This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
The small cook-stove dryers, or evaporators, are like ovens and are usually made of galvanized sheet iron, or of wood and galvanized iron in combination. They are suitable for use on the top of an ordinary wood or coal range, or a kerosene stove. They are equipped with a series of small trays on which fruits or vegetables are placed after the preliminary preparation for drying.
In case a large amount is to be dried in a day, as, for instance, ten bushels of fruit, a portable out-door evaporator is especially convenient. Or, a home-made dry kiln can be cheaply and easily constructed of brick and stone.
A home-made, cook-stove dryer is inexpensive and easy to make. The dimensions should be 24 by 16 inches and the height 36 inches. A galvanized sheet-iron base 6 inches high should be made according to these dimensions. This should flare slightly towards the bottom and should have two small openings for ventilation in each of the four sides. A box-like frame 30 inches high, made of 1 or 1 1/2 inch strips of wood, should be fitted to the base, the two sides being braced with 1 1/4 inch strips of wood, placed at intervals of 3 inches. These form racks on which the trays may rest in the dryer. The frame should then be covered with tin or galvanized sheet iron, which may be tacked to the wooden strips of the frame. If more convenient, thin boards may be used instead of tin or sheet iron. The door should have small hinges, a latch or hook and should open wide.
The bottom of the dryer should be made of perforated galvanized sheet iron. Two inches above this bottom a solid sheet of galvanized iron, three inches less in length and width, should be rested on two wires, fastened to the sides of the dryer. This will prevent the direct heat from coming in contact with the product, allows a free circulation of heat and acts as a radiator.
A dryer of this size will hold eight trays, 21 by 15 inches. The frame should be made of one-inch strips of wood on which galvanized screen wire should be tacked. The reason that these trays are not so large as the dryer is because it is necessary to have currents of heated air circulating over the product as well as through it. And to produce this effect, the first tray must be placed three inches above the radiator and pushed to the back, leaving a space in front. The next tray is even with the front, leaving a three-inch space in the back, and the other trays alternate in the same way. A ventilator should be left in the top of the dryer so that the moist air may pass away through it.
If the drying is to be done in the oven, convenient trays can be made of galvanized wire screen, with the edges bent up an inch. Or, trays of this type may be purchased at a reasonable figure in sizes to fit all standard gas range ovens. As many trays as possible should be used in an oven at one time, and if a gas, or kerosene, stove is being used, an extra tray or two may be placed on rests on top of the oven as well.
A very simple device for drying, which is still in use in some districts, consists of a good-sized wooden frame, about as large as the top of the coal or wood stove. After being covered with a galvanized screen, it is inverted and suspended from the ceiling above the stove, by means of ropes and pulleys. The vegetable or fruit is prepared, put on the screen and, when the fire is very hot, the rack is pulled up, away from the intense heat, and when the fire is slow, it should be lowered.