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Drying food in your dehydrator is fairly easy to do. It just takes a really long time, about 12 to 15 hours or more for most items. I have used our dehydrator to dry fruits such as strawberries, bananas, cherries, apples, and pineapples. I have not used it yet to dry vegetables, but I will. Since we moved to the farm, it has been out in one of the sheds. Recently, David brought it into the kitchen. It got pretty dusty being outside so I need to wash it very well before I can use it.
So what makes drying food a good way to preserve food? When you dry food, you remove anywhere from 80% to 95% of the moisture, which stops bacterial growth and any other microogranisms that can spoil your food.
First, make sure you use only ripe, non bruised, well cleaned produce in your dryer so you save the best food for you to enjoy later.
Wash your produce. If necessary, peel it. I usually leave my peel on. Remove stems and/or seeds if needed. Then slice into the right sized pieces.
You will want to blanch most vegetables prior to drying them to stop enzyme action which causes them to go bad. Once they are blanched, you can place the cut up vegetables on your drying trays.
For certain fruits and vegetables, like apples, pears, apricots, and bananas, dip in lemon juice prior to drying food. You will actually mix one cup of lemon or lime juice into one quart of water and dip the fruits in this solution prior to drying.
Check a drying food recipe book because some fruits should be blanched instead of being dipped in lemon water.
I have several drying recipe books. One usually comes with your dehydrator. They usually say that vegetables should be dried at 125° Fahrenheit and that fruits should be dried at 135° Fahrenheit. Meats should be dried at 145° Fahrenheit.
Some vegetables can be dried in as little as three to four hours, depending on big the pieces are and how much water content they have. Other vegetables are dense and have a lot of water content and can take up to 14 hours to dry. Anything longer than that and the food will not taste good when you try to rehydrate the drying food.
When your food has been dried, it should feel brittle (like it could easily break) or crisp. Once your food is dried, you will need to store it in airtight containers, preferably the kind you can see through. Home canning jars are perfect. You can also store it in thick plastic bags. Add the name of the dried food and the date it was dried before you store it. You can store the drying foods for six months to one year safely. Make sure you store the food in a cool, dry, and dark place, like a finished root cellar or your basement if you have one.
Unfortunately, in South Central Texas, we have neither basements or root cellars. Store in a darkened closet that is temperature controlled in that case. Definitely do not keep the food outside in your garden shed with your tools.
To add the water back in to the vegetable or fruit, you will need an equal amount of water. If you have two cups of yellow squash pieces, you will need two cups of water, boiling. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours to add the water back in. If you blanched before drying food, the pieces will rehydrate quicker when you cook them in water. Smaller pieces rehydrate quicker than big ones. Do not add sugar or salt until the last five minutes of cooking time as added salt or sugar will take longer to rehydrate as well.
If you would like to grow your own fruits and vegetables to dry, check out David's Garden Seeds®.
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