Preserving Produce Like a Frugal Vegan Mofo: A Review of the Nesco Gardenmaster FD-1020 Food Dehydrator

Monday, November 15th, 2010

The first summer after moving into our new home, the husband and I found ourselves buried under a deluge of fresh produce. Some of it, such as the watermelons, cantaloupes, green and yellow zucchini, jalapenos, green and yellow peppers, and tomatoes (oh, the tomatoes!: Roma, Beefsteak, cherry and grape) came as no surprise, since they were planned, planted and grown in our very own garden. Most of the fruit, on the other hand, was wholly unexpected; when we purchased the house the previous spring, we had no idea that many of the trees in our front yard were of the fruit-bearing variety. The apricots, pears and apples (120 grocery bags full, for reals!), then, came as a shock. A happy shock, but a shock nonetheless.

With the threat of an overabundance of fruit and veggies looming, I hurriedly began researching methods of preserving the extras for winter. Canning struck me as intriguing, if a bit risky for a newbie like myself. Freezing, while quick and easy, brings with it the obvious space and energy limitations. Eventually, I decided that dehydrating the excess food was my best option: safe, uncomplicated and requiring the minimal upfront investment.

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My (then-) newly-purchased Nesco American Harvest Gardenmaster FD-1020 Digital Pro Food Dehydrator, still in the box.
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Enter: the Nesco American Harvest Gardenmaster FD-1020 Digital Pro Food Dehydrator. After quite a bit of online window-shopping, I finally opted for this make and model. A mid-range dehydrator, the Gardenmaster FD-1020 is one of the pricier models offered by Nesco, and yet it’s still less expensive than those made by Excalibur (which, if the Amazon listings are any indication, is the Lexus of food dehydrators). Currently, the Gardenmaster FD-1020 retails for $154.99 on Amazon, but is on sale for $116.95.

All things considered – e.g., price, customer reviews, expandability, accessories – the Gardenmaster FD-1020 struck me as the wisest choice: suitable for my needs, without going over the top. Plus, it only cost me $30 after I applied my existing gift certificate balance. Score!

This is my third autumnal season with the Gardenmaster; in this time, I’ve used it to dry a variety of fruits and veggies, including tomatoes:

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VeganMoFo, Day 6: Sweet Strawberry Applesauce

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Now that the season of the zucchini is winding down, I’m slowly turning my attention to using those 120+ bags of apples I picked in September. (OK, so I gave most of them away; we only have about 20 bags left, not counting the 20 or so that are still on the trees. But I digress.) While hunting around the internets for an apple-heavy recipe this afternoon, I stumbled upon a super-yummy strawberry applesauce recipe from http://www.recipezaar.com:

Applesauce With Strawberries

Ingredients

3 lbs macintosh apples or apples (about 9 apples)
10 large frozen strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 lemon, juice of
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon allspice

Directions

Peel, core and slice apples 1/4-inch thick. Place apple slices in a large saucepan. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until a sauce consistency, about 45 minutes. Use a potato masher, if necessary, to break up any lumps, but leave slightly chunky.

I more or less stuck to the recipe (I have a difficult time following directions – canyatell?); it’s both easy and insanely delicious. The sauce comes out on the sweet side, so if you prefer your applesauce tasting more like apples and less like candy, you may want to go a little easy on the sugar. If you love strawberries like moi, throw in a few extra berries. Don’t worry, I won’t tell.

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This snack is best served warm, but I’m sure it’s quite good cold or at room temp, too.

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