Food Storage – Dehydrating is Child’s Play
Food Storage – Dehydrating is Child’s Play
Dehydrating is the easiest of all food preservation and can be done by a supervised child. If you have been afraid to attempt making your own food storage, this method is an easy and safe way to begin.
What is Dehydrating?
It is one of the oldest known ways of preserving food. Many years ago, using salt and the sun was the only way to accomplish this. In 1795, the first dehydrator was developed in France. Things have come a LONG way. Dehydrating is safer than canning and does not involve working with pressure and high temperatures. It is simply removing about 95% of the water content of fresh or frozen food without cooking it yielding a fresher taste. It gets rid of the bad bacteria which requires water to grow but does allow the good bacteria to exist.
Dehydrating is the least damaging to the nutritional value of food. There are no chemicals, it is pure food, it is easily rehydrated when needed, and it saves a great deal of space. You can purchase these foods already dehydrated but they will cost you more and may contain additives you might not want in your family’s diet. This is so easy to do, why not do it yourself?
How do I get started dehydrating?
As with any food handling, you want to start with sterile food prep standards:
- Extra clean hands and food gloves (I’m a bit of a food germ-a-phobe) so I like to use the food gloves
- A sparkling clean kitchen
- Put your fresh fruits/vegetables in a sink of cold water with white vinegar (You should do this even if you are not dehydrating but eating them raw – this method will remove germs and waxy substance. You can also pour the vinegar/water mixture over berries which will keep them fresh much longer)
- Gather clean and sterilized canning jars or you can use plastic food grade bags or Mylar bags (I prefer to stay away from as many plastics as possible.) to store your dehydrated food in.
If you are using canning jars, you will want to use oxygen absorbers or a Food Saver vacuum attachment to get the air out of your dehydrated products.
Let’s Get Started Dehydrating
After cleaning your fruit/vegetables, prepare them by slicing or cutting into small pieces to allow the air to circulate all around them. Place the food on the dehydrator tray and set at the proper temperature per your dehydrator. When the food is crisp dry, remove to your preferred container.
Some vegetables will need to be blanched. I have read that people say their potatoes turn black. This is not necessary. Here is how I do it and they stay a nice creamy color:
- Peel, wash, and quarter potatoes lengthwise
- Use a salad shooter with the slicing blade or any other slicer of your choice
- Place potatoes in batches into boiling water for a short amount of time. (This is blanching.)
- Drain and put the potatoes in cold or ice water. You are not trying to fully cook the potatoes.
- Place the potatoes on the dehydrator sheets in even single layers as possible.
- Turn on the dehydrator machine to the proper temperature (according to your particular machines instructions) and let it do its magic.
- When the potatoes are crisp and dry, they really look like potatoes chips. I had to taste one the first time I did it. The result: NOT a potato chip, it tastes just like potato (looks can be deceiving).
I like to store my food in canning jars with oxygen absorbers or use a Food Saver machine. The latter is my preferred method. You can also use plastic bags or Mylar. You can see the pictures of mine – no black just a concentrated potato color.
Another nice way to eliminate prepping your food is to use frozen fruits/vegetables right out of the bag. If you would like to try this method, just pour the bag of defrosted product on the sheet, spread out in an even layer and proceed. If you are doing a thick vegetable like broccoli, cut them into smaller pieces so they dehydrate evenly and faster.
You can also make fruit chips and fruit leathers very easily for children or for hiking trips. Fruit gets sweeter because the dehydration concentrates the natural sugar in the fruit. (About 95% of the water is removed.) The fruit and fruit leathers taste great and they beat supermarket prices by far.
Children love to be able to help. It is so easy they can take pride in what they have accomplished and may eat healthier foods. This special treat they made is a great replacement for candy. This is a win-win; fun, economical and delicious.
How to Rehydrate
If you put about a cup of dehydrated product in a bowl or measuring cup, add water to the 2 cup line. If you need more water, go ahead and add it. If you have water left you can add it to the dish you are making or drain it off. Do not leave hydrated product out on the counter more than 4 hours. If you want, you can also hydrate and leave in the refrigerator, it will take longer to hydrate using this method.
You can buy fruits and produce on sale, in bulk or put your garden products away using dehydration. This will eliminate the spoilage when there is just too much to freeze or can at one time. Dehydrating allows you to rehydrate anytime and always have fresh tasting fruits/vegetables.
Which Dehydrator to Buy?
This is a personal choice. There are cheaply priced machines available but I feel the Excalibur Dehydrator is the best. The initial investment will be more but it uses less power than an oven at low temperatures and has a fan and heating element located in the back. This allows even distribution of air. This is important. You don’t want your food being left with moisture in some areas as it will spoil and contaminate all your food. (Some of the cheaper dehydrators do not give consistent results.) The even heat will protect your product from scorching which can happen in an oven. I like to know when I set the Excalibur knob to a certain temperature for a specific food that the machine will maintain the temperature consistently. I have not had any failures in my dehydrating with my Excalibur.
Time to Take the Plunge
Do a bit of research to figure out which machine you feel comfortable with and start dehydrating. I believe you will be very happy with your results. There is a website that I feel is great. There is a lot of information and tips you might enjoy.
Check out, dehydrate2store.com. (I do not have an affiliation with this site.) This is actually the site that got me into dehydrating and I have never looked back. Happy Dehydrating!