Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The Great Banana Chip Disaster of 2008
DD11 asked, "What's that thing and why don't you ever use it?" She was referring to the dehydrator I got for $3 at a yard sale. You know, the round plastic kind that everyone got for Christmas from a husband that hoped for beef jerky.
It moved around the back porch and the kitchen for two months, seeking a spot where the cord reaches an outlet. Finally, after the new cabinet let me clear the table better, I had room. DD11 wanted banana chips, and I had Suzy Homemaker visions of organic lunchbox snacks from home.
I was encouraged by a post on my food preservation list: a woman had just won a blue ribbon at her county fair for her banana chips. All she does is slice them and put them in the dehydrator. Sounded like just the thing for my dehydrating debut.
I bought a bunch of just-ripe bananas, a little green, no black spots. DD15 and I loaded the trays late Monday morning. First, we tried a small vintage slicer, probably a potato chip cutter. It made very thin slices that were hard to pick up and put on trays. We did one tray of those.
Then we tried hand slicing, but DD15 tended to make them thicker as she went along. I sliced some of hers in half. We started using one slice as a guide for the next. We loaded two trays with slices of about 1/4 to 3/8 inches thick.
I stacked them up, plugged it in, and pushed the button. This is a cheap Welbilt dehydrator, so there are no temperature settings, just On/Off. I didn't know if the top vent should be open or closed, so I turned it to half-open. I put the thin slices at the bottom, since the instructions said to rotate trays so that the closest-to-done was at the bottom.
The house smelled like bananas all day. The instructions said it would take about two days, so I didn't much mess with the trays until Tuesday at noon.
Uh oh. I now understand why trays need to be turned. There are obvious hot spots. But how do trays get turned at night?
The bottom tray of thin slices is certainly done. And stuck to the tray like cement. They tend to snap in half when you take them off. The lighter-colored ones are sort of OK. They are crisp and look almost normal on the side that was down. But they taste over-ripe.
I thought the darker ones might taste "roasted" or "caramelized." Ha! Burnt banana tastes horrible! Can't get the taste out of my mouth.
The other two trays are just weird. The slices look like craters, some very dark inside. The thicker the original slice, the deeper the crater. Still pliable. The top side looks dried-up and greyish, like I just left a banana slice lying around. The bottom side looks better. They also taste over-ripe. Are they even done drying?
Hint: Don't try to dry the ends of bananas. They end up looking like mummified nipples.
Of all of them, the top-most tray, with the most uniform slices, did the best. Ever-so-slightly pliable. They don't look like at all like the organic banana chips from the fruit-and-nut stand at the market. I doubt DD11 is going to put any of them in her mouth.
Crap. Who messes up dried banana slices? At least bananas are pretty cheap.
Edit: I had to soak the tray of thin ones for two hours to scrape them off the tray. The other trays had banana rings where I peeled them off. More soaking. Ugh.