A Failure and a Triumph


Post by community member:

Kellyb’s post the other day about not being perfect reminded me that I promised LauraP I’d write a post-Retreat-This-Is-What-I-Learned-Its-So-Awesome post. Oddly enough, it reminded me, because one of my first attempts was a complete failure! But I’ll post in here anyway, in hopes that someone else will have more success than I did.

Cincyjojo brought some dehydrated watermelon to the Retreat, and since somehow a Ronco Deyhdrator jumped in my trunk for the trip home, I thought I’d try it out.

So I bought a medium sized watermelon, and quartered it. Then I scored the rind to mark 1/2″ slices before slicing it and removing the rinds.

Suzanne’s chickens would cry to know that I threw them away, but I imagine you could also pickle the rinds if you were so inclined.

After layering the watermelon in the trays (there were a few slices too many that I had to eat. Darn!),

I plugged in the ol’ dehydrator, and spent two days faithfully rotating trays every few hours.

The third morning, I woke up to the smell of rotting watermelon in my kitchen. Almost all of the slices had white yucky mold growing on them!! Blech. The whole batch went down the garbage disposal. Oh well.

I don’t know what happened, I think it was just too much for the dehydrator. I’ve ordered a refurbished Excalibur to compare. Just to compare, mind you. I’m not going to KEEP it. No really. I’m going to send it back.

Anyway, as a consolation prize, today I PC’d a load of dried black beans, following Dede’s excellent instructions. Success! This is the first load I’ve PC’d with no siphoning.


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  1. Pete says:

    Well done!

    Maybe the slices were just too thick?

  2. kellyb says:

    Electronic high five MrsFuzz on both of your successes. Even though the watermelon didn’t turn out the way you wanted it; it was still a learning experience. Always a success in my book. Really wet foods, watermelon, peaches, tomatoes need a lot of air movement. When doing tomatoes in my Excal I turn the temp to 125, everything else dries at 105. I wonder what temp cincyjojo dried her watermelon?
    Great post, I look forward to more in the future.

  3. lisabetholson says:

    I never thought of drying watermelon, my favorite summer treat. Thanks

  4. Blyss says:

    That was my thought too… that the slices were too thick. And, you will love having two dehydrators, Heather… I do! The round one dries my herbs and easy to dry things, and the Ex does the more tempermental items, like tomatoes.
    You did great, and the beans look awesome! GOOD JOB!!!

  5. Dede ~ wvhomecanner says:

    WOOHOO! Look at those BEANS! Congrats!
    You are going to LOVE the Excal. I used two Ronco dehydrators for years and they work well for many things as mentioned but the addition of an Excal covers EVERYthing. Living in humid WV, I have had some ‘oops’ projects too :O

  6. MrsFuzz says:

    I told you guys! I’m not keeping the Excal! REALLY! 😀 (Ok, ok, it might come in really handy for proofing bread too, but that is TOTALLY beside the point.)
    I think it was a combination of several things, really. Too thick of slices (though I’m not sure I can cut them much thinner manually), too many trays (I used all 5, I might have been ok with only 3), not enough temp…. Who knows. I’ll try again. I shall not be defeated by a mere batch of moldy watermelon!!
    Although I will tell you that the smell instantly reminded me of the smell of the “hooch” the inmates used to brew in the County Jail where I worked. YUCK.

  7. kellyb says:

    MrsFuzz, I know you’re not going to keep the Excal but if you did you can also make yogurt using it. I think Suzanne mentioned making cheese as well. It sure would come in handy IF you were going to keep it! You’ll love having two dehydrators, they help warm the kitchen in the winter 🙂

  8. MrsFuzz says:

    Yeah, if I were to keep it, I could totally use it for yogurt and cheese, too. It’s a good thing I’m sending it back, because what on EARTH would I do with that sort of dairy goodness? I mean, it’s not like I would EAT it or anything. 😀 Thanks for the info on the watermelon, Suzanne. I will have to try to figure out a way to cut it that thin without also cutting my fingers off……..

  9. Darlene in North GA says:

    Try slicing it into thick slices, removing the rind and THEN slicing it 1/4″ thick. That way, when you’re slicing it, you’re not fighting that super-tough rind.

  10. Kenya Cook says:

    Congratulations on the beans! Way to go! I’m encouraged to go forth and learn pressure canning!

  11. cincyjojo says:

    Oh, MrsFuzz, I should have explained myself better. I cut the watermelon in half and then cut the rind off. Then slice 1/8″ to 1/4″ slices. Sprayed the trays to keep from sticking. I have a Nesco(?) round dehydrator (cannot set the temp) but the vents are at 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom. I rotated the trays before and after work or at bedtime for several days. The watermelon I brought to the retreat had not been sealed up; thus, the rubbery texture. Did a whole small watermelon when I returned home and the pieces are nice and crisp.

    On a side note, I canned for the first time today thanks to the encouragement of my chicken sisters (MrsFuzz, Dede and Buckeyegal to name a few!!!!). I only got 5 Qts + 4 Pnts. Three of which I just put in jars and refrigerated to use now. I hear pingers!!! Guess that means it was a success. Learned that I should probably only use pints in my canner as I did not get 1″ water above the quarts and water was almost to the rim of the canner and bubbling out. I have a 16 Qt. Presto canner and it says I can use it on a flattop stove. I used the waterbath method for 15 mins because I’m a big chicken. I think I need to pressure can quarts in the future. THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!!

  12. Country Girl @ Heart says:

    Yes, the beans look great! Can we get Dede’s instructions? I have black beans that I want to try to PC but I am having trouble finding the bean to water ratio.

    I had trouble with peaches in one of those dehydrators. I think it is too much moisture for those to handle. You will love the Excalibur.

  13. MrsFuzz says:

    Here’s what I did, Country Girl…I put a 1/2 t of salt in the bottom of a hot jar, added a scant 1/2 C of washed (but not soaked) dried black beans, filled to 1″ headspace with hot tap water, then PC’d for 75 mins at 15 lbs (for my altitude). After looking at the jars, I think that might have been a bit too many beans. I’m thinking 1/3 C might be better. Or somewhere inbetween 1/3 & 1/2. 3/8? LOL

  14. Pete says:

    Hah! I printed the instructions for beans out when we had a big conversation about them over on the forum whenever and wherever ago that was, because I knew that I’d NEVER find them again!

  15. CindyP says:

    WooHoo! Way to go, MrsFuzz! As others have said, it’s not a failure…but I see it made you more determined 🙂

    I wonder what the temp is on those round ones? Are some manufacturers different than others?

    The beans look great! I just bought lots of different beans to can up…love the northern beans to make homemade baked beans 🙂 The beans I’ve canned continue to soak up liquid as they sit…after 1 year, this last jar had no liquid left…but it made great baked beans!

    Here’s the link on the forum for canning dried beans with the different beans http://chickensintheroad.com/forum/the-canning-pot/canning-dried-beans/

  16. kellyb says:

    I was reading about watermelon in Mary Bell’s dehydrating book last night. I don’t get out much so I read dehydrating books! She cuts her watermelon in 1/2″ chunks and drys that way. It resembles taffy per her description.

  17. Country Girl @ Heart says:

    Thanks for the link CindyP. I can’t wait to try them.

  18. Darlene in North GA says:

    I do have a comment regarding those having problems with the round dehydrators. I have both an Excalibur and a Harvest something or another (round) dehydrator. My Excalibur has a thermostat on it and I can control the temps. However, my round one only has an on/off switch.

    Since I bought the round one second hand, I went on the internet and downloaded the owner’s manual for it. One of the things of interest in the instructions was the caution to make SURE I lined up the vents that go around the rims of the trays.

    It seems that around the rim of each tray are a series of vents that if they are NOT aligned, don’t allow the dehydrator to work properly. It will turn on. It will heat up, but it does NOT get good air circulation and consequently, takes a LONG time to dry stuff. Long enough that some foods may spoil before they get sufficiently dry.

    To align my rims, I have to sort of get down on eye-level and look at the flat sides of the stacked trays. Along the outside, I can see the channels that go around the edge of the rim. There’s an inside edge and an outside edge and between them, there are channels. I have to start with the second tray from the bottom, align one section of it’s 4 channels with the tray below it. Then I go to tray 3 from the bottom and align it with tray 2. Up the stack I go, making sure one section of 4 vents are aligned. If one section is aligned, then all the other sections around the trays are aligned.

    I’m wondering if misaligned vents is the problem some are having with food spoiling before it’s dry.


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