Info on Drying Foods-long postgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread
Since this is (for most of us)the season of plenty of fruits and veggies, I thought I would post some info on drying foods.
For those of you who have never done any drying, you do not have to go out and buy alot of equipment; fruits and vegetables need only a flat, bug-free place to be out in the sun. The cheapo version of a food dehydrator can be as simple as a card table on your backporch. Be sure to cover the table with plastic (an old, clean shower curtain works great). You also need some type of netting to cover the food while it's drying. This keeps out unwanted guests of the insect variety but not the 2 legged pests. (I've used an old lace tablecloth for netting.) Simply cut and pretreat the stuff you want to dry, lay it on the drying surface, cover with netting and make sure it's in the direct sun. There's also oven drying, which has it's pros and cons-mostly cons, in my opinion. Oven drying limits you to small amounts that take longer to dry than drying in a dehydrator, plus you have to rotate the food and it heats up the house. The 'pros' are that you don't have to invest in any equipment and you aren't limited by the weather like you would be with my 'cheapo dryer.'
If you _do_ have the bucks for a dehydrator, there are several features you should look for. They are: plastic, not wood, trays or frames, a fan to circulate the hot air, a temperature control dial (nice but optional), an enclosed heating element, and easy access to trays.
So, having covered the equipment part of dehydrating, let's move on to preparing the food to be dried. Some simple guidelines here: choose produce at the peak of ripeness and flavor, wash produce thoroughly, remove soft or spoiled areas, cut food uniformly, and pretreat.
Produce can be shredded, sliced or diced. Slices 1/4 to 3/8 inches thick are the best size for efficient drying. Mixing veggies and fruits while drying is not a good idea because of the differing moisture content. Cutting the produce uniformly prevents some pieces from being extra crispy while others in the same batch are still soft.
There are several ways to pretreat. Veggies with a long cooking time, such as corn, beans, peas, potatoes, etc., should be steam blanched to stop the enzyme action that causes flavor loss. (So says the instruction manual to my dehydrator. I, however, have ignored that on occasion and dried green beans and potatoes without blanching first.) Veggies with a short cooking time, such as zucchini, pepper, onions, or tomatoes don't need pretreatment.
To pretreat fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, and bananas, I use a mixture of lemon juice and water (appr. 1 T lemon juice to 1 quart water.) You can also use Fruit Fresh for pretreating, just follow the directions on the container. For soft fruits, it is best to not leave the fruit slices in the pretreating solution for very long. They tend to soak up more liquid, prolonging the process. In a pinch I have used a mild salt water solution or vitamin C dissolved in water for pretreating fruits.
Lots of factors come into play while you are drying food: thickness of the produce, humidity of the air, size of the load that you're drying, and moisture of the food itself.
For example, fruits such as, apples, apricots, cranberries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapple, plums, and watermelon, are dried until they are 'pliable'. Some fruits, such as strawberries, cherries, prunes and rhubarb are dried until they are 'leathery.' Bananas are dried until they are 'crisp', and lemons/lemon rind and oranges/orange rind are dried until they are 'brittle.' Drying fruit takes anywhere from 8 to 24 hours, depending on moisture content.
Vegetables that need to dry until they are 'brittle' include artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, brussell sprouts, celery, corn, greens, onions, parsley, peas, and potatoes. Vegetables that need to dry until they are 'leathery' are cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, mushrooms, okra, peppers and pimentos, hot peppers, pumpkin, and both winter and summer squashes. Drying times vary from 4 to 16 hours, depending on moisture content.
Approximate yield of dried fruit from 25 lbs fresh fruit:
apples and peaches=3 to 4 pounds
cherries and pears=5 pounds
Approximate yields of dried vegetables from 25 pounds fresh:
beans and beets=3-4 pounds
cabbage, celery, okra, spinach, squash=2 pounds
sweet corn=8 pounds
onions=2 1/2 pounds
white potatoes=5-8 pounds
tomatoes and turnips=1 1/2-2 1/2 pounds
After you have finished drying your produce it should be packaged promptly to prevent any insects from contaminating it. I always pack up my dried foods, sometimes in Ziploc bags, sometimes in glass jars, and then freeze everything for at least 2 days. This kills any critters that may have gotten on your food. After the 'freeze time', I remove the food from the freezer and bring it to room temperature before storing it in a cool, dark place. It's best to keep different types of foods stored in separate containers. Moisture contents may vary and could cause mold to grow. Be sure to label and date your containers so that they can be rotated and used in order.
Home dehydrating gives you a product that looks different for the most part from commercially dried produce. For example, home dried peaches and apricots turn out browner, especially if they are dried in halves, while apples and pears turn out closer to their commercial counterparts. "Dried" bananas in the store are often baked or fried, while home-dried bananas are browner and taste like really chewy, ripe bananas.
Dehydrated foods take up less space than their canned counterpart but many dried foods must be rehydrated before using. Notable exceptions are the fruits and of course, those foods added to dishes already containing plenty of liquid.
Whew, all done. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I have not quite made sense somewhere along the way. I'll do my best to answer. Linda
-- newbiebutnodummy (Linda@home.com), July 08, 1999
Great information. Please keep it coming for all of us.
I dehydrated some cantelope last night. It is great! My son loves it and thinks that it tastes like candy. He didn't believe me when I told him what it actually was.
I have dried about 10 pounds of pre-cooked hamburger into the hamburger rocks. Last night, I wanted to actually try it so I would know if I should do more or not. I rehydrated it and used it in a cheese pasta sauce to put over noodles. You couldn't tell that it wasn't fresh cooked. I will be putting up more this way. The batch of hamburger that I used last night was the first that I dried three or four months ago.
If you haven't tried it, you should. Just try one batch wait a couple of weeks and put in sauce, tacos, or chili.
-- (email@example.com), July 08, 1999.
Duh! I only forgot one of the most important parts! When drying produce, be sure not to overlap the pieces of food. This allows air to circulate freely.
Cannot-say...I've dehydrated hamburger as well. Talk about strange looking!
-- newbiebutnodummy (Linda@home.com), July 08, 1999.
Linda - thank you so much for this post! This reminds me that ripe cherries are still available and peaches/nectarines are just coming ripe (missed out on drying any strawberries - ate lots of fresh ones though!). Tomorrow......
-- Kristi (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 09, 1999.
please explain the part about drying hamberger? i would love to know more please!!!
thanks a lot
-- Ron (email@example.com), July 09, 1999.
Ron-Here's the info you wanted.
Fry hamburger in pan until done, pour into a colander and rinse well under hot running water. (The object here is remove all possible grease because any remaining fat can cause the hamburger to go rancid.) Then you can either put it on your dehydrator trays (line the trays with waxed paper) or heat it in your oven on cookie sheets under low heat for a few hours until the hamburger looks like little brown rocks.
To rehydrate, boil 2 cups water to 1 cup of hamburger rocks and let set till it rehydrates. Liquid can then be drained off or used with the hamburger in your recipe.
(Actually, I think the hamburger looks more like little brown dirt clods!) Linda
-- newbiebutnodummy (Linda@home.com), July 09, 1999.
Link to a previous post onHealthy, simple, cheap dried meat. Took a lot of flak from the plant murderers, but the info works.
-- Don Armstrong (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 13, 1999.