Dehydrating food is a great way to be able to preserve your garden bounty or great find at the produce stand. You simply remove the moisture from your produce or meat to give it a much longer shelf life. This is not the same thing as freeze-drying which is a more mechanical process. This is simply allowing nature or low heat to dry out food.
Dehydrating takes up less space than traditional canning if canning is not something you want to tackle. It’s also much less hands-on than canning, simply prepare your slices, and walk away, then store (through canning jars with silica packets, zip top bags for quick use, dry canning or using a vacuum sealer) to keep your bounty fresh, but dry, until you are ready to use it in your cooking or snacking. Dehydrated foods typically can last up to a year or more, though meat jerky should be consumed within 3 months.
SIX METHODS TO DEHYDRATE FOOD
Off-Grid Drying Racks
This method allows you to use natural dehydration to dehydrate your food without artificial heat. Having the mesh on the sides helps keep bugs and unwanted matter away from your food, you’re not reliant on an energy source other than the wind and sun, but you are dependent on perfect weather for it. Non-humid sunny days work best. These are easy (and inexpensive) to build with some scrap wood and window screening. This method is slower, but not being on the grid has it’s benefits, too!
Solar Powered Dehydrator
Electric dehydrators are probably the most convenient in that you can just throw stuff in and walk away. You don’t have to worry about the weather or bugs or making sure all the conditions are prime. But you are dependent on some kind of power to run them. They are also the most reliable means of dehydrating safely.
Oven drying allows you to have the benefit of heat drying without having to have a dehydrator. You can’t dehydrate as much food, and you do have to keep an eye on it more closely to regulate temperatures and rotate trays. But if buying another appliance isn’t an option for you, dehydrating in the oven works well. In fact, some experts believe that oven dehydrating jerky in the oven is safer than in a dehydrator.
Air Drying has been a traditional method of dehydrating herbs and flowers for thousands of years.The simple act of tying a bundle, and hanging it from a well ventilated space allows the foods to natural dry from air circulation and pulling out the moisture. This doesn’t work well in high humidity climates, but can be worked around. If you prefer, put a loosely tied paper bag around your bundles to keep dust and insects off. This is also a great way to do smaller bundles of herbs when you don’t want to tie your conventional dehydrator up.
Yes, really, you can ‘dehydrate’ with a microwave. Layering foods in wax paper and ‘cooking’ them for long periods of time draws the moisture out in a microwave. But you’re looking at a lot of time spent with it checking on the food, etc. And then, if you want it crispy the way most dehydrated food tends to be, you still need to put it in a conventional oven. Is my bias showing here? Yes. But if you have no other options, it is a method that you can master to make the most of your food storage.
YOUR THOUGHTS? What method are you interested in using or what do you already use?
Need some Dehydrator Recipes?
Supplies you might need:
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