How to dehydrate food is an
important skill for emergency preparedness. You can stock your emergency food
storage as you prepare your daily meals.
Dehydrating Food Saves Everything:
Whether you want to preserve fruits and vegetables from your garden or the produce from your local farmers market... dehydrating food is the right method for you!
Drying removes the moisture from the food so bacteria, yeast and mold cannot grow and spoil the food. Drying also slows down the action of enzymes (naturally occurring substances which cause foods to ripen), but does not inactivate them.
Warm temperatures cause the moisture to evaporate. Air current speeds up drying by moving the surrounding moist air away from the food.
Because drying removes moisture, the food becomes smaller and lighter in weight. When the food is ready for use, the water is added back, and the food returns to its original shape.
There are several
different ways of dehydrating food, each has their own advantages.
Some of these methods are:
All of these methods work by using the right combination of warm temperatures, low humidity and air current. We will discuss these options below:
Dehydrating food in an electric food dehydrator is taking advantage of modern technology. There is no possibility of burning yourself on an oven door, no issues with the weather or attracting birds or bugs to your dried food. An electric food dehydrator creates the perfect balance of air and heat to make the optimal drying environment.
When dehydrating food, electric food dehydrators work better than your oven or solar drying. Because of the constant low heat and continuous air flow exchanging moist air for dry, electric food dehydrators are faster and create a more even drying process.
No babysitting your dehydrating food… Just load it and wait.
That’s all there is to it.
Picking the Best Food Dehydrator is a personal choice.
You need to consider:
I have written an article on choosing the Best Electric Food Dehydrator for you. The article walks you through what to look for in a dehydrator as well as talking about some of the top rated dehydrators. This way you can choose the best dehydrator for you.
You sure can! Everyone who has an oven can learn how to dehydrate food. By combining heat, low humidity and air flow, an oven can be used as a dehydrator.
Your oven is perfect for occasional drying of meat jerky, fruit leathers, and banana chips or for preserving excess vegetables like celery or mushrooms. Since your oven is needed for every day cooking, and the excessive use of electricity or fuel, it may not work out if you want to dry your whole survival garden harvest, but for occasional drying it works great.
I like to use my oven to dry foods in the winter. With the door propped open for hours at a time it really warms up the house for me.
Oven drying is slower than using a dehydrator because it does not have a built-in fan for the air movement.
Timing could be an issue. It takes twice as long to dry food in an oven than it does in a dehydrator. Thus, the oven is not as efficient as a dehydrator and uses more energy. Because of the make-up, convection ovens do speed up the process. Convection ovens do have fans and they are getting more popular. There are even Tabletop Convection Ovens if you choose.
Using the oven to dehydrate food is a great way to go, weather you dry your food for emergency preparedness or that weekend back packing trip, it is a wonderful tool. So, slice up that fruit, get that oven ready and start drying.
Ancient natives from all continents have used the sun to create sun dried fruit and other dried foods for thousands of years. I guess you could say they were the very first emergency preparedness group. They preserved their natural fruits, vegetables, herbs and game using sun drying methods.
Of course the natives knew nothing of contaminants and food spoilage. We have come a long way.
The high sugar and acid content of fruits make them safe to dry in the sun.
BUT, Vegetables and especially meats are not recommended for sun drying. Vegetables are low in sugar and acid. This increases the risks for food spoilage. Meats are high in protein making them ideal for microbial growth when heat and humidity cannot be controlled.
You can string monofilament (fishing line) through your fruit slices, giving them a little space between each slice, making a garland. Hang your fruit garland in the sun. This works nicely for firmer fruits like apples and pares….peaches and apricots can be a bit drippy.
Cover the trays or garlunds with cheesecloth to help protect the fruit from birds or insects. Sun dried fruit must be covered or brought under shelter at night. The cool night air condenses and could add moisture back to the food, slowing down the drying process.
When your sun dried fruit is done on the drying rack it MUST be Pasteurized to kill any bugs or bug larve left on your fruit.
The popularity of solar food dehydrating has led to using commercially made sun ovens as drying units and encouraging inventive users to build their own. A solar drying unit uses the sun as the heat source. There is no electricity needed.
Most commercially made solar ovens come with inside solar drying racks to place your fruit on. You just leave the door open a crack, turn the oven so it is behind the sun track and let it heat up and dry. The hardest part of using a solar oven to dry foods is making sure it does not heat up too much. The solar oven needs to keep it around 150’ F. The idea is to dry my food not cook it.
You prepare the
fruit for drying in a solar food dehydrator the same as you would for a regular
dehydrator. See how to prepare fruit for
Below is an example of a home made solar food dehydrator.
A foil surface inside the dehydrator helps to increase the temperature. Ventilation speeds up the drying time. Shorter drying times reduce the risks of food spoilage or mold growth. Follow the same food drying guidelines as the other methods.
Learning how to dehydrate food using the solar method requires a little creativity if using a homemade solar food dehydrator.
Pasteurization of Certain Sun or Solar Dried Foods
Sun or solar dried fruits and vine dried beans need treatment to kill any insect and their eggs that might be on the food. Unless destroyed, the insects will eat the dried food. There are two recommended pasteurization methods:
1. Freezer Pasteurization - Seal the food in freezer-type plastic bags. Place the bags in a freezer set at 0°F or below and leave them at least 48 hours.
2. Oven Pasteurization - Place the food in a single layer on a tray or in a shallow pan. Place in an oven preheated to 160°F for 30 minutes. After either of these treatments the dried fruit is ready to be conditioned and stored.
Dried fruits are unique, tasty and nutritious.
Some say only the freshest fruit, but it is my experience that the fruit that is almost over ripe turns out the sweetest when dried.
Here is a very detailed page on How to Dehydrate Fruit.
When learning how to dehydrate food, it's important to know the different methods of drying fruits versus drying vegetables:
Think vegetables are boring? Check out this detailed page on How to Dehydrate Vegetables. You will see how easy it is to dehydrate vegetables and how creative you can be with the results.
To package and store your dehydrated emergency food:
Make sure the dried food is completely cool before packaging.
Use dry, moister proof containers.
Store the packaged food in a cool dark place.
Want more details on packaging you food? Check out this page on Packaging and Storing Dehydrated Foods.
USING DRIED FOODS
Dried fruits can be eaten as is or reconstituted. Dried vegetables must be reconstituted. Once reconstituted, dried fruits or vegetables are treated as fresh.
To reconstitute dried fruits or vegetables, add water to the fruit or vegetable and soak until the desired volume is restored. Do not over-soak the food. Over-soaking produces loss of flavor and a mushy, water-logged texture.
For soups and stews, add the dehydrated vegetables without re-hydrating them. They will rehydrate as the soup or stew cooks. Also, leafy vegetables and tomatoes do not need soaking.
Add enough water to cover and simmer until tender. CAUTION! If soaking takes more than 2 hours, refrigerate the product for the remainder of the time.
Follow this link for dehydrated food recipe ideas.
A lot of information was covered here on the how to dehydrate food page... for your convenience you may choose to click the button below to print-out this information:
Credits: How To Dehydrate Food Page
(Some content on the "How To Dehydrate Food" page was extracted from "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.)
(Some content from the "10 steps for food dehydrators" was derived from: about.com)