How to dry food: A beginner’s guide
Preparing food for drying
Drying food as a means of preserving it has been around for thousands of years and is a great alternative for people with limited time and limited space. There is a wide variety of foods that can be preserved through drying. The most popular foods for drying are fruits, herbs, vegetables, and even mushrooms.
Dipping Food for Drying
Drying food does not stop fruit from decaying. Rather it simply slows down the process. Some foods will keep without pre-treatment, but others will deteriorate in color, flavor, and nutrients after drying unless they are first treated. One common method of pre-treating food is known as dipping. Dipping can be accomplished using various preparations.
Salt water dipping: Dissolve 6 tablespoons flaked pickling salt in 1 gallon of lukewarm water. To keep fruit from darkening, slice or chop it directly into the water. However, it’s important to make sure that you don’t soak the fruit for more than 5 minutes. Any longer than 5 minutes may result in the fruit absorbing too much water and it may acquire a salty taste. You will also want to make sure that you thoroughly drain the food before loading it onto drying trays.
Ascorbic acid drip: Ascorbic acid is a form of vitamin C. In the middle of the 18th century, sailors found that consuming lemons and limes helped prevent scurvy. Lemons and limes became popular for sailing ships since they were not only rich in vitamin C, but also because their acidity helped preserve them over long voyages.
For this solution, dissolve two tablespoons of ascorbic acid crystals, two tablespoons of ascorbic acid powder, and one gram vitamin C tablets into 1 quart of lukewarm water. Slice fruits directly into the solution until you have between 1 to 2 cups of fruit. Stir and remove the fruit with a slotted spoon. Be sure to drain the fruit well before drying.
Fruit juice dip: Dip peaches, apples, and other sliced fruit into 1 quart of undiluted pineapple juice. You can also use 1 quart of lukewarm water into which ¼ cup of lemon juice has been added. Soak for 5 to 10 minutes and drain well before drying.
Drying Food in a Dehydrator
There are many different ways to dry food. A dehydrator works best due to its ease of use and consistency. Unlike an oven, you can leave a dehydrator operating overnight. If you decide to leave your dehydrator on overnight, it’s advisable that you turn the heat down to 105 degrees F.
Step 1. Make sure that you have a clean working surface. Bacteria is the enemy. As such, cleanliness is of the utmost importance. Assemble all of the utensils that you need such as knives, peelers, a cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, a bowl, and a heavy towel before you begin the process.
Step 2. You will want to select foods that are ripe or nearly ripe. You will want to avoid foods that overly ripe or starting to turn. Make sure that you have thoroughly washed the food before starting.
Step 3. Preheat your dehydrator. The recommended temperatures are as follows: 115 degrees F for uncooked fruits, 120 degrees for variables and some cooked fruit, and 110 for leafy herbs.
Step 4. Peel, slice, dice, or chop food into your desired size. The thinner the, the longer they will take to dry.
Step 5. Evenly spread the food over the dehydrator trays in thin layers. You can dry different foods together. However, it’s important to avoid doing this with foods that have strong flavors and smells.
Step 6. Make sure that you rotate the trays front to back and top to bottom several times throughout the process. It’s also important to make sure that you turn the food.
Step 7. After you have dried your food, it’s important to package it in airtight bottles/ jars that have been thoroughly cleaned. Be sure to store them in a cool and dark place.