DIY - Dehydrating Food
The world’s oldest from of food preservation is dehydrating food. This can be done in a number of ways, but this article will discuss the use of an electric food dehydrator. This is not your typical kitchen appliance, so many people are not familiar with its use. This really is a great appliance to add to your DIY skills.
My husband, and I decided we would purchase a NESCO Dehydrator & Jerky Maker, plus a Jerky Works Kit just before Christmas. We have begun to experiment with various foods in order to learn to properly dehydrate beef or venison jerky and other foods. We also plan to try more fruits, vegetables, herbs and pet treats.
Advantages of Preparing Dehydrated Food
Some of the advantages that we appreciate include:
- Using organic food
- The lack of preservatives
- The process retains almost 100% of its nutritional value
- The alkalinity of fresh produce is retained
- Bacterial growth is inhibited
- Flavors, nutrients and enzymes are preserved
- Dehydrated food can last for months or sometimes years, depending on proper storage
How to Dehydrate Food
The first thing we tried was a small, thinly sliced steak. My husband sliced the meat in long slices about the half the size of a slice of bacon. The size you choose is based on personal preference. The thickness and size of the meat, vegetables or fruit all determine the length of time it takes to compete the dehydrating process. Herbs, fruits and vegetables are dried at lower temperatures as compared to meats and fish.
Making Jerky with Ground Meat
Jerky is a favorite snack around the house, for school lunches or when camping. There are numerous recipes to flavor jerky to suite your taste. The meat should be at least 80% to 90% lean. Some of the typical ingredients for jerky are Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, garlic powder, soy sauce, salt, pepper, numerous spices, red pepper, such as cayenne or chipotle, and various teriyaki marinade recipes.
The meat is dried from 145° to 165° anywhere from four to 14 hours. Then, the meat is laid out to dry on paper towels that will absorb any leftover grease. When the meat is cool, it is packed tightly in mason jars or other well-sealed containers. It can be frozen or kept in the refrigerator.
Recipe Book for Dehydrating Food
Top-mounted fan; adjustable thermostat from 95-to-160 degrees F. It's a 600 watts unit.
Flavors don't mix; no need to rotate trays; opaque exterior blocks harmful lights. Includes recipe book, 2 solid sheets, 2 mesh sheets, and 3 jerky spice packets.
Try Some Dehydrated Vegetables
Zucchini chips can be made ready to dehydrate in approximately 10 minutes by evenly, but thinly sliced the washed zucchini. Lay the slices in a single layer on a dehydrator tray and sprinkle with sea salt. Use the 115° setting and dehydrate for approximately six hours.
Sweet Potato Chips:
Scrub the sweet potatoes and follow the same directions as the zucchini chips. These are also cooked at about 115°, but they take approximately 12 hours. The time will always depend on the thickness of the slices.
Fruit is very simple to dehydrate in most cases. Bananas, strawberries, apples and grapes are all popular choices. You can dehydrate apples with the skin on or peeled. We decided to peel three Granny Smith apples. We peeled and sliced them, and we sprinkled a little cinnamon on about one half of them. All of the apples were delicious.
When you dehydrate fruit many people pretreat them. We did pretreated our apples with ½ cup of lemon juice in two cups of water for 10 minutes. Another pretreatment method is to steam the fruit in a steamer basket for 3-4 minutes; then, rinse with cool weather and blot dry.
Bananas are also usually pretreated to keep them from turning dark, although some people enjoy the fruit with the darker color. Fruit roll sheets are also included in our dehydrator, which we haven’t tried yet. These are very popular with children or grandchildren.
Any fruit can be dehydrated and pineapples are popular, which we decided to try. The most time consuming task is peeling and coring the pineapple. Pretreatment is unnecessary. The pineapple must be sliced, which we did by hand. There are slicers that can be purchased that will help slice fruit and meat very evenly. It takes approximately 12 to 14 hours on the fruit setting. We put the slices in the freezer for two weeks to pasteurize them. Then, they can be put in a sealed container and kept in a cool dry place.
Pineapple in Dehydrator
Other Ways to Use Your Dehydrator
Dehydrating herbs and spices is simple to do, and while they are not quite as tasty as fresh, they are much better than the ones purchased at the store. Not as much water is removed, so the flavor is more concentrated. Dark colored containers that are airtight are perfect for herbs and spices.
Treats for dogs can also be made using chicken, liver, other meats and sweet potatoes. I have seen other recipes for dog treats, such as liver-pumpkin cookies. The recipes are healthy for your pet and easy to make.
Dried flowers are also a nice way to decorate your home. A dehydrator can be used for wreathes or potpourri.
There are certainly numerous ways to keep your dehydrator running most of the time. If you want to build up a stock of various types of foods to last, a dehydrator is a great thing to own.
© 2014 Pamela Oglesby
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