Some years ago I was lucky enough to find a great dehydrator at a thrift store and practically threw the $5 they were asking for it at the clerk and grabbed it and ran away before they could come to their senses. Since then, it has been a staple of my food preservation. It has nine trays, each 15″ by 18″, which means a total of about 17 square feet in each run. In practical terms, it holds a full 5 gallon bucket full of apples or pears.
A load like this takes about 8 hours to dry, so I start it in early afternoon and it’s done about bed time.
How to build your own – Years ago Oregon State Universitypublished some great plans for how to make your own drier and thousands have been built. They’re inexpensive, easy to build and
hold a huge amount of food in a batch. They’re also very safe, as they use light bulbs for the heat source. Here’s a story with some very clear plans, slightly updated from the original version How to build a dehydrator. The full plans can be downloaded as a PDF here.
Here’s the result of two runs, five gallons of Asian pears in each batch. These are the large storage bags and each bag is heavy, there’s a lot of food there. One of my Asian pear trees produces large, very sweet fruit with a hint of cinnamon in the flavor. It makes fantastic dried pears, they’re like candy and I save them for January and February when I really need a lift.
Next up are apples and it looks like a great fig crop may be coming up. Last year I filled 30 of these bags with apples and they lasted me until March.