicer tool thingy.

The slicer is for food, not fingers.  This is where knowing a bit of first aid is a good thing.

Once the carrots are sliced, you can put them right on the dehydrator trays if you want or put them in a steamer basket and steam them for a couple of minutes (put the lid on the pot and boil the water under the carrots so it is steaming for two minutes).  You could also do a boiling water blanch on them for 2 minutes if you don't have the capability to steam blanch them.

Now put your steamed carrots on the trays in one layer.  They can be touching each other--they won't stick together and dry them at 125 until they are crispy and brittle.

If you put the carrots on the trays without steaming them, they'll dry faster--probably about 8 hours (I did mine overnight).  The steamed carrots have a higher moisture content, so they take a little longer to dry to brittle--overnight wasn't enough.  I ended up drying them about 12 hours.  The final products look a bit different also.  The steamed carrots are on the left, raw dried carrots on the right.

When deciding whether to steam the carrots or not, you'll want to consider what they'll be used for.  If they're going in a soup that's going to cook all day, it's fine to just stick them on the trays raw.  If you're going to want to rehydrate them for a side dish or want them to rehydrate into eatable cooked carrots quickly, go with the steam blanching.  Really it wasn't that much work to steam them and it makes them a bit more "useable" once they're dried.

We still have half a cooler of carrots to do something with, so I'm back at the carrots today.  Gotta get this cooler out of my kitchen!

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