The cost of some of the most simple snack foods in retail stores can easily cause a case of sticker shock for the thrifty at heart, but if you’re willing to spend a little time you can create healthy, nutritious, low-cost snack foods at home with very little equipment or initial investment.
We’re going to first talk about the tools and methods for drying apples, but these principles apply to most fruits/vegetables and the types of snacks you can make is only limited by your own imagination!
Apples Make Cents
Recently I’ve seen a pack of dried apple slices retail for $3.89 at a local grocery store. The same day I was able to pick up 12 apples at a local wholesale grocery chain for $5.89 and turn that into 6 bags of apple slices (each one larger than the bag seen for $3.89 at the grocery store!) . That’s a saving of $17.45, not including the small amount of labor, a good time shared with family laughing and working on a fun project together, and a negligible amount of electricity(maybe a dollar or two?).
The savings are undeniable, and you get a better quality product when you’re finished. If saving money sounds like something you’re interested in, and you enjoy working on projects with family and friends, fruit and snack drying is for you.
Apple Drying Process
1. A good dehydrator. You can get a reasonable dehydrator for around 50$, see: Nesco SNACKMASTER EXPRESS DEHYDRATOR.
There are also options in the $200 range that provide an incredible quality product and long-lasting warranty. The Excalibur 3900 Deluxe Series 9 Tray Food Dehydrator
2. For apples you’ll need a way to easily remove the apple core. For around $15 you can pickup the Cuisipro Apple Corer which works fantastically well.
3. A sharp knife!
The process of preparing the apples for drying is very simple:
- Wash apples
- Remove apple cores (peeling apples is optional
- Slice thinly (roughly 1/4 inch, you can slice larger but it requires more drying time and results in a slightly chewier product, feel free to experiment)
- (optional) Lightly sprinkle Cinnamon over apple slices in a bowl and mix with hands
- Place slices so they are not touching, and spread them out over the sheets provided with your dehydrator
- Apples will take between 12 and 24 hours at 135 degrees. It’s normally a good idea to flip them and rotate trays halfway through the drying process.
- Sample pieces often to ensure texture and a comfortable amount of dryness or chewiness
- Check for finished apples, they should be flexible and leathery. You shouldn’t be able to feel any moisture coming off of the apple.
- Let apples cool, then place into zip lock backs (vacuum sealed bags will provide a longer shelf life, especially in the freezer!)
If you’ve followed these steps you should end up with a delicious, organic, cost-effective product that looks something like this: