Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Food Dehydration

Drying food is the earliest methods of food dehydration.  Speed, uniform slices, and best quality of produce are determining factors in food dehydration as is air circulation. 

Sun drying is the oldest and cheapest method of food dehydration.  In places with low humidity, like Arizona, all you need is a couple of screens and two blocks to place them on for air circulation.  I live in a high humidity area and food would turn rancid before it would dry.  Humidity below 20% is ideal.
Oven drying is another option.  Place your produce on a tray and set your oven to 140F.  Leave the door open slightly.  Some use a fan to blow into the oven also to help with air circulation.  My oven has 170f as a low temperature so this is not an option for me.  You don't want to cook the food, just dry it.
Electric food dehydrators are a popular choice. 


Available with multiple trays, fruit leather trays and temperature control.  You can place your produce in the trays and let the food dry overnight.

Fruit and Berries:

All foods need some type of preparation prior to drying.  Cherries, blueberries, grapes, and other fruits and berries with a waxy coat should be put into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds then submerged in ice water.  This helps break the skin and allow moisture out.  Light colored fruit that can brown, such as apples should be treated first with ascorbic acid.  For apples dissolve two teaspoons in one cup of water and one teaspoon in one cup of water for all other light colored fruits. Sprinkle on slices and mix or quickly dip slices in the solution.  You don't want to saturate.




Uniform slices are key, most fruit and vegetables should be slice 3mm to 5mm thick.  If you are not consistent with a knife a mandoline might be a better option.



Place your slices in a single layer on your tray(s), and set your temperature.  Most fruit will take 6 to 10 hours to dehydrate depending on how juicy the fruit and humidity.  The finished product should be leathery and no moisture should remain in the center.  If you are using a lot of trays you may have to rotate half way during your drying time.
You can puree your fruit and spread 1/4 inch thick on an oven tray or fruit leather tray and dry also.  It should not be sticky when finished and can be rolled up in wax paper and Ziploc bag.


Vegetables:

Vegetables should be blanched before drying with the exception of onions, garlic, okra and mushrooms.  A handy blanching chart available from the University of Minnesota Extension.
Submerge blanched vegetables in ice water or run under cold water.  Vegetables can take from 6 to 8 hours depending on size and humidity.  They should be brittle when finished.

Meat:

Lean meats should be used in drying.  Trim off as much fat and connective tissue as possible.  Fat turns rancid in drying.  Meat can be seasoned or marinated before hand and ground meat can be used also to make jerky.  Meat should be sliced thin.  A meat slicer comes in handy.

Also for making jerky out of ground meat you might want to consider a jerky gun.  I have successfully made jerky out of ground venison with the help of one.



You can marinate meat overnight and dehydrate in the morning.  Dehydrate meat at the highest temperature setting for six hours and finish off in the oven at 275F for ten minutes.  As always, single layer and blot of excess fat when taken out of the dehydrator.  When using a marinade make sure it does not include oil.

Herbs:

Herbs are great to grow and great to dry.  They can be tied up on the branch and suspended in a cool, dark area or can be separated from the stems and dried between paper towels.  Larger leafed herbs can be dried without stems in an electric food dehydrator.  Some microwave them between paper towels for a minute or two.



Mason jars with screw top lids and Ziploc bags can be used to store dehydrated goods.  Dehydrated meats can also be frozen.  Dehydration makes food highly portable as well. 








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