One of the neatest things I found via Craigslist this year is a new to me Nesco Dehydrator! The person selling never used it so sold it to me with trays and extra liner trays. This particular model has temperature controls so that you can designate what you are dehydrating.My dream wish list includes the pricier Excalibur unit but this is a great middle model. Last year I purchased our first dehydrator that worked okay for many of our herbs but it didn’t allow for temperature control. The heat source was located as a coil on the bottom without the stronger fan power that the Nesco gives. The Nesco has the fan motor with heat at the top of the unit and blows the heat throughout and also has a drip tray located at the base! This is a bonus benefit for doing wetter items such as the onions.
After canning all of the marinara sauce this past week, we had lots of leftover onions. We set aside about 20 pounds for cooking later and used about 25 pounds in the marinara. That left quite a few still making dehydrating a good choice. We chopped about 5 onions with a small paring knife and used the older dehydrator – the onions looked almost burned or overcooked and the pieces were too large. We used the grinder attachment to our Kitchenaid Mixer on several onions. This seemed to squeeze a lot of liquid out – they were very wet. Using the fruit roll-up trays that came with the Nesco dehydrator, I spread the onion paste out thinly and patted each tray with a paper towel to absorb more of the liquid. Then we ran the dehydrator for about 18 hours. They dried to a soft golden brown and the aroma was incredible! One good decision we made was to run the dehydrators outside on the patio under one of the roof eaves. They were protected from any rain but the heavy aroma of the onions was dispersed more easily rather that having it linger inside the house! That next day we peeled the dried onions off the trays and put in a jar – we got a yield of about 1 pint – almost like an onion powder when I broke it up to put in the jar with a desiccant to keep them dry.
Our second run we used a small chopper/blender – it holds about 1 cup of chopped food and retailed for about $10 at Wal-Mart. This handy little item minced the onion but we did not end up with all the liquid mess of the grinder. Again we spread this all over the trays and ran it about 15 hours. This batch was just perfect for what I wanted. After taking it off the trays – it literally lifts off in big pieces that then break apart as almost like onion flakes. These are perfect for adding to homemade sauces, soups, or sprinkling on meats or mashed potatoes! They retained the beautiful aroma but are a soft golden brown in color – really pretty! It may seem work intensive but in reality it was about 20 minutes of work to chop and spread — and about 10 minutes after to break apart and put in a jar. We finished up with 2 quarts of dehydrated onions! This is an easy stress free project that gives peace of mind to add to the food pantry!