I am getting ready to make Christmas gifts from my kitchen and this past year I needed celery flakes for a recipe I wanted to make. I have not bought celery flakes in a long time and this was a heirloom recipe. I had to look in several stores to finely find them. They were very expensive at least for me. Later I ran across a recipe for drying celery leaves and I thought why didn’t I think of that. I usually chop up the leaves from the celery and freeze them in a baggy for soup. Also the light bulb in my head came on and I realized I could also dry sweet red and green pepper flakes too. I had needed them for a cracker recipe I wanted to do this fall. Years ago I used to buy them but I cannot find them locally any more. So I set out on my adventure of dry celery leaves and sweet peppers.
For the celery leaves I just removed them from the stalk of celery and laid them out on a glass pie plate. I preheated the oven to 200 degrees F. The when the oven was hot I put them in the center rack. It only took about 20 minutes until they were dry. You don’t want them to turn brown so keep an eye on them. Every time I make them the time changes because of the moister in the leaves. I just left them on the stove to cool and put them in a small container.
The red and green sweet pepper it was a little more time consuming but I was willing to do it because the dried peppers would add color and flavor for the salad dressing mixes I planned to make for gifts and the vegetable crackers. I chopped the peppers up in tiny little pieces. I did that while I was watching TV. I just cleaned the peppers and put slices in a bowel and sat down and cut them up real small using kitchen scissors. I laid the finely chopped peppers on a glass baking pan that had been sprayed with vegetable spray in a single layer. You can use parchment paper or non stick foil if you like but I chose to spray. You don’t want to have to scrap bits of peppers off the bottom of the pan. I preheated the oven to 250 degrees F. and put the pan in the middle of the oven rack. It took about 40 minutes to dry them out. It will go faster with a convection oven. Just keep an eye on them so they don’t turn brown. I stirred them a couple of times after they started to look like they were drying. This keeps them from sticking. You will be able to tell when they are completely dehydrated. They just look like dry vegetable soup pieces. I left them in the pan to completely cool and them put them in a small container.
You will be amazed at how little the dehydrated vegetables look after drying. I plan to do this with grated carrots and chopped celery. I have convection oven setting on my stove so it is quick to dry vegetables. With convection remember to keep the temperature low around 200 degrees F. The time it takes will vary so just keep an eye on them.
So when you are low on money remember you can dry your own herbs and vegetables. Don’t throw those celery leaves away, dry them for future use in cooking.