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By September 15, 2009 Read More →

The Joy of Dehydrating

Today I’d like to talk about a method of storing food that is rapidly becoming more and more popular; dehydration.

From the beggining of all food storage, drying has been a well used method. Then came smoking and salting and then came canning and finally, freezing. Most preppers are aware that we can not always count on electricity being there all the time. I, myself, lost $1000 worth of food last year when the lights were off for 2 weeks. This isn’t the first time, either. I’ve had kids pull the plug on the freezer (accidentally), storm outages and wire shorts in the past. The result is always the same: stomach drops, heart hurts, dosappointment and then anger. Though I still have my freezer, I swore that I would do more canning this year. I also happened upon a video of a gal who dehydrates much of her storage. This is, and I found the site on a posting in American Preppers forum. It has changed my life, and I know that it has changed how many of us store food.
Why dehydrate? First, it is less work intensive. I can do many things while my food is dehydrating, while I’m pretty much tied to the stove while I’m canning.
Second, food lasts much longer when you dehydrate. We’ve all seen #10 cans of dried food for sale, and they last for 5-10 years (probably longer) when properly stored. I can take a bag of corn that I bought on sale (frozen) and it will last me a year (if I’m lucky). I can take corn that I have canned, and it will last me 2 years (to be safe). But, I can take that same bag of frozen corn and dump it in my dehydrator and turn it into something that lasts for 5-10 years. If I don’t have time to process my summer squash, I can put it in the dehydrator and it’s good to go for years! Third (and best to me) is that it takes up less room and is much lighter. I can easily pack a months worth of veggies, including potatoes, into a 5 gallon bucket. With dehydrated food, you can make also make up your own “instant” meal packages. Make a complete soup in a bag. It’s good for at least 5 years. Make a complete breakfast in a bag…bannock ingredients, dried eggs (purchased) and potatoes and onions dried at home.
I’m always amazed at how easy it is to dry foods! Most dehydrators will come with instructions, or you can search on the internet for further ideas and info. You simply blanche your veggies and put them on the tray. Start the machine and go back in about 12-24 hours and you are done. After I take my product out of the machine, I usually put them in a canning jar, and seal the jar either with an oxygen packet or using my food saver vacuum sealer. It stays in the jar until I have enough for several mylar bags. Then I pack them away in a well labeled mylar bag and toss them in a 5 gallon bucket or plastic tote. (don’t ask me why I stress the “well labeled”! lol) I label my bucket or tote with “misc. dried vegetables”.
Many wonder if dehydrated veggies taste the same as those canned or frozen. I think I would answer “NO”. To me, they taste like fresh cooked veggies. I, so far, can not taste any difference. To re-hydrate your veggies, simply add one cup of boiling water to each cup of veggies. Cover and let sit for an hour. I found that you need to make sure the veg are covered with the water. Then proceed to cook as you normally would. If you use a crockpot, you can make your soup in that without re-hydrating first, since the broth for the soup will do the job while it’s cooking. You can thicken the soup base just before serving if you wish.
With dehydrating, you can also take advantage of all the frozen food sales grocers have. You will be surprised at how simple and easy it is and how many things you can dehydrate!
One thing people always ask me is “what type of dehydrator do you use?”. For 20 years, I bought and used regular, cheap dehydrators. They are commonly found in WalMart and many other stores and cost less than $30. These are fine and will get the job done, but you will have to rotate the trays to ensure even drying. The trays on these also don’t hold as much as I like. I just this year, have switched to an “Excalebur”. It’s a large, all American made machine with square trays. It also has a fan at the back, making air rotation more uniform. I enjoy my machine, but it was expensive. However, most good tools are! My machine is a tool, and I use it several times a week. You can find it on the web, and frequently, they have refurbished models at a good discount. In New England, we have lots of damp weather at harvest time, so a good machine was a nessesity for me. I’m very happy with it.
Have fun, research for recipes and further instructions and dehydrate that food!

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