Homeschooling – The Dehydrator
Wednesday, December 24th, 2008 at
***This post discusses a project that uses heat and electricity. If you are going to attempt this project yourself please get acquainted with basic electrical safety. Also, the heat created when dehydrating is hot. Keep this in mind. You don’t want a fun project to end up causing a fire in the end. There is also a basic knowledge of electrical wiring needed. My husband says this is very basic and that our kids could do it themselves with adult supervision.
My husband wanted a dehydrator. He has wanted one for a long time but we haven’t been able to afford one and using our oven has never worked all that well. He also loves anything jalapeno flavored. Let me explain what these two things have to do with each other.
About two weeks ago my husband bought a jar of jalapenos to create a jalapeno spray for popcorn. He likes to experiment with popcorn and heard that jalapenos make a great flavoring but when he tried just popping the corn in the juice it didn’t end up having very much flavor. That is where the spray idea came in. He blended up the jalapenos, drained the liquid out of them and stuck the juice in a spray bottle. He was pleased with the results after spraying the popped popcorn with it – a spicy, jalapeno flavored popcorn, but he didn’t want to waste the excess jalapeno puree left over after creating his little pepper spray.
Now he really wanted a dehydrator and started fervently searching for a reasonably priced used one to no avail. I suggested he see how much it would cost to make one. We could use it as a homeschooling project and make the kids put it together, too.
He ran with my suggestion and it ended up costing less than $12. Here is how we (the kids, mostly) put it together.
The supply list:
- One semi-large box. Size isn’t all that important.
- 1 roll of heavy duty aluminum foil
- Duct tape (any tape will work for this)
- Electrical tape
- Ceramic light fixture
- 1 three foot extension cord (my husband cut one end off of it for this project WHILE IT WAS UNPLUGGED)
- 1-200 watt light bulb
- Stakes. We used 6 of the gardening kind
- Disposable Aluminum pans and/or cookie sheets
We used a heavy box from our microwave. I am not sure why we still had it but it was good sized. I think you can use a smaller box if you want.
The kids covered the inside completely with heavy duty aluminum foil, keeping the tape on the inside. You don’t want any tape to be exposed to the heat so it must go behind the foil. Two sided duct tape works best for this but we just used regular duct tape, folding it over.
Then, using a knife Kait punched holes in the sides of the box so the boys could run wooden stakes through it – the cheapest kind we found were in the gardening section at Kmart. These stakes created shelves to hold up our drying racks. It was a simple task and only required a little work to make sure they were somewhat level. They left room for the lamp in one corner. If any of the foil gets ripped up when you cut the holes make sure to patch them with more foil.
Then came the light that is necessary for creating heat. Ryan picked up a regular ceramic light fixture from Lowes for around $3 and attached the extension cord to it. This is where your basic knowledge of electrical gobble-d-gook is needed. Employees at Lowes or Home Depot are usually extremely happy to help with this kind of stuff if you don’t know what you are doing. **Warning** Make sure you cover the exposed wires and contacts on the back of the light fixture with electrical tape and cover the back with cardboard. The back of the light fixture should NOT touch the aluminum foil.
The kind of fixture Ryan used was the type that you could screw down and with a little finagling and a small scrap of wood Ryan and Kait managed to secure it quite nicely to a lower corner of the box. The cord should come through the box, not over the top. You’ll need to make a small hole for this.Gabe screwed in a 200 watt bulb and they called it good.
We also learned not to tape down the lid when we are drying something. Although we didn’t want a giant opening we do need a way for the moisture to escape.
Disposable aluminum pans work perfectly to fit on the racks. We tried bananas and messed them up somehow but the jalapeno puree dried out perfectly, as did the meat Ryan cut up for jerky. Beef jerky, YUM!
He put the dried jalapeno puree in a baggie and mashed it up into a spice powder. We plan to put it into the next empty spice jar we have.
This was a fun project that only took a couple of hours. My husband said that if an adult was putting it together by himself it would only take an hour or less. Adding kids does mean adding time. Everybody learned something and we have all enjoyed some of the goodie creations that have come out of that little hot box. For safety reasons we keep it in the garage, which always smells good when something is drying. Except the jalapenos. They smelled good but there was a spiciness in the air that almost made my eyes water. The meat smelled delicious. I’m also a little leery of running it at night. Ryan thinks I am a little silly about that but understands my concern.
The really cool thing about this dehydrator is the speed. Anything we start in the morning is done by evening. The meat only took about 10 hours and ended up being really good jerky. Everything else seems to go much faster.
Another successful homeschooling project completed!
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