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Preserving Food: Dehydrating

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

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:

Nearly any vegetable can be dehydrated, including these colorful heirloom carrots. Image:(c)Marye Audet 2008
Nearly any vegetable can be dehydrated, including these colorful heirloom carrots. Image:(c)Marye Audet 2008

Supplies

  • 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:

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Figs
  • Berries
  • Cherries

  • Pineapple

Dip the following into Ascorbic acid (lemon juice or vitamin c) to prevent discoloring:

  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Bananas

Vegetables

  • Beets
  • Butternut squash
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Green pepper
  • Green beans
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsley (all herbs, in fact)
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Summer squash

Meats:

  • 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

  1. You can dehydrate spagetti sauce. Just spoon it over a special fruit leather sheet and place in your dehydrator.
  2. You can store a mixture of vegetables together for an easy addition to stew or soups.
  3. Always date and identify your packages.
  4. Make up your own hamburger helper type meals to get through those very busy days.
  5. Always rehydrate for the recommended amount of time.
  6. Never use foods that seem to have an off smell, or look funny.
  7. 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!

Comments

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    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 5 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      I never thought about dehydrating kiwi! great idea

    • profile image

      Robin 5 years ago

      I find that kiwi dehydrates very well, and the Grand kids love it.

    • breathe2travel profile image

      breathe2travel 6 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      This is great! do you have a resource/reference of expiration for various dried foods?

      Thanks. Useful, up. :)

      Warm regards~

    • EnergyAdvisor profile image

      EnergyAdvisor 6 years ago from The nearest planet to Venus

      This has been absolutely informational for me. I'd always took these things for granted, I mean foot wise. I'm a woodworker and I have a small solar kiln to dry my wood. Maybe I can stack some food in it too:). Really great!

    • profile image

      Laura 6 years ago

      Dan, I know this isn't the most timely response (and you may have already found a solution), but I have been recently looking into dehydrating food and I came across this really easy outdoor solar dehydrator plan. http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Cooking/Food%...

      There are many other plans out there, just search for "solar dehydrator plans" and you will find a variety of options.

    • profile image

      Robyn 7 years ago

      I particularly like making fruit leather. It tastes better than store bought and, if made well, will not include the extra sugars and syrups that the imitation store roll ups do. Thanks.

    • Camping Dan profile image

      Camping Dan 7 years ago

      I have been wanting to dehydrate my own fruits and veggies for a long time. That way I can stock up when they are in season and not worry about losing them to spoilage.

      I have been trying to find plans for a solar outdoor dehydrator but I cannot seem to find any on the web. Do you know of any?

    • profile image

      Alex 7 years ago

      Spaghetti sauce! Never thought of that one. Great idea. Thanks for sharing and posting photos of it.

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 8 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Safety-Actually less than canning or freezing. It is a great way to store food.

    • safetyfirst profile image

      safetyfirst 8 years ago

      Great post. I didn't realize that you could dehydrate all of those different foods. I'll have to reference this for later. I do have a quick question. Does the food lose any nutritive value when you dehydrate? Thanks.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks-- I'm going to re-read this. I've always wanted to know more about this and I think it might be something useful to know. In the summer our garden and fruit trees give us more than we can use-- even after we share.

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