Drying Apple, Pear and Nashi

Drying fruit is one of my favorite things. I love the versatility of dried apples and pears – so simple and yummy to munch on their own, yet so much fun to use in all sorts of ways in recipes year round.

And this year we seem to have access to an unlimited supply of apples, pears and nashis, so we’re going for it! My aim to to really and truly dry enough fruit to last us through till next year. Here’s the method we’ve settled on…

An extremely rad solar dryer that our friend Michael Hewins made out of an old speaker cabinet…

Despite a long-time love affair with solar fruit drying plans, we have decided to back up all future experimentation in that realm with a kick-ass electric dryer. Please don’t fall about in horror at this. It’s a matter of expediency, and getting enough food preserved to actually see us through.

I’ve done a fair bit of solar fruit drying, and it’s great. But to do serious quantities (especially in a wet summer like this one, when the drying engine (ie the Sun) turns off most days) is a matter of skill that I do not yet posses.

The answer? A really good electric dryer (preferably run on a solar system), that can plow through serious quantities of fruit, leaving us with supplies till next season.

The other advantage of a good, fast electric dryer is that you dont need to add anything to the fruit, because it dries before it gets a chance to oxidise and go dark brown.

In the past I’ve used various drying methods that took several days to dry apples, which meant that I had to add lemon juice + honey to prevent them going too brown (not that there’s anything wrong with brown apples, really).

But using our newfangled electric dryer, I can dry a large amount of apples in 8 hours. Snap. It takes me about 15 minutes to cut the apples and load the dryer, which I do after dinner, then we put them on overnight, and in the morning they’re all done. Whoohoo!

At the moment we’re drying apples, pears and nashis. All of which taste awesome.

Our trusty ‘apple twirly’ machine, loaded up with a nashi and ready to cut…

Nashi mid-twirl – the ‘apple twirly’ machine cuts and cores the fruit at the same time

Then take it off the twirly machine and you have… a nashi slinky!

Cut one slice through one side of the slinky nashi to make rounds

And load ‘em on up. Repeat 8 more times until all the trays are full

Fully loaded dryer, ready for overnight drying action

Top of the dryer – different heat settings for different things, and a timer

The dryer with it’s front lid on. Very black and boxy, but that’s actually quite good in a busy kitchen, because it means you can put things on it, so it’s not really in the way.

Ta Da! The end result. Gorgeous dried apples, pears and nashis…

Drying production notes:

The apple slinky machine is a rocking little device that is readily available in Australia. It cores and slices, or cores, slices and skins in one fell swoop. You can do apples, pears, nashis, potatoes, and probably a bunch of other things I haven’t thought of. Here’s an Australian link for them, but you can also get them in most kitchen stores also.

The dryer we decided on is an Excalibur. Don’t think it’s much known in Australia yet, but many overseas homesteader groups wax lyrical about them, and I have to say we’re very, very happy with it so far.

I grew up with the Vacola dryers, but this one is faster, holds much more, and the heat comes from the back, not the base like in the Vacola model, so you’re not constantly swapping trays for even heat distribution. The excalibur is also super easy to clean.

We got the semi-commercial model, but they make smaller ones also.

The only other Australian reseller i know of for the Excalibur is Excaliburaust.com, and Excalibur’s main website is here.

(Just a note on the products above: we didn’t receive a kickback  for these purchases in any way, we just like em, and wanted to share what we’ve learned.)

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27 Comments

  1. rachel rose
    Posted February 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wow! 15 mins to stack the drier full?! I love the sound of that. I used a mandolin last summer and filling my 10 trays took a good part of a morning (not to mention the ever present danger to my fingers). I’m so curious about this apple slinky. Can you tell us more about it? I assume you can’t change the thickness of the slices — what thickness does it come out? Do you find that ideal/ok for drying? What other fruits or vege have you used with it? I’m trying to figure out how it could peel irregularly shaped fruit. (Do you peel any of the fruits you dry?) Thanks for this post: great info and inspiration (the photos of the end result look fantastic). Cheers!

    (PS I found a source for it in NZ: http://www.ezipeelers.co.nz in case anyone else this side of the ditch is looking)

  2. Posted February 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Rachel, no you cant vary the slice size sadly but the size seems perfect for drying – maybe 3 to 4mm? You can use wonky fruit. We dont peel but you could if you wanted to (or if you were using conventionally grown fruit, maybe) – it has a peeling thingy on the side that you can either leave off or on… good luck!

  3. Tracy
    Posted February 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We’re swamped with apples and pears too! Even inviting the local kids around to pick some isn’t getting thru them (though our goats loooove any excess we send their way!). With your pears, do you dry them while they’re still hard straight off the tree?

    • Posted February 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

      with the packham pears (the brownish ones) we do them hard and straight off the tree, and with the yellow ones also (ie while they’re still greenish)…

  4. Tracy
    Posted February 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Yay then! Much easier than working out when to pick and how long to cold store them for!

  5. Posted February 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    You can also use the whizzbang corer peeler thingy to make hash browns/rosti. Remove the slicer/corer from the end and use the peeler attachment to make thin strips of spud. :D

    • Posted February 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

      that is a GREAT idea… thanks Lightfoot!

      • Posted February 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

        Enjoy! Especially good with home grown flavoursome spuds, free-range eggs and fresh herbs of any variety. Cooked in home-grown olive oil would be a bonus that I’m sure Milkwood can manage, but I haven’t got any olives in. Only so much one can plant on a 1/4 acre farm!

  6. Posted February 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I really don’t think it matters (as far as sustainability goes) whether you use the sun to dry them directly, or indirectly. Either way you’re purchasing the same amount of energy from the grid, and you’re using the sun to do it….

    It seems to me it’s much smarter to use the electric one, because everything else is the same except how much fruit you can actually dry. Frequently, efficiency does matter :)

    Great job with the fruit and another great weblog post. :)

  7. rachel rose
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Kirsten! I have one on its way :-)

  8. Posted February 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If you ever have peaches, try drying them, too. A lot of people don’t think about drying them but they are fantastic. Just cut into slices.

  9. Nerissa.
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    When we bottle our apples and pears, we stick them in a large bowl full of unsweetened pineapple juice diluted with water to slow down discolouration – an old trick from a bunch of Victorian country folk : )

    The Amazing Mel from Mallacoota slinkifies her apples then layers them in snaplock bags with finely grated lemon rind and freezes them… they make the best apple pie you’ve ever tasted! I personally do the bottling thing using the puree method on p.17 of “Australian preserving with Fowlers Vacola” – the book that Mum gave you (don’t pay more than $35 for it second-hand). I love this method as it’s not necessary to peel OR core the apples, so it’s a perfect quick method for when you’ve already processed 4,000 kilos of apples and never, ever want to see another apple again….. The puree slushy stuff is excellent on porridge/museli or with roast pork. Yum!

    It’s still a bit early for pears where we are.

    Riss xx

  10. Posted February 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Love you dryer mine is on the smaller size and takes more than over night but I am in the looking process for a better one.
    I like the idea of leaving the skins on I have never done it this way but will do it this year.

  11. Kate
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have an Australian geographic brand dryer purchased 20 years ago it still goes really well. It’s basically a wooden box with a heater/ fan on the back and trays. Some variation in the heat available. I’ve done everything I can think of in it!

    • Posted February 29, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink | Reply

      That sounds like the predecessor to the Excalibur, no? All wood – nice one :)

  12. Posted February 29, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink | Reply

    We have the Excalibur 5 tray model and its a beauty. Excaliburaust have provided good service for us, the timer was faulty on delivery and they promptly send a new back panel – Australia Post on the other hand managed to lose the parcel for a while, however it all ended well.

  13. Posted March 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’ve wanted a dehydrator for years but always seems like a extravagance… perhaps I’ll take another look.

  14. Posted March 2, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    does the electric dryer use alot of electricity?

  15. Posted March 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Check out http://www.dryit.com/ for a great deydrator. My wife and I bought “The Master” and it works fantastic, and it holds a ton of food!

    How do ya’ll deal with drying anything sticky? Sticky stuff just glues itself to our trays and makes a mess….

    David and Tina

    • Posted March 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      That dryer looks great David, thanks for the tip! Re stickiness, the plastic grate stuff in the Excalibur is really easy to clean (and comes off the trays for cleaning). Swish farm website you’ve got yourself there! Go well.

      • Posted March 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        I meant to type dehydrator… Anyway, thanks for the tip about the plastic grate stuff, we’ll keep experimenting.

  16. Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great to hear you’re enjoying your new dehydrator! We recently got the same Excalibur dehydrator and love it too – only problem is the dehydrated bannanas we made recently were just way too delicious and didn’t last long in the kitchen cupboard at all due to sticky fingers! Some pics of them are up at http://www.happyearth.com.au/home/2012/4/12/blissing-out-on-homestyle-dehydrated-bananas.html if you’d like a squiz!

  17. L.
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 2:18 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Kirsten, is there any tutorial to make a solar dryer?

6 Trackbacks

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  6. […] we dried them whole (little ones) and sliced (big and wonky ones) in our excalibur food dehydrator which continues to be an awesome tool for preserving the […]

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