From ancient times people have preserved food by drying it. It’s not complicated, doesn’t take a lot of elaborate equipment, and works for a variety of different foods. An added benefit is that drying tends to concentrate flavor..
I suggest fruits like apples, grapes, plums, pears, apricots, and berries. Dried fruits can be added to salads, trail mix, granola or main dishes or reconstituted and used in fruit desserts like cobblers and crisps. You can also spread pureed fruits on trays and dehydrate the puree into fruit leather.
You can also dehydrate vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beets, beans, squash, onions, celery, corn, kale, broccoli, and even mushrooms with good results. Eat the dried vegetables like veggie chips or use them in main dishes like soups and stews.
- Low humidity. Low humidity allows moisture to move from the food to the air.
- A source of low heat. The warm temperature allows the moisture to evaporate.
- Air circulation. Air currents speed up drying.
Use a Food Dehydrator:
- They produce the best quality product as compared to other methods of drying.
- Most food dehydrators have an electric element for heat and a fan and vents for air circulation.
- Efficient dehydrators are designed to dry foods uniformly and to retain food quality.
- Or use your convection oven/toaster oven (see article here for more information).
Prepare food to dry:
- Select fresh, good quality fruits and vegetables.
- Peel and trim away seeds, core or damaged portions.
- Cut into halves, strips, or slices about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick that dry readily.*
- Blanch vegetables by heating them enough to neutralize enzymes. It is not necessary to chill blanched vegetables. Drain them well and spread onto drying rack in oven or food dehydrator.
- Pretreat most fruits by dipping them. Use 1/2 teaspoon Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) per quart of cold water. Dip fruit for 1 minute, then drain and put on rack to begin drying.
- The type of food.
- The thickness of the cut.
- The moisture content of the food.
Check for dryness:
- Vegetables are dry when they are brittle
- Fruits are dry when they feel like leather
After foods are dried, allow 30-60 minutes before storing. (More time allows moisture to re-enter the food.)
- Use glass jars, metal cans or boxes with tight-fitting lids or vapor-proof freezer cartons or bags.
- Check containers within 7-10 days for moisture. If necessary, remove food and re-dry.
- Store in cool, dry, dark areas.
- For best quality, store under 60 F. (Although it is not necessary to store dried food in a refrigerator or freezer, lower temperatures extend the shelf life.)
Dried foods keep 4-12 months depending on storage conditions.
*A mandolin is a great tool to have for making uniform slices.
Now that you know how to do it, why not stock up on some foods from the market and give it a try? Here’s are links to 101 recipes and more useful information about drying specific foods including meat. I know I’m inspired to do some drying this fall!