Friday, 16 February 2007



As soon as we start to get some crops this year I want to expand our preserving techniques by drying some of it for the winter. In particular, since mushrooms and herbs are easily dried in a warm room and need little special equipment, I want to be able to make our own dried tomatoes, peppers and plums.

Ideally this would be achieved by making a solar drier like the one described in
John Seymour's self sufficiency book
or rather more simply in the 1919 War Garden Solar drier published in a Victory Edition in America as part of the war effort. That site is a jolly good read by the way with lots of arcane and historic reference on it.

However, we've not made one yet and in the meantime I've had a fancy to experiment in controlled conditions. So we researched the web and looked for suppliers and eventually decided against the Stockli which is widely available in favour of the L'equip. It has a large capacity with the potential to extend this by adding extra trays and temperature control.Despite the French sounding name it's American and has reasonably good reviews most places we read about it. We bought it via an Amazon trader paying in the region of £120.

I bought some apples and set to. The first thing we noticed is that the temperature control knob was fixed upside down which can cause confusion unless the temperature wanted is half way around the dial. It might be possible to change this but the whole thing is made of quite light plastic and I'm reluctant to risk breaking an otherwise functional control. The book that comes with it provides a minimum of information, not the end of the world but disappointing for a beginner particularly as there is nothing about suggested temperatures, rendering the control somewhat superfluous. I had to look this aspect up on the web.

Anyway, I sliced my apples to the thickness given in the instructions, added some banana pieces, again in the two sizes specified, checked the internet for a suggested temperature which was 115C or about halfway around the dial :) and switched it on.

It is noisy. Not terribly noisy, about the sound of an older computer fan on a hot day but enough to render my kitchen uninhabitable. The book suggested that the apples would be leathery dry in about 10-12 hours. They were not. I turned the machine off overnight and gave them another 8 hours the next day which sorted out the apples, except where my slicing had been poor, but didn't really address the bananas in either thickness.

So, after that first experiment, I can draw no conclusions but it does seem as if there are issues to be resolved. This is discouraging because if we can't get it right easily with a temperature controlled machine on a reliable power source I'm not sure how we'll do if we're using the sun in Normandy.


Candice said...

It was only your first go, though. I don't think you should abandon hope yet.

M said...


I plan to try with some cherry tomatoes next, but it's the noise that really irritates me. Not sure how we can get around that.

Candice said...

Can you not shove it in that room where you keep the computers?