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Homeschooling The Well Prepared Child: Oven Drying Zucchini

Monday, July 28, 2014

Oven Drying Zucchini

   
     One of our abundant garden items this year is zucchini. Only the kids and I eat it, and we just can't eat it as fast as it is growing. I thought about pickling it but we have also had a huge crop of cucumbers. Pickling at this time is out, but I might try that later on. What do you do with extra produce that can not be eaten fast enough? I thought of freezing it until I saw a post in one of my Facebook groups about drying vegetables. Excellent homesteading option for long term food storage! I do not have a dehydrator, and prefer to learn methods not requiring electricity. We are looking into making an outdoor dehydrator, but for now I decided to oven dry them. Lots of fruits and veggies can be dried this way. 
     Of course we started by researching Drying Zucchini in the Oven, and found a great article over at Real Food Mama that describes the process in clear and simple steps. Here is what we did with her info.

Oven Dried Zucchini

  1. We started by washing and drying our zucchini. We had 3 and a half large zucchinis we started out with. (I completely forgot to get photos of us washing, cutting and preparing our zucchini. :/ )
  2. Cut into 1/4 in slices. Any smaller than that, and it will dry too quickly. Any thicker, it might take too long. We did end up with some larger and smaller slices. My daughter (and I have to admit, myself as well) ended up making all sorts of sizes of slices by hand. This wold probably be easier with a veggie slicer of some sort. It is now on my wish list to get one. 
  3. Place slices on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Place in oven. 
  4. Set your oven to the lowest possible setting. My oven's lowest is 150 degrees. You are drying them, NOT cooking them! Think 'Low and Slow' while they are drying. Also, air flow is key in drying foods in your oven. I propped my oven open with a knife set on its edges in the door. You might have a better option and I would love to hear it if you do! 
  5. You must flip them over quite often to insure even drying on both sides and to prevent them from sticking to the cookie sheet. I figured this out the hard way. My second batch the next day dried a lot quicker since we sliced them all at the same time. I stored them in the fridge overnight and this might have caused them to dry a bit while they were in there. 
    This is what the look like as they
    are drying when you flip them.
    Ooops!
  6. Dry your zucchini until they are no longer flexible. They will be crispy to touch. My first batch took 6 hours. The second batch took just 4 hours.

  7. Store your dried and cooled Zucchini in jars or baggies. Note a whole sheet of dried Zucchini did not fill up a pint jar. Extracting the water significantly reduces the size of the slice. Zucchini is 96% water. 
  8. Now what do you do with your dried zucchini? I hear it is good in soups and sauces. I have never tried them before and have never used them in cooking. (Right now, my daughter is preforming an experiment on re-hydrating a piece of our newly dried zucchini. I will let you know how that goes on another post.) I would actually like to try them in lasagna layers. We did try them just they way they are and we all kind of liked them. My last batch I seasoned them with a dill/onion seasoning packet I had up in my cabinet. They were yummy! But I tell you, a little seasoning goes a long way! 
Do you have a good recipe that uses dehydrated zucchini? We would love to hear about it!