Dehydrating Kale

Reader Contribution by Loretta Liefveld
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It’s been smoky all week due to all the fires in the Pacific Northwest — 74 fires at last count.  With a high-pressure area above us, the smoke can’t dissipate, so it’s hanging around causing the air quality to range between “very unhealthy” to “hazardous.”  Since I’m staying inside as much as possible, I decided to do some dehydrating.

I ventured into this experience once before, but didn’t really follow through. Recently, I bought a book about dehydrating that encouraged me to really pour myself into it this time.   So far, I’ve dehydrated zucchini, crookneck squash, apple cinnamon chips (from our wild apple trees), corn, broccoli, and cauliflower. Today, I’m going to try kale.

I’m not a huge fan of kale, mostly because of its super curly edges, which are just too dense for my taste. I’ve had “baby” kale (which is flat) in salads and loved it, though.  The only kale in the store has curly edges, but since this is sort of an experiment, I guess it will do.  I bought one bunch.

The book says to wash it thoroughly and then pat it dry. It also says the kale flattens out more if you blanch it before dehydrating.  It didn’t make sense to me to pat it dry and then plunge it into boiling water to blanch it. So, I washed it thoroughly, but then just went to the next step, which is cutting out the center rib.

The instructions state that if you want kale chips, cut it into 3-by 4-inch pieces. Otherwise, leave them whole. Well, I don’t know if this kale is just small or what, but once I cut out the center rib, the kale was already in pieces smaller than 3 inches by 4 inches.

I prepared to blanch the kale. I have a ceramic flattop range, and my pot that has a removable strainer doesn’t have a flat bottom. So, I used the inside strainer from that pot separately in another pot that has a flat bottom. It doesn’t exactly fit perfectly, but I think it will be a lot easier than not using it. Once the water came to a boil, I grabbed a large handful of kale and pushed it into the boiling water with tongs. I only used a handful because I thought it would take longer to come back to a boil if I put all of the kale in at one time. The water has to come back to boiling before counting the blanching time, so I put the lid back on. After 15 seconds of blanching, it was ready for the ice bath (which was my kitchen sink filled with water and ice cubes).

I realized there was no easy way to get the inside strainer out, drain the boiling water out of it, and then dump the blanched kale into the ice bath, so I just used the tongs again to pull the kale out of the boiling water and put it into a colander over a pan. I then dumped the kale from the colander into the ice bath.

Having never done this before, I was shocked at what a beautiful green it now was!  

It took three handfuls to complete the blanching and ice bath. Once the kale was cool, I put it back in the colander and shook it up and down to drain as much water as I could. It was now time to pat it dry. I think I used four or five dishtowels before it was dry enough. The blanching had flattened the kale somewhat, but all those little curly edges were still there, and they held onto that water as if they were dying in the desert.

Finally, I laid all those kale pieces onto the drying trays. I turned them upside down, hoping they would flatten out more. I ended up with four trays. I sprinkled salt on three trays of kale, and I seasoned one tray with Maggie, which is a soy-based seasoning. It’s very strong, and I just used a brush to pat the Maggie on the pieces of kale. Afterward, it still looked like a lot, so I gently used a paper towel to pat some of the Maggie off the kale.

I just let the dehydrator run all night, because it was already late in the afternoon. How’d they turn out? Well, they aren’t my favorite snack; the texture is a little weird. They sort of disintegrate in my mouth, and then the ruffled edges are very dense. I’m going to grow some non-ruffled kale and try with those. The ones I flavored with Maggie were definitely much better than the ones that were only salted.

Does anyone have suggestions for a non-ruffled kale to try?

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