Dried Banana – make your own!

You may no doubt have been following all the food desiccator evolutions on this blog!

We started by putting a incandescent heat lamp and a desk fan in a plastic box with some holes drilled therein for ventilation, this was revision 1. The latest unit uses a bathroom venting fan and complimentary vent plus Arlec Bluetooth hub+temp&humidity sensor + switched plug socket. This all in a food grade plastic box with a basket that fits snuggly therein from which to hang the paper-clips. Recall these were bent into an S-shape for hanging up the meat to make either Biltong or Jerky.

The basket can have some aluminium fly-screen laid into it or shade-cloth laid into that basket and then fruit can be laid thereon to dry. I did that with a couple of sliced bananas and think this is my second most favourite snack, after biltong!

Whilst in process I check the temperature and humidity on my phone using Bluetooth, how cool is that!

The ‘secret sauce’ controller is a controller that can switch the heat source every few seconds, giving better control in making your dried foods. It also allows all interactions via Bluetooth from your mobile phone and if you connect to your local Wifi will show progress on a webpage, how cool is that! It also uses RF to control a plug socket so no electrical connections required. This is the state-of-the-art. If you want to buy a plug and controller it costs $100. Leave a comment we will get your details for an order. You are really going to love it! 👍🌟🍌

Buy this Bluetooth, secret-sauce controller which controls a plug socket.

The next iteration (revision 9) for making Jerky, Biltong or Dried Fruit at home

The next evolution of kit for building your own machine at home (available from your local hardware store)

Many folks are intimidated by the electrical aspect of making their own machine, rightly so it is a silent killer. This post is for such people. Get the fellows at the hardware store to fit a lamp holder with a plug socket as well as to the fan. All you need to do is cut a hole in the plastic box for those sockets to reach an external socket adaptor. Thus no wiring just a bit of assembly.

It is important to find a basket or rack that fits snugly into the box for either resting the fruit on or hanging the meat from, as below.

A nice snug rack onto which some flyscreen can be placed for drying fruit

I recently found a ceramic bulb of 75 watt heating capacity. This works in high humidity environments. Note: The Grid Connect controlled socket – the one with “Smart Plug-in Socket” printed on the box within the above picture, is the one used for this heat source in this machine. The fan remains on during the duration of the process to vent out the moisture that is drawn out by the heat source – this is what the desiccation, or dehumidification is all about.

A very good heating source for the dehumidification process.

This just keeps getting better and better as technology advances! Now just to choose your spice from the websites by searching for “Crown Biltong Spice”.

Enjoy!!

Note: It’s probably a good idea to have your machine checked by an electrically qualified person, just to be safe.

A lifetime supply of these great goodies is what this machine will give you.

A few lessons I learnt to bear in mind when using this Arlec equipment:

1) The setup requires you to be near your Wifi router with Bluetooth enabled on your phone

2) The temperature set points (corresponding to the values read from the Arlec Bluetooth enabled temp and humidity sensor are in degrees Fahrenheit and not degrees Celsius). Conversion of ON and OFF set-points for the Arlec Smart Plug-in Socket are below:

Conversion from 40 degrees C to 104 degrees Fahrenheit
Conversion from 35 degrees C to 95 degrees Fahrenheit

3) The temp and humidity sensor update rate can be changed by pressing the little button on it and watching the frequency change from the default of 30 min down to 5 min.

Make sure the current frequency says 5 minutes

4) Most people struggle with getting the temp and humidity sensor to get registered with the App. It is important to press the button on this sensor for about 5 seconds until the red LED flashes rapidly and then to select Auto sync in the Smart Grid App on your phone.

A cool video of a great bunch of people who have a keen interest in building the machine using these exact parts is below. It actually is a heap of fun when you do this as a team, help each other out and treated it as bit of a “production line”:

A really nice South African actor that I watched growing up has now made some YouTube videos about the meat aspects of making biltong/beef jerky. He is an actor so will do the preparation better justice than me. I don’t use vinegar, as I don’t like the taste that it introduces into the final product. I only lay the raw meat in the biltong spice (Crown National – Safari Biltong Spice), which actually comprises: 1/3 part salt, 1/3 cracked brown pepper and 1/3 cracked dried coriander seeds. I lay it in a Pyrex dish, sprinkle half the spice over the one side of the meat, turn the meat over, sprinkle the other half of the spice on that side of the meat and then place that in the fridge for 24 hours with a cover of sandwich wrap (“Glad” wrap) to keep any other flavours within the fridge from permeating the meat – as he says “it isn’t rocket science”. Make sure that the “Glad” wrap doesn’t touch the meat and is pulled taut over the Pyrex dish. (Note: In Australia Jindurra steak costs only between AUD 13-20/kg depending on the cut and I have never had an issue with it: https://www.canstarblue.com.au/groceries/supermarket-meat-awards)

For dried fruit look at the following post, it is found under point numbered 17 in this post:

Alternatively, the ‘secret sauce’ controller is a controller that can switch the heat source every few seconds, giving better control in making your dried foods. It also allows all interactions via Bluetooth from your mobile phone and if you connect to your local Wifi will show progress on a webpage, how cool is that! It also uses RF to control a plug socket so no electrical connections required. This is the state-of-the-art. If you want to buy a plug and controller it costs $100. Leave a comment we will get your details for an order. You are really going to love it! 👍🌟🍌🥩🍴

Buy this Bluetooth, secret-sauce controller which controls a plug socket.

Do I need to use vinegar when making biltong?

Hennie Coetzee’s biltong machine

This is a question which comes up quite often when people are making biltong.

The truth is it does give the biltong a ‘funny taste’ and in my experience is quite unnecessary, provided you follow two critical steps.

1) You need to leave the meat in the fridge in the biltong spices for about 48 hours so that a curing process takes place. The meat draws in the preserving salts and spices.

2) This step is very important as mould can form on the biltong if you haven’t used vinegar in the curing process. It is imperative that you monitor the humidity within the biltong Machine for the first 18 hours, this biltong machine should have enough heat generated within it, in order to keep the internal humidity levels at 100%. This represents a situation where the air is saturated with moisture that is being drawn out of the meat . This process rapidly seals the outside of the meat thereby preventing any mould etc. I use the DHT22 sensor to monitor the internal humidity, within the biltong Machine. The fan/s effectively vent this moist air out of the box, which is continuously being drawn out of the meat by the heat source.

I believe the vinegar was used prior to the invention of refrigeration, by the Voortrekkers in South Africa, in order to allow the curing of the meat to occur without any nasties coming into play. With the advent of a low temperature environment in the cooling compartment of the refrigerator, this acidifying process is no longer required for the curing. The heat source is thus a must to quickly seal the outside of the cured meat. I hope this will give you confidence to try out a new way of enjoying an old South African favorite – Biltong.

A friend of mine’s biltong machine. He uses an incandescent lamp (60 watts) as his heat source. The bulb was removed to show the fan. Credit: Hennie Coetzee

The ‘secret sauce’ controller is a controller that can switch the heat source every few seconds, giving better control in making your dried foods. It also allows all interactions via Bluetooth from your mobile phone and if you connect to your local Wifi will show progress on a webpage, how cool is that! It also uses RF to control a plug socket so no electrical connections required. This is the state-of-the-art. If you want to buy a plug and controller it costs $100. Leave a comment we will get your details for an order. You are really going to love it! 👍🌟🍌🥩🍴🌟👍

Buy this Bluetooth, secret-sauce controller which controls a plug socket.

Variation with two fans and display (revision 8) of the Beef Jerky Maker

2 February 2020

Biltong is usually not allowed to get as dry as Beef Jerky and uses different spices

There are many ways to make a food desiccator. My preferred way is to use my fan with heater mounted on it as, shown in this post:

http://www.ianboake.com/index.php/2020/01/12/food-desiccator

I have also made one using two microwave oven fans and a microwave oven lamp, for the heat source. This one uses the Wemos Lolin32 with OLED display…which reports temperature, humidity and heat index as well as the low and high set-points of the temperature control band. The photos are as below:

Basket with shade cloth for drying fruit are laying meat down
Aluminium drip trays fitted to the bottom and a fan drawing in air from either end (venting out of the lid)
Wemos Lolin32 doing service in controlling the heat source between the two set-points (temperature and humidity from a DHT22 sensor)

My mate (friend in Aussie Lingo) posted his Biltong Machine on Instagram. It has no temperature control, uses an incadescent 230V lamp and a computer fan. It is neatly built into a cupboard

Faan’s Biltong Machine uses a conventional cupboard carcus. Very neat!

Alternatively, The ‘secret sauce’ controller is a controller that can switch the heat source every few seconds, giving better control in making your dried foods. It also allows all interactions via Bluetooth from your mobile phone and if you connect to your local Wifi will show progress on a webpage, how cool is that! It also uses RF to control a plug socket so no electrical connections required. This is the state-of-the-art. If you want to buy a plug and controller it costs $100. Leave a comment we will get your details for an order. You are really going to love it! 👍🌟🥩🌟👍

Food Desiccator using Positive Thermal Coefficient heaters (revision 7)

28 December 2019

A delicacy called “Biltong” which makes use of different spices to “Jerky”

This is one of the best ways that one can start to make a difference to the planet, almost immediately!!! This is about focussing on living more sustainably. We have to eat, but we often buy much more than we can consume and throw away what begins to turn in our refrigerators. This is nothing short of wasteful, we are all guilty of this. More importantly, these desiccated food sources are actually all very delicious, think of: dried fruit, beef jerky, beef biltong and dried tomato on pizza. My favourites are biltong and dried banana…

The “heart” of the desiccator is the fan and associated PTC, “gentle”, self-regulating heater:

The side view which is the preferred position for resting on an old, upside down, plate saucer (preferably something ceramic) is shown below:

The bottom view (showing the fan unit) is shown below, this fan must face a 50cm diameter “air-port”:

Parts list

The items to get from your local hardware wholesaler, are as follows:

1) From Bunnings (AUS), Builder’s Warehouse (RSA), Home Depot (USA), etc. Get a good grade plastic container (relatively thick side-wall) that has a clip locking lid. This is important as the fan/heater creates positive pressure and needs to be sealed by these side clips. The dimensions are indicative and not crucial if you plastic container (box) is not exactly the same in size. Height – 0.5 m, Width – 0.5 m, Length – 1.02)

2) Get a “chocolate block electrical connector”, 230-240V, 10 Amp connector from the electrical aisle. These look like this:

“Chocolate block, electrical connector’

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3) My “secret sauce” controller, ESP32 Controller, (optional) if you want Bluetooth control from your mobile phone and monitoring of the internal desiccator temperature and humidity. Send me an email request for such a unit from the contact page on www.ianboake.com. This is not essential and only a ‘nice to have’. It will set you back about $USD 55 excluding shipping.

4) An old computer cord, preferably where somebody has stripped the insulation off the computer socket end, or ask the people at the Hardware store to make it look as in the picture below:

Note different countries have different plugs and colour codes for live/active, neutral and the ground or earth conductor

5) Shade cloth about 1-meter square will do, aluminium fly-screen is even better if you can get it:

6) A glue-gun to glue the shade cloth over the “air ports”. It is also possible to use duct tape to hold the screens over the “air-ports”.

7) Dowel rods cut to 550mm lengths by the hardware store, but at least 50mm longer than the width of the plastic box. eBay offers sets of 21mm diameter, dowel rods.

8) Four self-tapping screws to attach the fan/heater over one of the ports. 14g or 1.6mm will do.

Conversion between different self-taper screws in different countries

9) A 1mm drill to drill the “air ports” and pilot holes for the self-taper screws.

10) A pack of hangers, actually paper-clips where you twist the ends to make an accentuated s-shape

Instructions

1) Drill about 150 holes from the inside out in about a 50 cm diameter grouping. Do this in four places with one such an “air port” in the lid of the plastic box
2) Ensure that one “air-port” is covered by the fan of the heater/fan. The best way to do this is to take a piece of paper and mark the flange holes thereon using a pen. Place the unit onto an old plate and using a screwdriver mark the top left hole of the flange against the box.
3) Use the template in 2), mark the pilot holes for the heater/fan.
4) Make an “air-port” around these four holes but mark the key four anchoring holes with a marker
5) Cut the shade cloth large enough to cover the “air-ports”.
6) Using the glue-gun cover the “air-ports” with shade cloth by gluing the shade cloth to cover the 50 holes produced in 1)
7) Attach the heater/fan using the self-taper screws

8) Make a 22mm hole to pass the red/black and green cables from the heater unit to outside the box

9) Seal up the hole with the glue gun

10) Connect red to red or brown, yellow to black or blue and green/yellow to green/yellow earth using the “chocolate connector block”

11) Have an electrically qualified person check the connector and then wrap it in electrical insulation tape

12) Measure from the top of the plastic box a line about 10cm from the rim on both sides, mark it with a line. At 50cm spacings from the side one side of the plastic box, mark an X. Drill 22mm holes on these Xs for both sides of the plastic box.

13) Push the dowels into these holes until the protrusion are the same on both sides then glue the insides of the penetrations with the glue gun, this holds them in place.

14) The dowels will allow you to attach meat and fruit etc. to the dowels hanging in the box

15) Avoid hanging anything over the heater/fan, this will foul it over time making it less effective.

16) Google “Crown Biltong spice” and buy a packet of this spice, follow the instructions thereon for venison, lamb and beef. Hang the meat on the dowels using paperclips.

17) For fruit make a 20% mixture of lemon juice and water and dip these fruit slices therein before hanging up with paperclips.

18) Hang meat or fruit and check daily by hand squeezing the food until it feels hard with a semi-soft centre or when the “secret sauce” controllers report 40% humidity in the box, it will be sealed.

19) After 3-5 days depending on local climate, enjoy your sustainable, desiccated food!!

If you can find a basket that fits into the box it is much easier than dowels

A version with two fans and heaters can be seen in the following link:

https://youtu.be/kOnGTktracE

Store in a brown paper packet and if you allow the centre to remain soft you can cut it with a serrated knife.

It is good to protect the whole setup with voltage and current appropriate fuses. In my case the LittleFuse Inc units are rated for 230V and I use a 3 amp fuse:

230V 5Amp Little Fuse Inc.

I posted a YouTube video to talk you through the build here:

Build video here

Alternatively, The ‘secret sauce’ controller is a controller that can switch the heat source every few seconds, giving better control in making your dried foods. It also allows all interactions via Bluetooth from your mobile phone and if you connect to your local Wifi will show progress on a webpage, how cool is that! It also uses RF to control a plug socket so no electrical connections required. This is the state-of-the-art. If you want to buy a plug and controller it costs $100. Leave a comment we will get your details for an order. You are really going to love it! 👍🌟🥩🌟👍