Food Preservation – Dehydrating food

preppers will - dehydrating food   In a crisis involving you and your loved ones, everything will lead down to the basics, you will need food and water to survive. Food will probably run out much faster than water and you will have to rely on your stockpiled supplies. This is why is better to prepare from time and store as much food as possible. When it comes to food storage we have to think of cheap and efficient methods of preserving the food and here is where dehydrating food comes in handy.

It is one of the oldest forms of food preservation technique that causes the removal of moisture from food, suppressing the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast. The main purpose of drying food has always been to extend its shelf life and have food available without storage costs.

The first and most basic form of food dehydration requires only solar and air drying, as we expose the raw ingredients to the sun and/or hot air for long periods of time.

Nowadays, food drying at home is done by oven, electric food dryers or dehydrators. But if you have a large area in your propriety you could air dry or solar dry fresh goods, as long as you secure it from animal activity.

Drying food at home has its benefits:

  1. Food dried properly will last for years if it’s stored in suitable containers (air tight bags). It will not lose its flavor and structural integrity.
  2. During dehydration, the moisture from foods is removed and these foods become smaller, they can be easily packed and stored in small containers, saving space in your pantry.
  3. Dried foods are lighter and this makes them suitable for travel. Besides being very portable, these foods can be eaten raw and you won’t have to cook during your travels.
  4. Except for some specific recipes, drying food doesn’t require additional ingredients. You don’t have to use sugar, vinegar or other preservatives during the drying process.
  5. Drying is cost-effective because you can take advantage of the seasonal fruits and vegetables and buy them when at their cheapest. You can stockpile your pantry without killing your budget.
  6. Drying food intensifies flavor and it’s healthier for you. Once the water content is removed the food tastes stronger. Not to mention that you can replace commercial products (snacks, chips, etc) by dehydrating fresh produce. You won’t have to worry about the high amounts of sugar, salt and especially trans-fat.

Food drying can be done through different methods and you can chose the one best suited for you and your needs.

Dehydrating using Sun and Air

preppers will - Dehydration using Sun and Air  This is one of the oldest forms of food drying and requires setting food items to dry directly in the sun or naturally flowing hot air. It can take several days of optimal temperatures to successfully dehydrate food and this is why it is a method preferred in areas with high temperatures. People from tropical regions use this method very often, since it’s an economical way of preserving their food.

This method will require you to secure the area used for drying the food. This means you will have to prevent any animal or insect activity in that area for the entire time the food was dried.

Fruits, vegetables, seafood and meats are all good option for solar/air dehydration.

Tools needed for Solar-Air dehydration:

  • Sun and air flow ( 80 Degree climate or more)
  • Cheesecloth
  • Teflon coated baking racks
  • Shelves
  • Clothes line

How to Sun/Air Dry your food:

  1. Wash, cut and prepare the food you selected for drying. Make sure you cut the foods into even shapes and sizes, this will help you later one during the storing process. It takes less time for thin strips to dry, than for thick strips. If the foods you chose are prone to oxidation you can use organic/raw lime or lemon juice to preserve their color.
  2. Lay the cut pieces of food out in the sun on trays or hanging on lines. Never use trays made from aluminum or the ones coated with copper, fiberglass or vinyl screens as they can be affected by the food moisture and your food will get the metallic taste. Use the Teflon coated trays recommended. Elevate the trays 1-2 inches so that the air can flow underneath them.
  3. Place the trays at a safe distance from pollutants that could affect the taste of smell of the fod (cars, steam vents, garbage cans, etc). Also make sure there aren’t children and pets in the area as they may knock them over and your work will be in vain.
  4. Cover the food trays with cheesecloth to protect them from animal and insects.
  5. Check the food and flip it once you’ve noticed one side is dry enough. Do not touch the food very often as you can contaminate it with the oils and moisture from your hands, not to mention the microbial transfer that may occur (we don’t always remember to wash our hands). There is no exact science for measuring the time needed for flipping the food, if you mush touch the food you can use a pair of silicone gloves.
  6. During hot days place the food in the shade to prevent excessive color loss.
  7. Depending on the weather from your region, this method can take hours or days. You will need to have patience.
  8. As a precaution you can place the sun dried food in a preheated oven at a low 150°C or 65°F for 30 minutes. This will make sure the microorganisms and spores won’t have any chance of multiplying.

FoodProduction

Dehydrating using an oven

Preppers will - Dehydration using ovenThis is another method of food drying widely used, but it’s very different than solar-air drying. This method involves using a gas or electrical oven and it’s much faster than sun drying. It is preferred by many as the food is not exposed to elements, pests or any other risk of contamination and they don’t have to spend time and energy to secure the drying area.

Tools needed for oven dehydration:

  •  Oven (electrical or gas) with racks
  • Slotted racks or trays

How to Oven Dry your food:

  1. Wash, cut and prepare the food you selected for drying. Follow the same instruction from the previous method regarding the cutting of food and oxidation prevention.
  2. Place your food in the oven, directly on the racks or in the trays.
  3. Turn the oven on the lowest temperature, but not below 60°F and not above 65°F. If you set it higher the food will burn.
  4. Open the oven door by an inch to allow air flow. This will speed up the drying process as the steam escapes.
  5. Switch the racks around for an even drying. In every oven the lowest rack will receive the highest heat while the highest one will be much cooler and this is why you must switch the trays around regularly. You could use only one rack and place it in the middle, but it will take much more time to finish the entire batch of food.
  6. If you dry meat, poultry, fish and other seafood items you will need to flip over these foods. It is not required to do so for fruits and vegetables.
  7. As with solar-air drying, the time needed to properly dehydrate the food depends on its type and the content of moisture. Luckily here you can touch and check the food much more easily as long as you wash your hands.

Dehydrating using food dehydrators

Preppers will - Dehydration using dehydratorFood dehydrators are special appliances designed for the sole purpose of drying food. There are two types on the market, electric and solar and they can process any type of food items. You have to carefully read the instruction manuals before acquiring one in order to be sure it fits your needs. A word of advice: if you buy an electric one, make sure it has a fan and a thermostat. The fan will help circulate the air and remove the smell, while the thermostat will help you regulate the heat at any time.

Tools needed for dehydration:

How to dry your food using a food dehydrator:

  1.  Wash, cut and prepare the food you selected for drying. Follow the same instruction from the previous method regarding the cutting of food and oxidation prevention.
  2. Add the foods to the dehydrator and follow the owner’s manual for the drying process to work.
  3. Once you’ve dried the food, let it cool at room temperature before storing it into containers. If the food is cold, it will not build up steam and condensation in the containers.

Storage instruction:

  • Pack dried food in small containers. Pack according to the servings you need to prevent opening and closing the containers too often.
  • Keep dehydrated food sealed in air-tight container at room temperature.
  • Food will last for years, but it’s better to check it after one year to make sure it’s still good. Do random checks in your pantry.
  • Label your containers so that you know what they contain and prevent opening them for checking what’s inside.

Some of my favorite dehydration recipes:

Dehydrated Turkey Jerky

Preparation Time: 30 minutes | Cooking Time: 2 hours | Ready In: 19 hours | Servings: 1 pound

preppers will - Dehydrated Turkey JerkyINGREDIENTS:

  •  2 pounds boneless skinless turkey breast
  • 2 tablespoons chilli-garlic paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried red chilli flakes
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey

HOW TO:

  1. Cover the turkey breast with plastic wrap and freeze it for 2 hours. Remove it from the fridge and slice it into ¼ inch slices.
  2. Mix the chilli garlic paste, red chilli flakes, soy sauce and honey in a large bowl. Let the turkey slice marinate in the mixture, at cold for 12 hours.
  3. Remove the bowl from the fridge, dry the slices and let them come to room temperature for 30-40 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 165°F and spray cooking spray on the oven racks (remove them from the oven when spraying).
  5. Place the turkey strips horizontally across the oven racks, such that they don’t touch each other. If the strips are moist you need to soak the marinade using paper, before placing them on the racks. It will be less cleaning for you.
  6. Dehydrate the jerky for 2 hours.
  7. Remove the jerky from the oven and let it cool before serving or storing.

 Dehydrated Risotto

Preparation Time: 30 minutes | Cooking Time: 9 hours | Ready In: 9 hours and 30 minutes | Servings: 3

preppers will - Dehydrated RisottoINGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup short grain rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

HOW TO:

  1. Place a deep pot over medium heat and add olive oil to it. Add the onions and garlic once the oil is heated and cook until they become translucent.
  2. Boil the broth in a separate pot over medium heat.
  3. Add the rice to the pot with onions and garlic and stir for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour the wine over the onion and garlic and stir until it’s absorbed.
  5. Add the mushrooms and the boiled broth, ½ cup at a time to the pot. Let the liquid be absorbed before adding more and stir
  6. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the risotto to cool down.
  7. Once cooled, spread it out on dehydrator sheets.
  8. Dry for 3 hours and then separate any rice grains sticking to each other. Dry for another 4 hours and ruby the risotto grains with your palms to separate them even more.
  9. Dry for another hour before removing it and transferring it to packing containers. Pack the parmesan cheese in small plastic bags alongside the containers with risotto.

Dehydrated Banana chips

Preparation Time: 10 minutes | Cooking Time: 20 hours | Ready In: 20 hours and 5 minutes | Servings: 1 cup

preppers will - Dehydrated banana chipsINGREDIENTS:

  • 3-4 ripe bananas

 

 

 

HOW TO:

  1. Cut the bananas into 1/8 inch thick slices.
  2. Prepare the dehydrator as per owner’s instruction and line it with parchment paper.
  3. Spread the banana slices on the parchment paper and dry them for 19-20 hours.
  4. Let the chips cool before serving or storing.

Dehydrated Blueberry Cookies

Preparation Time: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: 24 hours | Ready In: 24 hours and 30 minutes | Servings: 10-15

preppers will - Dehydrated Blueberry CookiesINGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups Blueberries
  • 1 ½ cup soaked raisins
  • 2 cups Almonds, soaked overnight and blanched

HOW TO:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a grinder and grind to a crumbly consistency
  2. Scoop out small portions of the mixture using a spoon
  3. Place them on a parchment paper.
  4. Place the paper on a dehydrator and dry at 105 degrees for 24 hours.
  5. Flip the cookies after 12 hours
  6. Let the cookies cool before serving or storing.

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4 thoughts on “Food Preservation – Dehydrating food

  1. Very helpful post, thank you. The last few times I attempted drying in the oven, it did not turn out well. But I did not know to open the oven for airflow. I will be trying this next time!

  2. Interesting article have done the banana chips before love them have to buy some more but the sad thing is that i can not keep these around that long because i am always munching on these wich is a good thing but also a bad thing think I will go talk to the lady over here with a huge apple tree have done those to like them to but not like bananas might just go to the nursery and get a banana plans

  3. Great article, in dire straits, one could combine tule fabric, over newspaper under a car window/dash to use as a drying area. In a power deprived situation, that might be a workable answer.

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