When you dehydrate food it preserves it by removing the moisture. It also helps prevent growth of microorganisms and the breakdown – thus – decay of food. It can be stored for years. Canning requires a lot more work and equipment. I gave that up long ago.
Dehydrating food is a good idea for soooooo many reasons.
You can dehydrate about any type of food that has moisture in it. Fruits, veggies, meat, herbs, flowers and even bread if you want dried crumbs. When someone tells you they are making jerky, they are usually dehydrating.
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Why should we dehydrate food?
Dehydrating preserves nutritional while the water is removed. The nutrients remain and the flavor becomes more concentrated and intense. I have dehydrated carrots and tomatoes, and it takes very little of that to add a big bang of flavor to a soup, stew or other dish.
When you dehydrate food you will always have it available. No more running to the store for an onion or a bag of carrots when your recipe calls for it and it’s not in the fridge. I love being able to pull out some dehydrated meat to add to a stew. ( we will get to RE-hydration a little further on.)
You can dry healthy snacks for the whole family. Puree some fruit and make fruit leather. Dried strawberries – YUM. Mix some dried fruit with some nuts raisins for a trail mix. Light weight and health snacks for a hike, road trip or pick me up anytime.
I have made entire meals from dehydrated foods. Toss in some herbs and spices, store it in a air tight bag and store it. Great for those days when you just don’t know what to make. Grab a bag and toss it in the crockpot with some water or broth in the morning. Go and enjoy your day. Come home to a wonderful, healthy meal.
It can save money. Even if you don’t garden you can find some good buys on veggies or fruit, especially when you buy in bulk. There is a couple in our area that run over to the coast nearly every week most of the year and bring back all kinds of fresh produce. We can buy mixed boxes or we can buy a whole box of one item such as peaches. The prices are much cheaper than the store. The food is much fresher as well. Save some out for immediate use and dehydrate the rest. Hey.. it takes up a lot less space also.
Dehydrating is EASY and that is the best plus of all. Slice it up, put it in the dehydrator, turn it on and let it go. I put ours on the back deck. I will fill it up and let it run all night. Come morning – many things are all done. Some things I put in the “sealer” bags and other things in mason jars. FYI: they use very little electricity.
Choosing a dehydrator.
There are a lot of various models of dehydrators. Some have stackable trays and others have slide out trays. Some are very simple and others have all kinds of controls and adjustments. A lot depends, of course, on what you plan to use it for. If you want to start out simple and inexpensive you can purchase one of the many plastic varieties for around $30. My little old Nesco has served me well for years and still going strong. It is BPA free, has 5 trays and liners as well for the smaller things we might not want fulling thru.
If you want to jump in on a larger scale there are some of the bigger metal versions for a LOT more $$$. I bought one once and personally did not care for it at all. I know lots of folks swear by them thou. Picking the right size all depends on how often you plan to use it, as well as how much food you plan to dehydrate at any given time.
It is true that a back-mounted fan allows the food to dry more evenly. Those larger metal versions, and a few moderate sized have rear mounted fans. While the majority of the smaller ones like mine have either a top or bottom fan. And yes, I do re-arrange the trays or I take out the dried food, leave what is not done and put it back in. It has not been that big of a deal to me.
A back-mounted fan allows your food to dry evenly throughout the entire dehydrator. Top and bottom fans tend to dry first at the closet levels, and the fan blows scents from foods on one level to meld with foods in another.
You want an adjustable thermostat to set the correct temperature according to the food you are dehydrating. I rarely have to change it thou because a huge majority of the foods I dehydrate use the same temperature.
A automatic shut-off timer is something I want if and when I upgrade. Mine does not have one and it would be nice if I was going to be away for a few hours.
Some of them can have as much as 15 square feet of drying space on nine trays. That is a LOT of space. I believe mine is about 1 square foot per tray. With 5 full trays, that’s around 5 square feet. Dehydrator capacity varies from approximately 4 to 10+ square feet of space, either in stackable or slide-out trays.
Here is a very informative video to give you a good idea of the varieties avaiable.
A few FYI’s
You can dehydrate foods together — sometimes. Various fruits together work well. I read that various veggies as well but I would be skeptical to mix to many. Flavor has a tendency to travel inside these dehydrators. Never mix anything with onions. I always do my onions outside because the smell is really strong for the entire time they are drying. Whewwweeee. The whole neighborhood gets a whiff ..
it is not necessary to pre-treat foods but you might want to with some things. If you do not like the look of (example) potatoes turning a little gray then you may want to blanch them first. Of course, marinating is just fine, especially for that beef jerky.
Once your food is dehydrated — let it cool to room temperature to avoid condensation after its been packaged. If you have some concern you can always add one of those moisture packets. Then, put the dehydrated food in vacuum sealed bags and store in a cool, dry place, away from light and humidity. Baggies can work also. Just try to get as much air out as possible. I use mason jars for some things like onions because I need to get to them often. I toss in a moisture packet. A vacuum sealer is the best thou. I use it for most everything. Especially any pre made meals.
You can also freeze it.
To re-hydrate foods, you will put about 1 cup of food per 1 cup of water. It will take about four hours for re-hydration.
If your going to cook it then just add it to the water (example) in a crockpot and turn it on like normal. The veggies and/or meat will re-hydrate itself during the cooking process.
I mentioned I make a lot of pre-made meals. I might mix up dehydrated potatoes, carrots, peas, onions (and whatever other veggies you have dried that you would like in there.) I will add spices the same as I would to the cooking pot or you can add them later. I like to have it all ready to go so I add them to the bag.
When you dehydrate meat it’s just like everything else. Thinly sliced pieces. Just like beef jerky without anything mixed or marinated. You can add it to your pre-made stew meals and tada.. The whole thing is ready to go in the slow cooker.
Check out this habanero-tabasco Jerky RECIPE from the Jerkyholic
They say you can dehydrate herbs. I have not had good luck with that. I still prefer to air dry my herbs. ( Pic of my herb dryer doing it’s job). After that I store them in jars and add what I want to any pre made meals.
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