Precautions for Dehydrating Food

We’ve talked from time to time about how important dehydration is to the art of food preservation. Dehydrating food can be safe, simple and economical, and dried food can be nutritious, satisfying and space saving.

But like any food preparation technique, there are precautions and practices that should be observed for safety and satisfaction. Here are 12 of them:

  • If buying a dehydrator, make note of whether the fan is on the top, bottom or back of the unit. Back fans encourage even drying, but can still require that trays be rotated.
  • Using a conventional oven or hanging produce to air dry can be as effective as a dehydrator. Avoid direct sunlight striking herbs. Air drying time can range from a few days to a week. Properly dried herbs will be crisp and crumble easily.
  • Many vegetables need to be blanched before dehydration. This involves a few minutes in boiling water to loosen the fiber, then a dip in ice water to stop the cooking process.
  • Dehydrate only one type of food at a time. Mixing foods will cause flavors and scents to mix.
  • Fruits and vegetables must be sliced to the same thickness and cannot overlap, as this prevents drying.
  • Food quality is important. Lightly bruised or slightly damaged produce can be dried, but introducing mold in the dehydrator lets it spread to other food.
  • Overripe plums, peaches and berries combined with apples can make a tasty fruit leather energy snack. If you don’t have a dedicated purée tray, placing plastic wrap over a standard drying tray is a workaround. Be sure to flip the leather to dry both sides.
  • For onions and peppers, move the dehydrator outside to control household odors. Airborne oils will remain on the dehydrator trays and interior surfaces, requiring a thorough cleaning.
  • Small berries can over-dry. Heat until dry but still slightly supple. Large grapes should be halved and the seeds removed.
  • Always clean the unit thoroughly between families of items, particularly between meat or fish and any produce. Flavors will transfer.
  • Late-season greens such as chard, beet greens or carrot tops can be dried, then ground into a powder for soups and stews. When making tomato sauce, dry and powder the skins to mix into sauces and breads.
  • Store dehydrated food in heavy zipper bags within a metal container or in dry, sterile glass jars. Keep food families separate to ensure that flavors don’t blend.

Don’t let this process add anxiety and stress to your life. If you are not completely confident that you can produce and maintain a sufficient supply of dehydrated food to meet your family’s survival needs in a crisis, turn to professionally produced dehydrated foods for your prepper needs and let dehydrating be an occasional fun family food project.

Professionally made low-heat dehydration packaged food is safe, nutritious and can be counted on to last.

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