Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dehydrating Food

I was on a message board this morning where the topic was dehydrating food. The thread prompted my memory. I have a dehydrator. I forgot about using it this summer. Next summer I will be using it!

Dehydration is a food storage process where moisture is removed from food by the use of low heat. The source can be the sun, an oven, dehydrator, or any long and low heat processing source. Foods with a low moisture content, such as herbs, can be hung to air dry.

Moisture is the enemy of long term food storage. Even foods that are frozen eventually succumb to moisture which is what freezer burn is.

By dehydrating fresh foods - removing the moisture- the food can last for years in a tightly sealed container. If mold is seen on the finished product, it has been compromised and is no longer a viable food source.

Foods that respond well to dehydration are veggies, fruit (apples, bananas are the best because they do not need the addition of a color preserver)and meats. For fruits and veggies to dehydrate they must be clean and any exterior moisture needs to be patted dry. The pieces should be cut into thin slices so the drying process can be complete. The addition of a product such as FRUIT FRESH will inhibit discoloration. Then into the heat source for an appointed time. Every source has an individual time span so research the food item to find out the appropriate time. Dehydrators come with instructions, but the sun or oven doesn't.

Storage containers can be new or cleaned out glass jars or plastic baggies. This is an area you can get creative. If it seals tight, the container can be used to store dried foods. Make sure it is a material that is safe for storing food. A rule of thumb is if food came in the container, it is safe for reuse.

Drying meat is slightly more of a challenge. It is easier to create slim slices if the meat is partially frozen or very cold. Slices should be as slim as you can get them. The sliced meat should be marinated (personal choice) for 24 hours or more, then dehydrated. My dehydrator takes 48 hours to dry meat. The newer ones have timers and thermometers attached so can be more accurate.

I am going to look for a sale on beef and dry some as soon as possible. The rest will have to wait until this summer's harvest. Snow begone! I want to get started.

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