I remember pulling up to the house that night with butterflies in my stomach. A group of people were sitting on a couch on their front porch, Manu Chao
playing softly in the background.
“I could just bike away right now,” I remember thinking. “No one would know.” But I locked up my bike, took a deep breath, and walked in.
Now, truth be told, the reason my butterflies were flapping their wings that night was because I had a crush on Mik and Etienne’s friend. But had I known about the other people that would walk into my life that night, I would have been even more nervous.
My first introduction to these garçons incroyables was just before they left for Burning Man, and in prep for the trip, they were making huge quantities of jerky in a homemade dehydrator. If there’s anything that gets my heart fluttering, it’s a room full of good looking boys that are into DIY projects. I’m not 100% sure how I made it through the evening (which included watching The Band’s Visit – highly recommended), but despite my flustered conversation skills, Mik, Etienne and Karim are all still in my life, and inspired this week’s project.
That’s right folks. At long last, I made myself a food dehydrator. As I type this, it’s humming away in the corner, hopefully dehydrating some lovely Georgian Bay apples.
So, how did I make this gem of a project? Well, let me say, it was actually quite easy. The basic premise is that you want hot, dry air to circulate around the food you want to dehydrate. With suggestions from Mik and a guy named Aaron, this is how I did it…
- A Big Box
- Aluminium Foil
- Masking Tape
- Wooden Dowels
- Cooling / BBQ Racks
- Scissors / A sharp knife
- A 150W light bulb and a light socket
- A small fan
1) Cover the inside of your box with aluminum foil. This act as a reflector, and allows the box to heat up nicely when it comes to dehydrating time. I lined all sides of the box except the top with foil.
2) Cut your dowels into lengths about 2 inches longer than the width of your box. The number of racks you want for dehydrating dictates the number of dowels you’ll need. For one rack, you need 2 dowels. For 2 racks, you’ll need 4. You get the picture.
3) Using your knife/scissors, make a holes in either side of your box to thread your dowels through. Make sure you leave at least 2 inches between the trays for air circulation.
4) Cut a hole in the side of your box the size of your fan. I’ve been told that using computer fans is best, but I had a little room fan lying around so I went for that. Then position your fan in the hole.
5) Next you want to attach your bulb. I bought a light socket fixture from Home Hardware for about $10 that had a clip on it, so I was able to clip it to the top of the cardboard box and suspend it in place. I’m sure there are other ways to attach a light source, but I found this to be pretty simple and handy.
6) The air needs to circulate easily, so I cut some extra ventilation holes in the box.
7) Stick the desired food on the cooling racks. Balance the cooling racks on the dowels. Plug in the light and the fan and get dehydrating!
Now, I should add some safety warnings here. I’ve been sitting here checking on my dehydrator every 10 minutes or so to make sure there’s no fire risk. If the bulb gets too close to the cardboard, you do run the risk of a fire, so please please please, do not leave your dehydrator unattended. There are ways around this — you could make a wooden box, or use some non-flammable container for the outside of your dehydrator, for instance. I chose a cardboard box because it was something I had lying around. But, as Mik put it, any ready-made box (even a garbage can) could work.
- Time & Cost: Once all the setbacks were settled, the project took me about 45 minutes to complete, and cost about $25 (this could easily be reduced if you don’t buy a light socket and bulb, like I did).
- Difficulty: Easy-to-Medium. The construction is pretty simple, but collecting the materials did take me some time, and is certainly an adult project.
- Success: TBD. I’ll post once the apples have been properly dehydrated, but so far it looks like they’re gonna be just great!
- Favourite part of the project: The memories brought back from Roy’s Palace. And listening to a great This American Life podcast while constructing.
That’s all for today folks. Stay tuned for the poverty board game later this week. And next up? A wash-tub bass!
Dedicated to Roy’s Palace.