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Preserving Food: Dehydrating
What is Dehydrating?
Dehydrating food is an age old way to preserve fresh foods for later use. It has been around a lot longer than any other preservation method, is simple, and less labor intensive than freezing or canning.
Dried foods take up much less space, and retain the food value very well. You can use the sun to dehydrate foods or you can buy an electric food dehydrator especially for the purpose.
When the food is completely dried it is packed in containers, labeled, and stored in a cool, dry spot. It will maintain it's quality until you are ready to rehydrate it and cook.
Another benefit to it is backpacking! You can dehydrate full meals, slip them in ziploc bags, and pack them in to the most remote areas. The need no refrigeration, and are light and easy to carry.
If you are convinced then here is what you will need:
- Dehydrator or screens if you are dehydrating outside using the sun
- Storage containers
- Fresh food
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Cheesecloth-for keeping small items from slipping through the screens
- Nonstick spray
- Labels and pen
That is really about it. Drying food is THAT easy.
Are you wondering what you can dry? The list is literally almost endless. Here is a partial list of the foods that can be dried:
Dip the following into Ascorbic acid (lemon juice or vitamin c) to prevent discoloring:
- Butternut squash
- Green pepper
- Green beans
- Parsley (all herbs, in fact)
- Summer squash
- Sliced beef
- Cooked hamburger
- Cooked, ground pork or lamb,
- Cooked Bacon (make your own bacon bits!)
Poultry does not dry well at all, and becomes tough.
When is it Dehyrdrated?
You will know when the food is completely dehydrated by the texture of the food.
Vegetables- these will not be brittle but have a leathery texture. Whole vegetables like peas or corn that have been dried will be like small pebbles
Purees and Leathers (fruit and vegetable)- these will darken as they dry, and pull right off the pan or drying rack when they are done.
Meat - Ground meat will be dry and crumbly. Jerky will be brittle.
Fruit- most fruit will be dry and leathery. Berries will be hard, like pebbles. If the fruit does not stick to each-other it is probably dried enough.
Dehydrating Spagetti Sauce
Tips for Using Dehydrated Foods
- You can dehydrate spagetti sauce. Just spoon it over a special fruit leather sheet and place in your dehydrator.
- You can store a mixture of vegetables together for an easy addition to stew or soups.
- Always date and identify your packages.
- Make up your own hamburger helper type meals to get through those very busy days.
- Always rehydrate for the recommended amount of time.
- Never use foods that seem to have an off smell, or look funny.
- Always follow manufacturer's instructions for dehydrating.
Make Your Own Natural Fruit Roll Ups
Always select very ripe or slightly overripe fruit.
Wash the fresh fruit. Remove the peel, seeds and stem. Cut it into chunks.
Using 2 cups of fruit for each 13" X 15" fruit leather, puree until very smooth. Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice for each 2 cups of light colored fruit (such as peaches, apples, pears, etc) to prevent darkening.
Add 1/4 c honey per 2 cups of fruit to sweeten. Spread on screen and dry. That's it!
Drying foods is a great thing to know how to do.
Dried foods take up little space, last a long time, and don't require refrigeration or electricity of any sort. Dehydrated food is a very earth friendly alternative to preserving your harvest!