It doesn’t matter if you’re a Prepper or not dehydrating vegetables and meat has many wonderful benefits. Here are just a few:
1. Food storage.
2. Food Preservation. You actually increase the sugar, vitamins, and mineral content by dehydrating.
3. Easy food preparation.
1. There is no need to cook a vegetable before drying if it is one that you would eat raw in a salad such as pepper, tomato, mushroom or onion. All you have to do is clean, cut uniformly and spread in a single layer on dehydrator trays. You can go either way with carrots, but steaming them will turn them a nice dark orange when dried.
2. A vegetable that you would normally cook before eating such as corn, peas, broccoli and green beans will usually re-hydrate better if you steam them for eight minutes before drying, but it is not always necessary. It depends on how you will cook them.
3. It is not necessary to steam the vegetable before drying if included in meals where you bring it to a boil for one minute and let it sit insulated in the pot for ten minutes (corn is an exception).
Before going into the details of this article, there is one overriding tip you must follow to have success with your food dehydrator. Read the instruction manual fully and carefully. Different dehydrating units work differently and you will not get excellent results without first learning how to operate settings of your particular machine properly.
There are several designs of food dehydrators. The better designs have a fan at the back of the unit rather than on the top. The reason being is that this methods promotes a more even air and moisture low around your flow. Top fan units don’t give the even circulation that is needed to have all the food dehydrate at the same rate. However, if you’re looking for a top fan dehydrator unit try this one. It has excellent reviews from Amazon with over 2,400 comments.
Pay attention to the recommended thickness of the items you put on the dehydrator. Many of the items you dehydrate will need to be cut before you put them on the shelves. If the slices are of differing thicknesses, you will not get a nice consistent quality from the dehydrated food. Some pieces could dry too much and others could retain too much moisture – causing spoilage when you store it away.
Ultimate Dehydrating Success Tip:
Just like any successful recipe, I suggest that you make a log book of your dehydration recipes. This will help you recreate your success in the future. You should record all relevant details like: (1) temperature of the dehydrator, (2) how many shelves you used, (3) what items were in it and how thick the slices were, (5) how long it took to be ready, how well it stored and the weather conditions. A very humid day is going to affect your product differently than a very dry day. This book is especially important when dealing with seasonal items because it will get you up to speed much more quickly when season rolls around again.
- Fruit leather trays are a good accessory to get, they actually make the job of dehydrating easier. You can even make all sorts of fruit and vegetable puree roll-ups. Some of the less expensive dehydrators tell you to just line a shelf with plastic wrap or wax paper. This will work too but it is better to have a tray built specifically for your unit. You will get better results. In the end the fruit leather tray just makes the whole process of dehydrating hassle free and a time saver.
- Spray trays with a light coat of vegetable oil before using to keep foods from sticking. This is an area where you can experiment. Some foods will stick and others won’t. If you know a food won’t stick, there is no reason to add oil to it. But if it does stick, a light coating is a lifesaver.
- Treat apples, pears and other fruits with citrus juice or ascorbic acid. This will help to retain the color of the fruit before, during and after the drying process
- Blanche vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots, corn, peas and potatoes to speed drying time and to help maintain color.
- Cool all foods completely before storing. Hot foods can cause moisture to condense in your storage container as it cools down. This will spoil all your efforts.
- Humid air can slow down the dehydration process.
- Slice and season meats like chicken, turkey, fish, beef or game. Fish and Poultry need to be cooked or smoked before they are dried.
- You can dehydrate tomato sauce from a jar! It will look similar to a fruit roll-up. They can then be easily rehydrated with water! It’s a great way to bring sauces on camping trips without having to pack in heavy, bulky jars!
Be adventurous. Experiment. Try new things. The worst that happens is you lose a tray of food and a bit of time.
Once you get the hang of it, using a food dehydrator is pretty easy and it can make some amazing foods that can be eaten as is. Mix a few dehydrated veggies with a little seasoning and you have your very own to go munchie pack.
After foods are dehydrated, they need to be stored properly. Here are my recommendations:
1. Place your dehydrated food in an air tight food grade containers, mylar bags, or if you’re freezing your dehydrated food in Ziploc bags with a food grade oxygen absorber/moisture absorber pack as this will help alleviate any problems if a small portion still has moisture in them.
2. You should know that fats are and can be a problem when dehydrating. Even though you can make fantastic homemade jerky with your food dehydrator, you want to take pains to choose very lean cuts of meat or remove as much fat as possible. Too much fat in the meat will cause it to go rancid fairly quickly and this will ruin any meat that you might want to preserve long time.
Cost Saving Dehydrating Tip:
You can dehydrate frozen vegetables too. So if you find some great sales in the frozen food aisle, give it a go. It’s a great way to stock up on dehydrated foods without doing all the cutting and cleaning you will need to do with fresh produce.