Thursday, April 8, 2010


We're still drying apples from last year's store. Well, to give credit where credit is due, the apples are doing a pretty good job of drying themselves. Some of the apples reside in our spare fridge in the basement, some in an old cooler in a chilly part of the basement. Almost all have softened, and many are basically rotten, but it actually smells really good down there, sweetly fragrant, orchardy; makes you think of hayrides, mulled cider. Apples may be unique in this quality of smelling good even when frankly spoiled.

The ones that are not spoiled are still not all that appetizing in appearance--shriveled, shrunken, they'd be garbage at worst, compost at best, to the too-fastidious eye. No one would put them into the kid's lunchbox, except as a cruel prank. But I don't look at them as halfway gone fresh apples; rather, I see them as being halfway to greatness as dried apples.

We dry them in this gizmo here, our mighty Nesco American Harvester. I started to research food dehydrators last fall, and quickly became bewildered in a maze of sizes, shapes, prices, energy efficiency. I gave up. Then one day at Menard's we came across the Nesco, on sale for around $30, I think. I remembered that Emily and Dan, our young heroes, use one of these babies. We snapped it up. Haven't looked back.

We also bought a corer-peeler device, which works a treat on fresh apples; with these soft, well-aged beauties I left the skin on, just cored and sliced. They only took a couple of hours to finish drying up to tart-sweet, chewy, aromatic morsels.

We use them as: Doggies treats--Annabel and Lily love them. People treats--Mary and I scarf them eagerly, too. In granola, in salads, and as a local (and free) alternative to many dried fruits in recipes. Today I'm going to make a recipe for lamb meatballs with beets that's been calling to me since I saw it in a recent Saveur. I've got the last of our garden beets from 2009, and Anne (Sheepy Hollow) Leck's awesome lamb. The recipe calls for currants; chopped dried apples will take their place.

You'll still find last year's apples at whatever farmers markets are open through the year, and there likely will be some at markets getting set to open in May. I know Denny Havlicek brought some holdovers to our market (Midtown Farmers' Market ) last spring (we hit the Lake Street parking lot May 1 this year, three weeks from Saturday, yikes!).

Remember: It's never too late to dehydrate.

Text and photos copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw


el said...

Dehydrate, OR make applesauce. I didn't make any last fall, too busy and/or burned out on the rest of the process, and figured I would wait until the apples had all gone soft and good and ready in April. Well, here it is, April. Probably should make some sauce!

Dehydrating can be fun, also frustrating. Some fruits don't dehydrate well in my experience; more like making flavorless fiber bombs.

It sounds like your dogs will eat anything, though! Is that good or bad?

Kris said...

I love my dehydrator! A gift from my wonderful husband, lately has mostly been tasked with turning too far gone bananas into banana chips. These babies bear little resemblence to the greasy ones I've purchased in the past. And so easy! Peel, slice & into the dehydrator they go.

Greg said...

Dogs or (at least my three)
eat an amazing variety of vegetables. Every summer, they pick all the climbing beans on the lower half of the garden fence, daily they get baby carrots as treats and in the fall, they get mashed pumpkin mixed in their food. BTW, thank you for one of the best food blogs in the upper midwest. When I grow up, I want to be just like you :-) As Peter Reinhart says, may your bread always rise!

Trout Caviar said...

Hey, El: Applesauce would be a good option, though we don't tend to use a lot of it. As for letting the apples "mature" over the winter, I think it really does develop a lot of sweetness and flavor. Now, if you were to press those babies, you wouldn't get a lot of juice, but it would be intense--sort of an ice wine or botrytis effect, I would imagine.

Hi Kris: We've pretty much only done apples with ours, just because we had so many. I'm eager to try it with wild mushrooms, too. And, yes, as you say about the bananas, it would be a great way to salvage a lot of produce on the edge of going.

Welcome, Greg: Check's in the mail, buddy. You can't hardly buy publicity like that, but I'm willing to give it a try. Seriously, thanks for the kind words. As to plans for when you "grow up", I'd give that some serious thought. I can't speak from personal experience, but from what I've heard, growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be....

About doggie diets: I'm going to sound like a broken record, but not for nothing do they call them omnivores. A few years ago I tried to convince Annabel that green beans, especially the overgrown ones you get so many of late in the season, were a delicious treat--and she bought it! Now whenever I go into the garden, she comes and sits expectantly by the fence. Lily has learned to do the same. They love the beans, peas, carrots, and kale. They'll eat lettuce, but seem disappointed by it. Tomatoes, not so much. I doubt they would go for onions or the like.

All of these things are much better for them than the socks, underwear, dish towels, pencils, twist ties, Kleenex, etc., that also fit into their idea of an omnivorous regimen.

Thanks for writing, all~ Brett