Yes You Can Dehydrate

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Dehydration of Food is one of the oldest methods of preserving food for later use.  Food dehydration is not a practice most Americans are familiar with. It is not something our mothers or grandmothers generally did while we were growing up, but it has made a comeback in recent years.

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Bulking up on food for long term food storage is always a good idea in the case a long term disaster were to occur.  However, those who are preparing for long term disasters know that purchasing long term food sources such as freeze dried foods have the advantage of lasting for 10 years, but it can be costly.  There is another method that is both cost effective, and more nutritious.

Dehydrated foods are ideal for backpacking, hiking, and camping because they weigh much less than their non-dried counterparts and do not require refrigeration. Drying food is also a way of preserving seasonal foods for later use.  Nutritionally dried fruits and vegetables are not that different from fresh fruits and vegetables because they aren’t cooked when dehydrated (unlike canned or frozen fruits or vegetables).  The process of dehydration only removes moisture and liquid from fresh fruits and vegetables.

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What You Need To Dehydrate Food…………..

    • A dehydrator
    • A knife
    • A cutting board
    • Air-tight containers or freezer bags
    • Spices, sugar, or salt (optional)
    • Ascorbic acid or citric acid(optional)
    • A pot for blanching vegetables (optional)

How long will Dehydrated Foods Keep??

Storage life depends on conditions.  Dried food has been found on archeological digs that was still technically “edible”, but definitely not a yummy. Dried produce and herbs should last around a year (from one season to the next) if properly stored.  I’ve kept items longer, but flavor, color and nutrients diminish over time.

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Food Dehydrator Hints and Tips

The key to dehydrating food is to experiment and to keep notes about what you have done and these tips should help you as well………………

    • The thinner you slice, the quicker the drying so it’s helpful if all the food in a batch is of consistent thickness. That way, it’s all done at the same time.
    • When is it done? It depends. If you want something crisp, keep going ‘till it’s dry enough to snap. With juicy items like plums, they should still be pliable, like leather. To test to see if fruit is dry enough, try tearing a piece in half.
    • If no moisture beads along the edge of the tear, you’re probably done. Most food dehydrators come with a booklet that gives recommended temperature and drying times. You can often start the dryer in one evening and it will be done the following morning.
    • If you’re worried that you might still have too much moisture in your first attempts, you can always store the dried food in the freezer.
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    • Store your dried foods, loosely packed, in jars or airtight plastic bags. If you pack it too tightly, you may get a moisture-pocket that encourages spoilage. Store in a dark, cool place if possible, to make it last as long as possible.
    • Dry what you have! It doesn’t make sense to go out and buy food in the store to dry (or preserve by any method, really), but if you grow your own food or have an inexpensive source for fresh food, consider drying a portion of it.
    • If it doesn’t work, don’t sweat it. Try a small batch first if you’re uncertain. I once tried drying several pounds of figs given to us by our neighbor, Tom. Everyone loves fig newtons, right? They were terrible, spiky things (apparently you need a certain variety of figs for drying) that I ended up putting out for the birds — who also rejected them!
    • Cleaning the racks can be a tedious job. I suggest soaking them overnight either in a utility sink or the bathtub (they are too big for my kitchen sink) so the dried-on foods scrub off easily.

 

Approximate times for dehydrating food in a dehydrator. Actual Drying time will vary according to the size of pieces, temperatures and even humidity. You’ll notice that these are very general guidelines.

Type of Food How to Prepare Approximate Drying Time Notes
How to dry Apples Slice apples 1/4 inch. Pre-treat. Peeling is optional. 6 – 10 hours at 135 degrees Apples can be sprinkled with cinnamon sugar for a fun snack.
Drying Apricots Cut in half, pit and press inside out. 6-12 hours at 135 degrees. Apricots should be ripe and somewhat soft. Not green.
Drying Strawberries Wash remove cores. Slice 1/4 inch, lay out on trays. 4-6 hours at 135 degrees. Strawberries are probably the easiest and quickest fruit to dry.
How to Dry Cherries Cut in half, pit, and lay out on trays Dry at 165 for 2-3 hours, then at 135 until leathery. Texture will resemble a raisin. Cherries take a very long time to dry, I’m not convinced it is economical to do it, but they sure are tasty!
How to Dry Peaches and Pears Pears should be ripe but not soft. Peel, core or pit, and slice into quarters or 6ths. Treat to prevent browning. 6-12 hours at 135 degrees. Pears are my favorite dehydrated fruit.

Dehydrating Vegetables

  • Most vegetables will dry to a crisp state. The veggie should snap and not bend when fully dry.
  • The more evenly you cut your foods the more evenly they will dry.
  • Vegetables are better to be cut smaller. This speeds up the drying time.
Type of Food How to Prepare Approximate Drying Time Notes
Dehydrating Tomatoes Slice tomatoes 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Peeling is optional, I never do. 6 – 12 hours at 145 degrees These can be crumbled or even ground in a blender to make tomato powder.
How to Dry Cherry Tomatoes Wash and remove stem. Slice in half and lay on trays cut side up. Salting or seasoning is optional. at 145 degrees. Very tasty!These will dry more leathery not as crisp. They also take much longer than regular tomatoes.
Dehydrating Sweet Potatoes Peel and slice sweet potatoes 1/4 inch thick. Blanch 3 minutes. 4-10 hours at 125 degrees. I tried to make these for snacking on… like the zucchini chips. I did not care for them as a snack.
How to Dry Peppers Remove tops and seed peppers. Slice or dice and lay out on trays. 5-12 hours at 125 degrees. Don’t forget to wear gloves when handling hot peppers. Leave the seeds if you want hot. Dried red peppers can be ground to make chili powder.
How to Dry Carrots Peel or scrub. Dice or slice 1/4 inch. Blanch 3 to 4 minutes. 6-12 hours at 125 degrees. If you dry these diced, be sure and stir the carrots occasionally during drying. This prevents them from sticking together and will encourage more even drying.
Drying Green Beans Snap beans into 1 inch pieces. Blanch 4 to 6 minutes. Spread on trays. 6-12 hours at 125 degrees. Very easy to dry.
Dehydrating Zucchini Dice or slice into 1/4 inch pieces. 5-10 hours at 125 degrees. Use diced dried zucchini in soups and casseroles.Add seasoning salt to slices before drying to make zucchini chips.
Dehydrating Corn Blanch and slice corn from the cob. 12-14 hours at 120 degrees. Use dried corn in soups and casseroles. Chew on it just as it is for a snack attack.

 

If you don’t have an herb garden, you can still make use of your food dehydrator by buying herbs that are in season. Stock up and “grow” your own herb and spice collection by drying them for later

Prior to dehydrating, never chop or cut any parts of the herb that you will be dehydrating (leaves, petals, etc.). This will release oils and reduce the flavor of your finished product. Instead, dry the plant as a whole and then break or crush after fully dehydrated.

Keep your dehydrator between 90-100°F when dehydrating herbs.

If you wash your herbs first, dry any excess water (hang upside down to air dry or fold between a paper towel) from your herbs before placing them in your dehydrator.

TIP Remember that 1 teaspoon of dried herbs = 1 tablespoon of fresh.

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Herbs You Can Dry in a Food Dehydrator

Herb
Prep
Drying Time
Basil
Use leaves near top of plant
20-24 hours
Chives
Chop, rinse, pat dry
20-24 hours
Cilantro
Rinse, pat dry
15-18 hours
Dill
Rinse, pat dry
1-3 hours
Garlic Clove
Cut in half, pat dry
6-12 hours
Ginger Root
Slice 3/8″, grate, pat dry
2-5 hours
Marjoram
Rinse, pat dry
1-3 hours
Mint Leaves
Rinse, pat dry
20-24 hours
Oregano
Rinse, pat dry
15-18 hours
Parsley
Rinse, pat dry
20-24 hours
Rosemary
Rinse, pat dry
20-24 hours
Sage
Rinse, pat dry
20-24 hours
Tarragon
Rinse, pat dry
20-24 hours
Thyme
Rinse, pat dry
1-3 hours

SO WHY DEHYDRATED FRUITS AND VEGGIES…………………… Dehydrated fruits and veggies have intense, INTENSE! flavors!  Each thin slice of dehydrated tomato packs a wallop of flavor that you don’t find in a fresh slice.  Something amazing happens to the flavor once all the water has been removed.

It offers something different in the healthy snack category.  Your  kids will love the  applesauce fruit leather they made themselves.  They never get bored because one day it’s apple-cinnamon leather, another day it’s apple-peach leather, and a tasty apple-strawberry version is on tap for tomorrow!  A #10 can of applesauce from Sam’s Club or Costco provides sheets and sheets of fruit leather, one of the easiest snacks in the world to pack in a lunch bag or backpack.

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(Applesauce!  Buy a #10 can of applesauce at Costco for right around $5.  Spread a thin layer of applesauce on a plastic tray  and dehydrate.  When it is dry, you have your own fruit leather!  Roll it up, and store.  Add cinnamon, pureed strawberries or peaches, or anything else you can think of for variety. )

Something is always in season!  The best bargains in produce are usually found when a particular fruit or vegetable is in season.  Farmer’s markets, food co-ops, fruit stands, and pick-your-own-produce farms can offer amazing bargains.  All that fresh goodness is easily transformed into dehydrated versions at a cost far less than commercially dehydrated foods.

Dehydrated foods don’t lose their nutritional value and maintain water soluble vitamins and minerals.

Dehydrate your own herbs and you’ll never have to pay top dollar for them again nor watch them rot in the fridge.

If space is an issue, dehydrated foods are your friend!  Twenty pounds of fresh tomatoes filled two large glass jars in my pantry once they were sliced and dehydrated!

You’ll never have to run to the grocery store at the last minute for carrots or onions or potatoes or celery or green beans if you have jars of the dehydrated versions in your pantry.

Using a food dehydrator is one of those kitchen activities that’s part cooking, part science project. With a gentle blast of warm air, you can turn slices of fresh fruits and vegetables into crispy, crunchy, vitamin-packed snacks.

The process is simple: a heating element acts as a low-temperature oven, while a fan circulates the warm air for maximum evaporation of moisture from foods. All you have to do is place the food on the dehydrator trays, set the temperature and timer, then check to make sure they are done.  There’s plenty of room for experimentation, such as seasoning sweet potato chips with rosemary or sprinkling fruit slices with cinnamon, as you’ll see in the easy recipes that follow.

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There are just 4 Easy Steps To Dehydrate…………

1. Arrange seasoned or plain sliced fruits and vegetables on dehydrator trays without overlapping.

2. Set the temperature. For foods to dry out completely and still be considered raw, the temperature should be set to 104°F. Cooks who aren’t concerned with the raw aspect may prefer setting the dehydrator to 135°F to shorten drying times.

3. Check regularly, and rotate trays. Dehydrating fruits and vegetables can take 2 to 19 hours, depending on moisture content and humidity in the air. To test for doneness, cut a slice. Food is dehydrated when no moisture beads appear in the cut.

4. Cool and store in an airtight container in a dark, dry place. If leftovers lose their crispness, return to dehydrator 1 to 2 hours to restore the desired texture.

If you have a garden and expect a decent harvest this year, put food dehydration on the top of your To Learn list! 

 

 Sauces are the best to practice dehydrating with. One jar of spaghetti sauce placed in the dehydrator or oven is reduced to a thin slice of what looks like fruit leather. Once at camp, place a small amount of the dried sauce in (½ cup) of boiling water and it turns right back into the original spaghetti sauce.

Preparing the Strawberries for the Dehydrator

Remove the hulls, leaves and stems. Rinse the berries gently in cool water and allow to drain in a colander. Slice the strawberries ½ inch slices. There is no need to pre-treat strawberries as they generally lose very little of their original color to oxidation.

If you prefer sweeter-tasting strawberries, you can syrup blanch them before dehydrating. Mix 1 cup sugar, 1 cup white corn syrup and 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and add sliced fruit.

Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to rest for 30 to 45 minutes. Drain the syrup from the fruit.

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Dehydrating Strawberries

Whether you sweeten or not, place the sliced strawberries in a single layer on the dehydrator trays. Drying time with most dehydrators is anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. If your dehydrator has temperature controls, consult the owner’s manual for the appropriate temperature though fruits are generally dehydrated between 130° and 140°. It is important t pay close attention towards the end of the drying time.

To tell if the strawberries are dehydrated sufficiently, remove a slice and allow it to cool. It should be pliable and leathery. Tear it apart and check for tiny dots of moisture along the tear. If none appear, it is fully dehydrated.

Storing Dehydrated Strawberries

Dehydrated foods last the longest and taste the best when stored in a cool dry place. Ideally the constant temperature should between 60°F and below freezing. Freezer bags or containers are ideal. Glass jars with tight-fitting lids are another good choice. As long as your storage place is out of the direct light and not subject to heat, your dehydrated strawberries should last up to 12 months.

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For fun, try making your own Strawberry Butter. This is awesome on fresh baked rolls. Mix 8 ounces of whipped butter, 2 cups of powdered sugar and ½ cup of dehydrated strawberries until sugar is absorbed and strawberries bits are distributed evenly throughout. Spoon into mason jars and secure lid. Store in the refrigerator. You can add decorative lid covers to the jars and give these away as gifts.

Lemons do not need any prep prior to dehydrating. Simply slice them into a uniform thickness and dehydrate at 120-125°F for 8-10 (if sliced very thin) or 12-15 (if sliced approximately 1/4 inch thick) hours. One thing about lemons is they will often turn black in color after years of storage. Don’t worry, this is normal and your lemons are still good to eat!

Remember to add salt AFTER everything is cooked. Salt slows down the rehydrating process.

HOW TO MAKE ONION POWDER……………..

  • 1 or more large yellow onions

Slice up the onion and remove the peel.  Place the onion on trays for a dehydrator or on baking sheets.  Turn the oven or dehydrator to about 150 degrees.  Dry for 5 – 6 hours, or until completely “crunchy,” no longer “mushy” at all.  Grind these in a small coffee or spice grinder.  Store in a small glass jar.

Simple Meat Marinade Recipe

  • 1½ – 2 lbs lean meat…Slice partially frozen meat into strips no thicker than ¼ inch. Trim and discard any fat.
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp hickory-smoke flavored salt

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Combine all ingredients. Place strips of meat in a shallow pan and cover with marinade. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour to 2 hours or overnight. Heating meat to reduce chances of food-borne illness should be done at the end of marinating. Bringing strips and marinade to a boil for about 5 minutes will accomplish this. Drain.

Drying meats…..

Drain strips on a clean, absorbent towel. Place strips in a single layer, making sure they don’t touch or overlap. Dehydrate at 140°F until a test piece will crack, but not snap, when bent. Remove dried strips from rack and cool.

If the meat strips were not heated to 160°F in marinade prior to drying, you may want to do this in an oven after drying. Place the dried strips on a baking sheet and cook at for 275°F, or until meat reaches 160°F. This process adds an additional safety step to the process.

Ronco-FD1005WHGEN-5-Tray-Electric-Food-DehydratorTURKEY JERKY

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated onion
  • 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated lemon peel
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 pound chicken or turkey, sliced into 1/4″ thick strips
  • Salt to sprinkle

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, blending well. Place 1 lb of sliced raw meat into a large ziploc bag, pour the marinade over the meat. Close the bag, using your fingers, work the marinade around all of the meat pieces, carefully, making sure each piece is thoroughly coated in marinade. Remove as much air as possible from the bag, seal. Place the meat in the fridge for 18-24 hours.

Place the raw marinated meat in strips on a tray in the oven at 160F for 30 minutes (Before drying!) Then Dry using your favorite method………………

Storing meat jerky…

Meat strips should be packaged in glass jars or heavy plastic storage bags. Jerky can be stored at room temperature for 2 weeks in a sealed container. For the longest shelf life, flavor, and quality jerky, store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Yogurt Drops…..

Yogurt: any flavor, any quantity  Thicker brands of commercial yogurt work best. Drop quarter-teaspoons (1/4 teaspoon) of yogurt onto a lightly-oiled fruit roll sheet. Dry in your dehydrator for 8–16 hours at 135° until chewy. Remove from sheet while warm. Chill and store in refrigerator or freezer.

Optional: for fun, sprinkle drops with chopped peanuts or coconut before drying.

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Don’t forget that you can dehydrate all your frozen fruits and vegetables from your grocery store, saving you room in your freezer. All your frozen foods have already been prepped, just open the bag and throw them on the tray frozen. This includes thick French fries and hash browns. Melons are better if pureed and made into fruit rollups. Frozen strawberries are easier to cut when they are only halfway frozen.

When peeling your oranges, mangos, papayas, apples, peaches, pears, and lemons place the skins on the tray with the skin side facing DOWN and dehydrate. After dehydrating most skins can be ground and put in homemade herbal teas, sauces, cookies, cakes, and breads.

For anyone who is new to dehydrating, I recommend you watch some of the videos at dehydrate2store.  I learned a lot from those when I was first starting a couple of years ago.

  The most common and easiest fruits and vegetables to dry are apples, bananas, berries, cherries, peaches, apricots, pears, peas, corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, onion, potatoes, mushrooms, green beans and carrots.

 

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

When people think you’re crazy for storing food, just forgive them and keep on storing. Building a pantry for your family is one of the smartest things you can do. It’s not about digging a hole and hiding it, It’s about preparedness against hyperinflation so that we will always be able to afford food for our families.

It’s about having a reliable source (and a green source) of storage that does not rely on electricity or refrigeration.

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In planning for a long term disaster, people are always trying to find foods they can look forward to that will give them optimum nutrition. 

Having the necessary vitamins and nutrition will give a person mental clarity, and strength to carry on during a disaster.  After all, surviving and being healthy is what matters.

 

Enjoy!

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