Celery is essential to soup stocks, and to the mirepoix blend of celery, carrot and onion that is the backbone of so many savory dishes. When you only need a stalk or two and don't have any fresh celery on hand, dried celery will usually work fine.
The only thing you can't do with dried celery is use it the way you would raw celery. Dehydrated celery won't work for most salads or crudités. But it's perfect for any cooked dish that needs celery flavor.
Blanching is essential before dehydrating celery. Unblanched celery dries to an unappetizing tan color. Blanched celery keeps its emerald green color when dried.
Time Required: 10 minutes active, 6 to 8 hours inactive
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, Wash the celery. Cut off the whitish bottom ends and the leafy top ends (these are great for soup stock - save them! I keep soup stock scraps like celery ends in a container in the freezer until I have enough to make stock.)
Cut the celery stalks into thirds. Dump into the boiling water and leave for 1 minute. Drain and immediately run under cold water or immerse in ice water to stop the residual heat from continuing to cook the celery.
Slice the blanched celery into 1/2-inch thick crescents.
Arrange the celery pieces on the trays of a dehydrator, leaving 1/4-inch space on all sides between the pieces. Alternatively, arrange the pieces on a screen placed over a baking rack.
If using a dehydrator, dry at 135F until the celery is crispy-dry. If using an oven that doesn't have a temperature setting below 150F (many don't), set it for the lowest heat and prop the oven door open with a dishtowel or wooden spoon. Note: this wastes a lot of energy, so if you are planning to dry a lot of food, a dehydrator is a worthwhile investment both financially and environmentally.
When the celery is crispy-dry (usually takes 6 - 8 hours), remove the trays or baking sheet(s) and let cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Transfer the dried celery to glass jars and screw on the lids. Store away from direct light or heat.
You can do steps 1 - 3 and then store the blanched, sliced celery in the refrigerator for up to twenty-four hours before proceeding with the dehydration.
What You Need:
- Dehydrator or Oven
- Large pot