Two days was just too long to wait.
I was shocked when my first attempt using my Excalibur to make soaked and dehydrated almonds and walnuts took two full days. I used a lower temperature than I had in the past with the smaller Nesco Snackmaster because the Excalibur handbook spoke of “raw and living foods” for a temp of 105F. If the whole point of dehydrating crispy nuts instead of roasting them is to preserve living enzymes, I wanted to be sure everything stayed living!
Well. Although I started out at a higher temp (135F, I think – where is the paper on which I wrote this stuff down???) for a few hours, taking nuts down to 105F or even 115F is way too low and takes too long. Of course, I also had the dehydrator stuffed to the gills with 9 pounds of nuts and two tray of dehydrating oats! When I dehydrated walnuts in the side by side dehydrator review, I kept them at 135F, and it took about 14 hours to be fully dry and crispy.
Here’s an interesting note: I checked the internal temp of the dehydrator today after it had been running for many hours, and it was 10 degrees less than the setting. Lenetta has found the same thing with her dehydrator. Anyone else find this?
Excalibur Customer Service
I know I was probably a little hard on the Excalibur when I compared it to the Nesco, but I expect a lot out of a product that costs a lot of money. I would like to give major props to the Excalibur company for having spectacular customer service. I had a lovely conversation with Stephanie from Excalibur, and it was clear that she not only had a lot of knowledge of the product, but that she used it all the time herself and had a great deal of knowledge about healthy food, prepared traditionally. It’s neat that you can call for dehydrator support and receive nutritional support as well!
She instructed me to start soaked nuts at 135F for about 3 hours, then turn the dehydrator down to 115F for the remainder of the time, even if it’s two days.
The Excalibur test kitchen has run tests on soaked nuts (how cool is that, that the test kitchen even knows what soaking nuts and seeds is?) and found that the internal moisture content may still be evident even when the nuts are dry enough to pass the plastic bag/moisture test. For long term storage (months), you may want to keep your crispy nuts in the fridge or freezer.
Almond Update: Are Almonds Already Pasteurized?
I’m always learning something new. In the comments when I posted on crispy nuts previously, someone told me that all almonds are pasteurized already, so the low-temp dehydration may be futile. Of course, I checked with the two places I buy my almonds:
Thank you for writing into us with your inquiry. All of our Meijer raw almonds are steamed.
From Country Life Natural Foods:
The Almonds are pasteurized with steam. No chemicals are involved.
For me, that meant no more waiting 48 hours for crispy almonds. I figured I’d just zap them in a 300 degree oven for an hour or two and call them done, if there are no enzymes anyway. I had tried to sprout a handful of almonds previously with zero results. However, a gal at a WAPF meeting (topic: Healthy Snacks! I got to share my power bars…) told me that about 95% of their Meijer almonds end up sprouting, so the steam pasteurization, she theorized, is very quick and doesn’t kill all the enzymes, just the surface bacteria.
If you purchase almonds, you may want to call the supplier to make sure they’re not chemically pasteurized. You can also find organic, “for sprouting” nuts that are certainly living foods and not pasteurized, but I found them to be cost-prohibitive at my health foods store. You’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth dehydrating almonds or just roasting them.
Does a Dehydrator Use More Energy Than an Oven?
Since you can technically make crispy nuts in an oven as well as a dehydrator (you just kill the enzymes in an oven), running a cost comparison is a great idea. According to my appliance cost post, an oven costs between 10-25 cents/hour at 350F. When I compared two dehydrators, I found that the Excalibur 9-tray model, which I have, costs 61 cents for 12 hours. If almonds take 3-4 hours to finish in a 350F degree oven, that’s $0.30-1.00 for a batch. The Excalibur 9-tray can fit at least three times as many nuts, and even if it takes 48 hours for almonds, that’s about $2.44. Depending on whether you have a gas (less expensive) or electric oven, it may still be better to run the dehydrator for crispy almonds. Since walnuts get done in about 12-14 hours, I would say the dehydrator would definitely be more cost effective there.
Is a Dehydrator Green?
I know a lot of people probably wonder about the safety of heating food touching the plastic trays in a dehydrator. I called the Nesco company before I tried my friend’s Snackmaster out, and they said the same thing Excalibur did: the plastic is no. 5 polypropylene, BPA-free. Here is an article comparing plastic vs. stainless steel trays. For myself, I figure I can’t avoid everything, all the time.
I love that Excalibur is 100% a U.S. company with all products made right here in the USA. They also consider themselves a “green company” and recycle the end product and anything else they can.
One Last Update: My Cherries
Our family picked cherries for the first time this week, at a farm that is not organic but practices integrative pest management and works to be eco-friendly. (They’re on my local resources list, coming next week as part of the Go Local! Challenge.) We paid $1.50/pound, and after two hours pitting cherries to fill five dehydrator trays, I’m thinking I’d rather buy already picked and pitted cherries for a few quarters more a pound! My husband points out that it was a good experience to be out in the cherry orchard, and he’s right. I’m all about one-time experience on this one, though. 😉
If you’ve never dehydrated anything, allow me to amaze you with how much the foods actually shrink in size. Dehydrating is truly a great way to conserve space for food storage! The photo below shows all the dried cherries I made sitting in my colander. They started out as two completely full colanders, about 8-10 pounds, I’m guessing, as we picked 15 total. Those are not quart sized bags, but little, tiny 3″x3″ snack baggies. They’ll make great on-the-go snacks, but I’m always shocked at how little is left when the water is all gone! I doubt there’s much more than a pound, maybe two, when all is said and done.
I’ll keep these guys in the fridge for long-term storage. Even though I know the condensation trick to make sure they’re done, I wanted them to be chewy and not tough/crunchy, so I’m always afraid I pull them a little early like my sad cranberries. (They only took 12 hours this time, instead of 20! I’ll update the how to dehydrate fruits post.)
Tonight (June 25) at midnight marks the last chance to win an Excalibur dehydrator of your very own! Also, Sunday, June 27th is the close of The Nourishing Gourmet’s Nourishing Food on a Budget eCourse registration. If you are interested in learning real food cooking techniques and budget tips multi-media style, anytime between now and January, be sure to use the coupon code “kitchenstew” for $20 off the enrollment fee!
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