You haven’t smelled onions until you you have chopped enough all at once for 9 trays in the dehydrator – and lived to tell about it. That much onion smell stimulates new dimensions of olfactory confusion.
And it’s not over once the chopping is done. After that, there are the hours with the dehydrator running. Onions are juicy, so there is a lot of evaporation. Strangely, none of this was accompanied by tears. Maybe it is like any other crisis, where you can physically hold everything together until you get through it. Of course, by the time I was done, I was too tired to cry, so I had a snack instead.
It was all worth it, though. The husband has deemed the crunchy bits “sweet” and excellent potato and salad toppers. I am still trying to decide if nine ½ pint jars of home dehydrated chopped onion is enough for the year, or, like the broccoli I dehydrated last year, enough for about 6 years.
The broccoli is vacuum sealed, so I plan on testing it’s shelf life …. It’s all about the journey, right? It’s hard to tell how these things are going to end up when it is not how we have eaten things in the past. We have used some of the broccoli, and I think if I can plan ahead for better reconstitution, it will be more popular. The carrots and beans were able to be dumped right into soups and stews, so all dehydrated veggies are not created equal.
In spite of the aroma, prepping the onions for dehydrating was pretty straightforward.
- I washed the whole onions in running water at the sink, peeling away some of the softer, outer layers. Most of them had already been sitting ¾ out of the ground when I pulled out their roots, so there wasn’t much gooey on there.
- I sliced off the 2 ends of the onion,
- then halved and peeled it.
- I have always found it easiest to quarter the onions before placing them in the Chop Wizard, so I did that after they were peeled.
I used the Chop Wizard repeatedly to rapidly dice many onions. I discovered that only using one hand leads to wrist strain, so I used both hands for the chopping swack after that.
- I spread the chopped onions out on the dehydrator trays, finding that I still needed to manually break apart quite a few chunks.
- I forgot to take the mats off of the trays that had been used to keep the smaller pieces of dehydrating garlic from falling through,
- So, I don’t know if the onions would take less time to completely dry if there was air flow from both sides.
It took about 28 hours for my onions to be as dry as I thought they should be, that is, to be leathery to brittle, with no signs of watery juices at all. This was in Idaho on a low humidity day. They were in the machine for 4 hours at 145°F, then I turned it down to 125°F because I reasoned that if it was going to take longer, I wanted it more gradual from the lower temperature.
The book that comes with the dehydrator said to be careful of touching them afterward, as they absorb moisture easily. So, I quickly loosened them from the mat (that was when I realized I probably should have taken that off) and slightly rolled the mat at the center to funnel the tiny nuggets into the jars. Instant gratification vacuum sealing proceeded fine except for the jar that I tried 3 times before realizing it should have been a factory reject. The top looked like someone’s first attempt at jar making. No lid would work on it.
With so many other things to dehydrate and the remaining onions probably being enough to use up in 3-4 months, I may have to wait until next year to see if the onion dehydration takes significantly less time without the solid mats. It kind of depends on whether or not this year’s onions mature differently than last year’s patient onions. Or how many people come to dinner regularly. I think my husband is suspicious that I am still putting enough food away for the winter for all the kids that don’t live at home anymore. He might be right, but I don’t think he really cares. He invites them over all the time, too.