Nesco FD-75PR 700 watt Food dehydrator
In my quest to preserve as much of my 'urban farm' harvest as possible, I did a lot of internet research, and found that the Excalibur brand is hands down the best dehydrator....but it is also big - far more that just one person would need - and expensive. So, my next search was for the best one under $100 - and this one was it. I ordered it from Amazon. I like to buy from there because it is a form of 'buying local,' since we have a big distribution center here. The free shipping is nice too. They had it for 44% off list price, so it was very reasonable.
I have a water-bath canner for basic stuff. I could have bought a pressure canner, but it would only be used a small portion of the year, and then have to be stored. I don't like to freeze food much, because I only have the little freezer compartment at the top of the fridge, and besides, what happens to my carefully stored harvest if the power goes out? (which it does frequently in the winter, due to ice storms) I don't have a basement, much less a root cellar, but dehydrated food can be stored anywhere.
I can see me using this tool year round, not only for the things I grow, but to take advantage of purchases from the grocery or Farmer's markets. I already use a good many dried and freeze-dried foods - and pay a premium price for them, too. As everyone knows, cooking for one person can be a challenge. Buy a package of mushrooms....and eat a lot of mushrooms for a week. Now, I can make the one meal I want with them...and dehydrate the rest. Neat and tidy.
One thing I found while doing my research is there are apparently lots of people are addicted to beef jerky! Most of the people reviewing the dehydrators mentioned that is what they bought it for. Well, jerky may not be high on my priority list (lamb jerky, Lisa?) but if I should ever want to try it, I know I have the right machine. I think I will stick to tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, onions, summer sqash, broccoli, cherries, strawberries and fruit of all kinds..........
Update 6/23/10: In the dehydrator right now....strawberries, cherries, plums, onions and mushrooms....and lots more in the fridge waiting their turn. I think I'm going to like this. No, the flavors won't mix, but the aroma while they are drying is a little weird.