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March 15, 2013

The Excalibur Fruit and Vegetable Dehydrator

by Anne Paddock

My daughter turned 17 recently and when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she replied “an Excalibur” meaning a food dehydrator, not the sword (big sigh of relief). Dried fruit is a favorite snack in our home but finding dried fruit without additives, sugar, or preservatives is difficult and often expensive. An Excalibur Food Dehydrator is the Cadillac of home dehydrators with the three attributes every dried food enthusiast wants:  sufficient cubic space, a timer, and accurate temperature control.

81OzK6sVNnL._SL1500_Most inexpensive food dehydrators are one or two tray appliances that quickly turn out to be a waste of money because the machines are too small. Who wants to wait 12 hours for the dried fruit of 1 or 2 apples, which is what 1 or 2-tray dehydrators will accommodate.

Drying fruit takes time (as in hours) and although these appliances use very little electricity (3 to 6 cents an hour), a dehydrator needs to be big enough to make the project worthwhile. Drying food is also one of those projects that tends to grow because homemade dried food tastes better than store-bought and is a fraction of  the cost.

Excalibur makes three sizes of food dehydrators:  4-tray, 5-tray and 9-tray in a variety of colors (black, copper, antique copper, radiant blueberry, cherry, and raspberry) or in stainless steel. My personal preference is the 9-tray dehydrator but if space is a consideration, you may want to consider one of the smaller units.

The 4-drawer unit does not come with a time so I never considered this unit because I typically run the unit during the night and appreciate an automatic shut off.  The 5-drawer unit with a timer costs $249 – $349 and the 9-drawer unit with a timer costs $299-$499. I spent $299 on the 9-drawer 3926 TB and the machine works beautifully.

DSC_0221Nine trays may seem like a lot but 6 average-sized apples (3.5 – 3.7 pounds) sliced thinly with a mandoline food slicer (a $30 tool that slices fruits and vegetables very thin; available at Amazon) will fill 9 trays and provide approximately 8 ounces of dried fruit – enough to fill 3 quart sized Ziploc bags. Use a flavorful apple such as Honey Crisp (above) because the quality of the fruit matters.

Many recipes call for removing the skin or spraying the slices with a lemon juice/water mixture to prevent browning but I like the skin on the apples and the color doesn’t bother me. Or, consider making dried pineapple which is a family favorite. Naturally sweet, 3 pineapples sliced into 1/8 inch thick pieces will fill the nine trays and provide a delicious alternative to candy or cookies as a sweet snack. The 9-tray Excalibur will also accommodate 8 pears (weighing about 4 pounds) or 11 champagne mangos sliced with the mandoline (or 25-30 if thick pieces are preferred).

DSC_0224Learning to use the Excalibur Food Dehydrator is very easy. The amount of drying time varies depending on the fruit and the humidity in the air. Most recently, I’ve found Honey Crisp dried apple slices (cut with a mandoline) will  take 12 hours at 135 degrees while pineapple, a juicier fruit takes 15-16 hours at 135 degrees,depending on whether you want the fruit pliable or crunchy. Pears took 15 hours, as did Champagne Mangos. One of the beautiful things about the Excalibur is the door is simple to remove so the fruit is easy to check on and cleaning is a cinch. The Excalibur is not limited to fruits and vegetables and can be used to dry meats, fish, nuts, herbs and spices. Leathers and fruit rolls can also be made in this versatile machine.

To purchase an Excalibur Food Dehydrator on-line, go to the company website listed below. Currently,the company is offering free shipping within the United States and a free 10-year warranty, an extra drying sheet, and a dehydration guide with the purchase of several of the 9-drawer units (stainless steel or black) with timers or a 5-tray black unit with the timer. Refurbished units are also available through the company website (listed below). The units can also be purchased from Amazon with free shipping for Prime members.


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