Thursday, July 25, 2013

Making Dehydrator Jams for Anyone

I have been getting back to using my dehydrator lately. I used it nearly daily when I was on the RAW food diet a few years back, and it was fun to find how many wonderfully tasty foods could be made this way. Not that one must be on a raw diet to benefit from a good dehydrator, as the subject of this blog will go to show.

Strawberry Dehydrator Jam,with cinnamon and cardamom
My last blog was about my Champagne Pink Currant Dehydrator Jam, and how it turned out so tart. This is not the case with regular sweet fruits. I had made Strawberry Dehydrator Jam in the past, and it was completely, deliciously sweet and fresh-fruity. I love strawberry jam, though I am not crazy about fresh strawberries. I am sure I have a lot of people wondering what is wrong with me, right now. 'What? How could you not love strawberries?!" I get that a lot, but it's true. I like the fresh flavor of this jam, or the juices mixed with cream on a strawberry shortcake - but not the berries. Oh well. But raspberries, I love. Just about any way at all. I love them fresh, as jam, as a sauce. I have even eaten them fresh with chunks of Gorgonzola cheese. I had never tried making them into dehydrator jam. Yesterday I did.

Making Dehydrator Jams

It is really extremely simple to make dehydrator jam. You need to start early in the day, to give it enough time to get thick, and it is helpful to be available to stir it every couple of hours or so, to expose the more wet parts underneath. As far as "work" goes, there really isn't any to speak of. I have added in some spices to the strawberry jam that make it a bit exotic, but if you aren't ready for the spices, they can certainly be left out.

In essence, you will need approximately a pound of fruit per cup of finished jam. This is just a rough estimate. It will depend on how long it is dried, for starters. Yesterday I used 1 pound of strawberries for the strawberry jam which yielded about 1 1/4 cups. I had a 12 ounce package of beautiful fresh raspberries for the raspberry jam, yielding 1 cup exactly.

How To

I cleaned the fruit and hulled the strawberries. Since I use my food processor, I cut the fruit into like-sized chunks to process evenly. Even this is not necessary; a potato masher would work just as well to crush the fruit. To the pound of strawberries I added 1/2 cup of honey. The honey could be replaced with stevia or other sweetener of choice. Originally I was making this for a RAW diet, and honey just tasted good in this jam. I could have used Agave Syrup also.

To the crushed strawberries and honey I added freshly grated orange zest from one orange, a half-inch chunk of true cinnamon, crushed and between 1/4  - 1/2 teaspoon of crushed green cardamom seeds. I used my mortar and pestle to grind the cinnamon and cardamom. A pinch of salt is the only other ingredient. Mix and place into a wide, low container that will give a large surface area. This will speed the drying process. All of this presupposes that one owns a good dehydrator with various shelves, allowing for the use of such a large container. I own an Excalibur dehydrator with something like 9 shelves, so it is easy to remove most of them and set in the containers of fruit. Yesterday I made both strawberry and raspberry jams, so halfway up I had one extra shelf so they were nicely separated and had plenty of ventilation.
Raspberry Dehydrator Jam,with crystallized ginger

For my raspberry jam I used the 12 ounces of raspberries, crushed with 1/3 cup of honey and a teaspoon of crystallized ginger, minced fine. Some or all the seeds may be strained out if they are a bother. I left all the seeds in, but realize that once removing seeds, the total finished volume will be less.
Once the fruit mixtures are in their containers and in the dehydrator at about 110 - 115 degrees, they should be stirred every couple of hours or so, in order to help with even drying. The tops will get quite dry and sticky, where underneath it is still very liquid. In all, it took 8 - 9 hours for the raspberry jam to get to a good consistency, and the strawberry was not done for about 5 hours more.

Using the Jam, RAW Diet or not

Obviously, when I was on the RAW food diet, bread was not on the menu. Not regular yeast bread, anyway. I made some little flat unleavened "breads", more like soft crackers. Still, the jam was a really great addition to the diet. Another way it could be used on a RAW diet is as a sauce over RAW Ice Cream. I have made a couple of raw ice creams lately and they are really marvelous.

Currently, however, I am not following a RAW diet, and this morning I had two pieces of toasted No-Knead Bread, one with some of the Strawberry Dehydrator Jam and one with some Raspberry Dehydrator Jam. Just for kicks I also had a couple strips of bacon (photo at right). Yum! Just because the jam is made raw, does not preclude using it on any diet. It is just a little healthier jam than most, and flexible enough to make using alternate sweeteners so it could be used on most dietary regimens. The jams are naturally gluten-free and dairy free. They are vegetarian and without using honey to sweeten, can be vegan also.
I hope some of you may try these. Having a really good dehydrator does help, of course. My next trials will be with peaches or blueberries. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.