Dehydrating food for long-term storage is the third step to ensuring safe food dehydration. Click here to read about the other steps. In this post I'm going to cover how to dehydrate:
1. Fresh or frozen fruit
2. Fresh or frozen vegetables
3. Cooked meats
Why "cooked" meats, you ask? It's easy and it's safer. I'm not talking about jerky-making here as that needs spices. What I'm proposing is to use the Sunday dinner's leftovers. I'll continue with the cooked meats shortly.
Dehydrating Fresh or Frozen Fruit
Pardon me for plugging my own website here: Easy Food Dehydrating. In my Fruit section that currently lists the top 14 fruit, you'll see exactly what each fruit needs (prep wise) and at what temperature to dehydrate them at and for approximately how long. Notice that I use lemon juice to deter oxidation (browning) — a prep step — and I use a glass bowl in which to spray and toss the fruit (and veggies). Here are my top five fruits to get you started:
• Apples - peel and slice - spray with lemon juice - lay on trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees Fahrenheit and 135 degrees for 4-10 hours until pliable
• Bananas - peel and slice lengthwise or in coins - spray with lemon juice - lay on dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-12 hours until they are leathery
• Grapes (for raisins) - rinse and pat dry - slice in half, cut side facing up on the dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-10 hours until pliable
• Pears - wash them - peel if desired - remove the core and cut into halves, quarters, or 3/8-inch slices (so long as they're all roughly the same size for even drying) - spray with lemon juice - arrange on your dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-16 hours until pliable
• Strawberries - wash and cut off the top, cut into 1/4-inch slices or into halves - arrange on your dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-15 hours until crisp and leathery
Even though the "owner manuals" state you don't have to rotate the trays during drying, I do. Those trays closest to the fan are obviously going to dry faster — and it's better to have them all dry at the same rate!
Don't forget to use your dehydrator sheets to keep your trays clean. Check out this post for more information on accessories to use when dehydrating sticky fruits.
Regarding using frozen fruit, you do not have to do any prep steps! In the five fruits I mentioned, their prep steps included washing, slicing, and spraying with lemon juice. When using frozen fruit, any big clumps of fruit can be run under (good) tap water for a few seconds to loosen them (while on the dehydrator tray). If the fruit is still in the bag, thump it on the counter-top a few times to loosen clumps — and don't blame me if the bag bursts — just be careful!
Dehydrating Fresh or Frozen Vegetables
Again, visit Easy Food Dehydrating. In my Vegetable section that currently lists the top 16 veggies, you'll see exactly what each vegetable needs (prep wise) and at what temperature to dehydrate them at and for approximately how long. Here are my top five veggies:
• Broccoli - cut your broccoli florets into even-sized pieces, rinse - blanch for 2 minutes - lay on trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-14 hours until brittle
• Carrots - peel and slice in coins — or dice them - blanch for 3 minutes (see note below) - place on dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-12 hours until they are leathery
• Garlic (regular or elephant) - peel and slice as evenly as possible (mandolines are great for elephant garlic) - place on the dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-12 hours until brittle
• Onions - peel - slice into rings, chop into slices, or dice (so long as they're all roughly the same size for even drying) - arrange on your dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 4-12 hours until pliable and please keep your windows open or run your stove's vent hood to remove odors. Why? Onion odor is poisonous to pets.
• Zucchini - wash and slice into 3/8-inch slices - arrange on your dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 5-11 hours until brittle
Note for the carrots: if you don't want to blanch your carrots, you can simply spray them with lemon juice instead. Much faster!
Don't forget you can also dehydrate frozen vegetables just like the frozen fruit.
Back to Dehydrating Cooked Meats
To dehydrate cooked meat, it really is simply a case of cutting up leftover chicken, beef, or ham into pieces that are roughly the same size. Consider dehydrating tubs of cooked meats, or if you have time to stand in line at the deli, ask them to slice your chosen cuts of cooked meat about 1/16-inch thick. When you get home, cut into strips and dehydrate at the higher temperature of 160 degrees F.
In the next post, I'll get into the step that many fans of dehydrating omit. It's a super-important step, especially for mushrooms! It's called "conditioning." Until then, have a super week!
To read all of Susan's posts, please visit this page on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
Since December of 2010, Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies too—for long-term food storage. Keep your food pantry full—whatever the reason or season!
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