Moving forward from my last post about the Six Simple Steps, which are:
1. Buy It!
2. Prepare It!
3. Dehydrate It!
4. Condition It!
5. Vacuum-Seal It!
6. Store It!
I pretty much covered the buying aspect in step one in the last post, so we'll tackle the prep part as promised next.
Some fruits listed in the bullet points below need to be sprayed with ascorbic acid. Commercial dehydrating plants use it to prevent oxidation (browning) while they are drying. If you don't have ascorbic acid on hand, you can use fresh lemon juice — or grab a bottle of RealLemon™ juice which works great when fitted with a spray nozzle. That's what I'm using in the first photo.
1. Fruits to spray (out of my top 14 on my site) are apples, bananas, peaches, and pears.
2. Vegetables to spray (out of my top 16 on my site) are carrots.
The lemon-juice spraying helps the carrots keep their vibrant color. (You can also steam carrots for the same reason, see the steaming section below.)
What is blanching and why do it? Blanching is a process of dipping small amounts of fresh foods in small amounts of boiling water for a few minutes. The reason I say "small" is because it takes too long to bring water back up to a boil when you use too much food and too much water. The blanching helps break the tough skin's surface, creating tiny cracks, so the dehydrator's warm air can penetrate.
This air-penetration is very important. Why? In order for foods to dehydrate to their cores, we have to make sure that "case hardening" doesn't occur. As you might suspect, case hardening can be described as the food getting a tough outer skin, thereby blocking attempts to allow air to pass through to their centers. If foods are stored with moist centers, it leads to bacterial growth which is something to avoid at all costs!
1. Fruits to blanch (out of my top 14) are berries and cranberries.
2. Vegetables to blanch (out of my top 16) are broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans.
All you need for steaming is a pan of boiling water, and a suitable submersible basket. I'm lucky enough to have a set of pans made for this purpose. The bottom pan holds the water (obviously!) and the top pan nests inside. The top pan has holes in it that allow the steam to enter. While steaming, I do move the food around in the top pan for even steaming! And like the blanching time — a few minutes is good. In future posts, I promise to share with you the specifics of "how long to steam or blanch" relative to certain fruits and vegetables mentioned in this post.
1. Fruits to steam (out of my top 14) is rhubarb.
2. Vegetables to steam (out of my top 16) are butternut squash, fresh corn, peas, and zucchini.
Yes, I have a surprise food prep step which is: dehydrate frozen fruits and vegetables! When you dehydrate frozen fruit and veggies, the manufacturers' have already completed one of the three prep steps necessary for us — it's a great time saver too. Frozen peas, corn, and hash-browns are among my favorites to dehydrate. Tip: Wear latex gloves when handling frozen items so the foods don't stick to your hands as you smooth them out of the dehydrator trays :-)
In the next post I'll go over Simple Step 3's dehydrating process for fruits, veggies and cooked meats!
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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