Friday, April 4, 2014

Food Dehydration: How to dry your own fruits, vegetables and other foods

dehydratedDehydration is an alternative to canning (called "bottling" in the UK) and freezing fruits and vegetables.If you have a surplus of fruits or vegetables from your garden, but lack the canning equipment or freezer space, drying may be the right method for you!

Dehydrated foods have a number of advantages: Dehydration is a low-cost way to preserve food that is free from concerns about botulism, the dried foods require less storage space than canned goods, and there's no freezer to keep running.

Food Drying Principles

Dehydrating your own produce does require time and some knowledge of food drying principles.

Preparation
  1. Select the best fruit and vegetables! As with canning and freezing, dehydrated foods are only as good as the fresh fruit or vegetables. When selecting fruits and vegetables for dehydration, choose ones that are ripe, unbruised and at peak-eating quality.
  2. Prepare foods to be dehydrated as you want them to be served. Apples, for example, may be sliced, cut into rings, or pureed for fruit leather.
  3. Keep pieces uniform in size and thickness for even drying . Slices cut 1/8 to 1/4-inch in thickness will dry more quickly than thicker pieces.
  4. Some foods should be washed before drying. Foods such as herbs, berries and seedless grapes need only be washed before dehydrating.
  5. To prevent browning: try steaming, sulfuring or coating light-colored fruits and vegetables with acids such as lemon juice or ascorbic acid (FruitFresh) before drying. Steaming or blanching also is recommended for vegetables to inactivate enzymes that cause vegetables to mature, or toughen during drying.
During Drying
  1. Select the drying method and equipment that is right for you. Foods can be dried in a conventional oven, a commercial dehydrator, or in the sun. Drying times vary with the method and foods chosen. Be sure to read the instructions with your dehydrator.
  2. Maintain 130F to 140F with circulating air: Remove enough moisture as quickly as possible to prevent spoilage. A drying temperature of 130 degrees F to 140 degrees F allows moisture to be removed quickly without adversely affecting food's texture, color, flavor and nutritive value. If the initial temperature is lower, or air circulation is insufficient, foods may undergo undesirable microbiological changes before drying adequately. If the temperature is higher, or humidity too low, nutrients can be lost or moisture may be removed too quickly from the product's outer surface. This causes the outer surface to harden and prevents moisture in the inner tissues from escaping. When testing for sufficient dryness, cool foods before testing.
  3. Know when your food is dry: Some foods are more pliable when cool than warm. Foods should be pliable and leathery, or hard and brittle when sufficiently dried. Some vegetables actually shatter if hit with a hammer. At this stage, they should contain about 10 percent moisture. Because they are so dry, vegetables do not need conditioning like fruits.
TO READ THE NEXT THREE STEPS ON THE DEHYDRATING PROCESS LISTED BELOW CLICK HERE
After Drying (for fruit only)
Packaging the dried foods
Storing the dried foods

*Any portion of this Article is posted under US Fair Use Laws.