In a recent blog post, Pamela Clark talks about dehydrating sweet potatoes to offer as foraging treats, http://blog.pamelaclarkonline.com/2011/11/06/parrot-speak-with-pam—episode-14.aspx. Pam got the idea from a new product the veterinary clinic where she worked began carrying, chews and treats for dogs made of dried sweet potatoes.
Before we proceed with dehydrating yams, there’s something you need to know. They’re not actually yams. Americans have been making the mistake of calling sweet potatoes “yams” when there’s actually a difference. Sweet potatoes and yams are not even related. They are two different species of root vegetable with very different backgrounds and uses. In most cases sweet potatoes are labeled with both terms, which just adds to the confusion. Since there are two types of sweet potatoes, one with creamy white flesh and one with orange, the USDA labels the orange-fleshed ones “yams” to distinguish them from the paler variety.
I am always making jerky for Jerry in my dehydrator, so I thought why not try sweet potatoes? I dug out my old cookbook, “How To Dry Foods” and looked up Sweet Potatoes or Yams. Here is how I did it:
I like the orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato (more commonly labeled as “yam” in supermarkets). So I chose thick chunky medium-size yams that taper toward the ends. I peeled them and cut them into about 1 inch slices.
I put the yam slices in a large pot of water which I brought to a boil. I blanched for about 2 to 3 minutes until they were almost tender.
Then drained them in a colander. I set the colander aside over a cookie sheet to catch drips until the potato slices were cool enough to handle.
I used an apple corer to put holes into the slices before dehydrating.
I saved the hole punch out pieces and dehydrated them as well. Those pieces can be used to put in foraging cups or other toys and the larger slices with holes can be strung on toys.
I placed the slices and hole punch out pieces on the dehydrator trays.
I put the trays in the dehydrator and set the drying temperature for 140 F (60 C) until dry.
I have an Excalibur dehydrator and in this one the thick slices dried very tough to brittle in about 6 to 8 hours. There are a number of less expensive dehydrators on the market that will do a good job of dehydrating sweet potatoes. American Harvest/Nesco Dehydrators are inexpensive and widely available. Drying times will vary with the type of dehydrator you use.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, there are instructions on the internet for how to dry sweet potatoes in the oven. One of the disadvantages of drying in an oven is the cost of the energy used. Oven drying takes 2 or 3 times longer than drying in a dehydrator and time is required to tend and rotate the food. Food dried in an oven is usually darker, more brittle and less flavorful than food dried in a dehydrator. Since most ovens lowest temperature setting is 175 F (80 C) to 200 F (95 C) it is difficult to maintain temperatures of 140 F (60 C) while drying and the food may cook before it dries.
The book states dried sweet potatoes stored longer than 1 or 2 months at room temperature develop an undesirable flavor. I plan on using these as foraging treats in and on toys, so I made no more than I will use up in about 2 months. I store them in a sealed plastic container which I keep in my craft/bird toy making room.
Now for an example of how to incorporate these healthy food treats into a toy.
Here’s hoping you have a Happy Thanksgiving and find a great sale on sweet potatoes or yams at your local grocery store!