So, like other food preservationists and kitchen tinkerers, I love to dry things -- fruit slices, fruit leather, cheese, beef jerky, etc. In the heat of summer the sun does the work for me. But the other ten months of the year in Northern California, however, I usually rely on my oven on a low setting, door slightly ajar to release moisture, to do the job. And while effective, each bite contains the residual taste of enviro-guilt that comes from leaving the oven on and the heat blowing upward for several hours. The results are excellent, but I cannot help but be haunted by the fossil fuel energy loss necessary for a homemade Fruit Roll-Up.
Certainly I could buy a food dehydrator (and I still may), but my gas oven runs therms, plug-in dryers run watts, and I’m not science-geeky enough to know if they are truly more energy efficient. Plus, I thought, I already own a large piece of heating equipment that dries sopping wet clothing in record speed (also fueled by gas), that spins with convection-like capability.
The Newton’s apple (orange?) that struck me with the idea was a perfectly shriveled piece of orange peel found at the bottom of the clean laundry basket. Had I been sitting on (and ignoring) the world’s best food dehydrator next to the washing machine and not taking advantage of its power? Is it possible to more efficiently dry fruit, vegetables, and meat in the high-heat, high-motion clothes dryer in one round of Permanent Press? Sadly, at least in my scientific exploration, the answer is no.