A little bit of history
Drying is believed to be one of the oldest methods of food preservation. While there is little recorded history of dehydration of foods, sun-drying and the smoking of foods over a hot fire are mentioned in the Bible. Samples of foods which were discovered within the last few years were believed to have been dried in Jericho 4,000 years ago. Drying is a method of food preservation that is simple, safe, and easy to learn. Drying also creates new food products such as fruit leather, banana chips, pumpkin seeds, and beef jerky. Drying removes enough moisture from the food so bacteria, yeast and molds cannot grow. Drying also slows down the action of enzymes, a natural chemical in fruits and vegetables that causes food to ripen and eventually spoil.

Native Americans dried corn, squash, beans and meat on drying platforms. Inca’s dried potatos in the mountain air. nuts placed in coarsely woven sacks, onions braided, herbs bundled and hung to dry.

Why Dry

One HUGE pro to drying your food is that you can dry with all the trays full or you can dry just a few small things before they aren’t usable anymore

Drying provides a good way to buy fresh on sale while in season and save for when out of season.

Drying food helps promote a simpler, sustainable, and more self sufficient lifestyle.

Drying food doesn’t cost to store monthly – nor is it vulnerable to power outages, dry food does not suffer freezer burn either.

How To Dry (different options)

There are different ways to dehydrate foods, electric by far is preferred, I get why people might want to do it other ways or at least try it out just in case. (I am going to get a solar dehydrator out one of these days.) electric dehydrators work in any weather and drying in your house means you don’t have to contend with dirt, bugs or birds.

Here are the different options I have found:

Air drying

This method differs from sun drying, since it takes place indoors in a well ventilated attic, room, or screened-in porch. Herbs, hot peppers, and mushrooms are the most common air-dried items. Herbs and peppers are not pretreated, but are simply strung on a string or tied in bundles and suspended from overhead racks until dry. Enclose them in paper

bags to protect them from dust or other pollutants.

Microwave Drying

It is not possible to dry food successfully in a microwave oven except for herbs and some leaf vegetables. Often

food which has been microwave dried tastes overcooked rather than dried. Microwave ovens are a quick way to dry herbs when only small quantities are desired. Place no more than 4 or 5 herb branches between two paper towels and

microwave for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the herbs, and when cool, check to see that they are dry and brittle. If not, repeat drying for 30-second intervals until dry.

Sun-Drying

You will find many references which describe the sun-drying of foods. Sun-drying requires constant exposure to direct sunlight during the day and a relative humidity of less than 20%. These conditions are usually found in only a few regions of the United States, such as the Sacramento Valley of California or in Arizona. Foods dried in the sun can

take from 3-4 days to dry.

Oven Drying

By combining heat, low humidity, and air current, an oven can be used as a dehydrator. It is ideal for occasional drying of meat jerky, fruit

leathers, and banana chips or for preserving leftovers like celery or mushrooms. Drying in an oven is slower than in a dehydrator because ovens

do not have built-in fans for the air movement. It takes two to three times longer to dry food in an oven than in a dehydrator; thus, the oven is not

as efficient and uses a great deal more energy

than a dehydrator. To use your oven, check the oven dial to see if it has a reading as low as 140ºF. If the thermostat does not go this low, your food will cook instead of dry. For air circulation, leave the oven door propped open 2 to 4 inches and place a fan near the outside of the oven door to improve circulation. An oven thermometer placed near the

food gives an accurate reading of the drying temperature.


Dehydrators

Whatever the method is, drying food is a slow process. In a dehydrator, it will take 6 or more hours to dry most foods. Of course, the drying time depends on the type of food, the thickness of the cut, the moisture content of the food and the method used. Most food dehydrators have an electric element for heat and a fan and vents for air circulation. Efficient

dehydrators are designed to dry foods uniformly and to retain food quality.

There are several different dehydrators. out there on the market. One is round with a fan on top or bottom that forces air to circulate. The nice thing about this type of dehydrator is that they have stacking trays and you can add or remove them depending on the size of your load to be dried. I normally fill the dehydrator, but occasionally, like when I only have half an onion or something it saves energy, time and space to remove the other trays. The other type of dehydrator is normally rectangular and has stationary shelves with a fan in the back. Its much more efficient, you don’t have to rotate trays to dry evenly.

I don’t normally do small batches in the dehydrator but I have a round dehydrator with an adjustable temp and fan on top. I use it sometimes, it comes in handy, I bought it before I bought the bigger much more expensive one. I borrowed my friends Nesco dehydrator for a while to see if I liked dehydrating and then I didn’t want to buy the expensive one when I gave the other one back to my friend, so I bought another Nesco dehydrator of my own because I bought the accessories while I was borrowing my friends. I just didn’t want to spend the money and then realize I truly hated dehydrating food.

Preparing For Dehydration

Rinse fruits and vegetables under cold running water and cut away bruised and fibrous portions. Remove seeds, stems, and/or pits.

Blanching

Blanching is briefly precooking food in boiling water or steam, and it is used to stop enzymatic reactions within the foods. Blanching also shortens drying time and kills many spoilage organisms.

Blanching and Drying Times for Selected Vegetables
Vegetable Blanching Drying time
(hrs)*
Method Time
(mins)
Beets cook before drying 3½–5
Carrots steam 3–3½ 3½–5
water
Corn not necessary 6–8
Garlic not necessary 6–8
Horseradish not necessary 4–10
Mushrooms not necessary 8–10
Okra not necessary 8–10
Onions not necessary 3–6
Parsley not necessary 1–2
Peas steam 3 8–10
water 2
Peppers not necessary 2½–5
Potatoes steam 6–8 8–12
water 5–6
Pumpkin steam 2½–3 10–16
water 1
* Dried vegetables should be brittle or crisp.

Blanching and Drying Times for Selected Fruits
Fruit Blanching* Drying time
(hrs)**
Method Time (mins)
Apple steam 3–5 6–12
syrup 10
Apricots steam 3–4 24–36+
syrup 10
Bananas steam 3–4 8–10
syrup 10
Cherries syrup 10 24–36
Figs not necessary 6–12
Grapes: seedless not necessary 12–20
Nectarines steam 8 36–48
syrup 10
Peaches steam 8 36–48
syrup 10
Pears steam 6 24–36+
syrup 10
Pineapples not necessary 24–36
Plums not necessary 24–36
* Fruits may be dipped in ascorbic acid or citric acid in place of blanching.
** Test for dryness by cutting the fruit. There should be no moist areas in the center. Times are estimated for use of the dehydrator or oven methods.
+ Drying times for whole fruits. Cutting fruit into slices may shorten drying time.

Steps for steam blanching (fruit and vegetables):

Use a steamer or a deep pot with a tight-fitting lid that contains a wire basket or could fit a colander or sieve so steam can circulate around the vegetables.

Add several inches of water to the steamer or pot and bring to a rolling boil.

Loosely place fruits/vegetables into the basket, no more than 2 inches deep.

Place basket into pot (fruits/vegetables should not make contact with water).

Cover and steam until fruits/vegetables are heated for the recommended time (Table 2 and 3).

Remove basket or colander and place in cold water to stop cooking.

Drain and place fruits/vegetables on drying tray.

Steps for water blanching (vegetables only):

Use a blancher or a deep pot with a tight-fitting lid.

Fill the pot two-thirds full with water, cover, and bring to a rolling boil.

Place vegetables into a wire basket and submerge them into the boiling water for the recommended time (Table 2).

Remove vegetables and place in cold water to stop cooking.

Drain and place vegetables on drying tray.

Steps for syrup blanching (fruits only):

Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup light corn syrup, and 2 cups water in a pot.

Add 1 pound of fruit.

Simmer 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and keep fruit in syrup for 30 minutes.

Remove fruit from syrup, rinse, drain, and continue with dehydration step.

Dipping is a pretreatment used to prevent fruits such as apples, bananas, peaches, and pears from turning brown. Ascorbic acid, fruit juices high in vitamin C (lemon, orange, pineapple, grape, etc.), or commercial products containing ascorbic or citric acid may be used for dipping. For example, dipping sliced fruit pieces in a mixture of ascorbic acid crystals and water (1 teaspoon ascorbic acid crystals per 1 cup of water), or dipping directly in fruit juice for 3 to 5 minutes will prevent browning. Fruits may also be blanched as a means of treatment.

Dipping is not something that has to absolutely be done, but most food that you dehydrate that should be pretreated will not look good enough to eat for my children and thats why its important to invest on pretreaters. You can use Lemon Juice (I have seen people say everything from soaking to spraying directly on once and moving on (Which meakes the fruits and veggies a lot less soggy, I agree) to soaking for 5-7 minutes in lemon juice or something else high in scid such as pineapple juice.

Drying Fruits and Vegetables

Pounds of Dehydrated Food from Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits (20 lbs) Dehydrated weight  (lbs)
Apples 2
Peaches 1½–2½
Pears
Prunes/plums
Fresh vegetables (20 lbs) Dehydrated weight (lbs)
Snap beans
Beets 2
Carrots
Onions
Squash (summer) 1½–2
Tomatoes ¾

Pasteurizing Sun-Dried Fruits

All sun-dried fruits must be pasteurized to destroy any insects and their eggs. This can be done with heat or cold. To pasteurize with heat, place dried food evenly in shallow trays no more than 1 inch in depth. Fruits should be heated at 160°F for 30 minutes. To pasteurize with cold, fruits can be placed in the freezer at 0°F for 48 hours.

Conditioning Dried Fruits

Dried fruits must be conditioned prior to storage. Conditioning is the process of evenly distributing moisture present in the dried fruit to prevent mold growth. Condition dried fruit by placing it in a plastic or glass container, sealing, and storing for 7 days to 10 days. Shake containers daily to distribute moisture. If condensation occurs, place fruit in the oven or dehydrator for more drying and repeat the conditioning process.

Storing Dried Fruits and Vegetables

Cool-dried food should be placed in a closed container that has been washed and dried before storing. Home-canning jars are good containers for storing dried foods. Store in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Dried foods can maintain quality for up to a year depending on the storage temperature. The cooler the storage temperature, the longer dehydrated foods will last.

The previous paragraph I see on some pages. And for somethings it is true but packing, storage and moisture levels play huge role in how long you can keep dried foods, and if they are properly dried with less than 6% moisture, then you can store most fruits and vegetables for an indeterminate period of time.

products intended for long term storage (20+) years must be low in oil content to avoid rancidity and have less than 6% moisture content to prevent microbial growth.

Botulism poisoning may result if moist products are stored in packaging that reduces oxygen (ex: canned, foils, pouches, or bottles with oxygen packs.)

Reconstituting Dried Fruits and Vegetables

Dried fruits and vegetables may be reconstituted (restoring moisture) by soaking the food in water. Time for reconstituting will depend on the size and shape of the food and the food itself. Most dried fruits can be reconstituted within 8 hours, whereas most dried vegetables take only 2 hours.

To prevent growth of microorganisms, dried fruits and vegetables should be reconstituted in the refrigerator. One cup of dried fruit will yield approximately 1½ cups of reconstituted fruit. One cup of dried vegetable will yield approximately 2 cups of reconstituted vegetable. Reconstituted fruits and vegetables should be cooked in the water in which they were soaking.

Half drying, a dehydrator allows you to dehydrate completely or partially (you can stop the process wherever you want to) the reason I find 1/2 drying such an interesting idea is for meat marinades.

Powdering dried foods

Using powdered dehydrated foods creates bold and concentrated flavors in cooking. Also a great way to use the parts of veggies you might otherwise through out, like mushroom stems or the tough ends of asparagus stalks. Powders make great additions to soups, sauces omelets, baby foods, chili, marinades, breads and batters. Add powdered dried spinach, artichoke, asparagus, or chestnut powder to creamed soups. Add fruit powders to puddings, ice cream, cakes or smoothies.

Packaging

From all of my research they are essentially the same as they would be for say wheat or other long term food storage items. I would recommend jars with oxygen absorbers for shorter term (6 months to a year and vacuum bags for 1-3 years or even Mylar for even longer term storage. You can pack in #10 cans, but it can become costly if your not Mormon or don’t have access to a Mormon store house where they will allow you to purchase their cans and use their canning machinery to seal your goods.

Better not to dry

Some products may not be suitable for longer term storage. Pearled Barley, Dried Eggs, whole wheat flour, milled grains, (Other than rolled oats) granola, nuts, brown rice, brown sugar, and dried fruits and veggies (this in fact is not true but it is SO very important to state it here because with to much moisture they do NOT store well.)

The reasons are different, mostly its that the oil will go rancid that is within the products, dehydrated however, if dry enough will be fine, most often fruits and veggies don’t have issues with oils.

Case hardening

This is when foods being dried have been dehydrated at to high a temperature or to quickly and the center of the dried fruit of vegetable still has moisture in the middle even though the outside of it seems to be completely dried. There are 2 remedies for this, the first would be be to it open and dry at a lower temp until completely dry or just place back in the dehydrator at a lower temp and cut open later to check the middles to ensure they dried through, be careful of the second option, there is always a chance that there will be residual moisture that you arent aware of.

~~

Making Safe Jerky

Jerky can be made from almost any lean meat, including pork, venison, and smoked turkey. Jerky made from meat is of particular concern because dehydrators rarely reach temperatures beyond 140°F. This temperature is not high enough to kill harmful microorganisms that may be present on meat. Before dehydration, precook meat to 160°F, and precook poultry to 165°F. For best results, precook meat by roasting in marinade.

Meat preparation

To prepare meat for jerky, make sure that safe meat handling procedures are followed.

Clean: Wash hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat. Use clean utensils.

Chill: Store meat or poultry refrigerated at 40°F or below prior to use. It is important to thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator. Never thaw meat on counter tops.

Slice partially frozen meat into strips no thicker than ¼ inch. Trim and discard any fat. Meat can be marinated for flavor and tenderness. Many marinade recipes can be used.

Simple Meat Marinade Recipe

1½ – 2 lbs lean meat

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp hickory-smoke flavored salt

Combine all ingredients. Place strips of meat in a shallow pan and cover with marinade. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour to 2 hours or overnight. Heating meat to reduce chances of food-borne illness should be done at the end of marinating. Bringing strips and marinade to a boil for about 5 minutes will accomplish this. Drain.

Drying meats

Drain strips on a clean, absorbent towel. Place strips in a single layer, making sure they don’t touch or overlap. Dehydrate at 140°F until a test piece will crack, but not snap, when bent. Remove dried strips from rack and cool.

If the meat strips were not heated to 160°F in marinade prior to drying, you may want to do this in an oven after drying. Place the dried strips on a baking sheet and cook at for 275°F, or until meat reaches 160°F. This process adds an additional safety step to the process.

Storing meat jerky

Meat strips should be packaged in glass jars or heavy plastic storage bags. Jerky can be stored at room temperature for 2 weeks in a sealed container. For the longest shelf life, flavor, and quality jerky, store in the refrigerator or freezer.

You can also dry and store ground beef that has been dehydrated for the same timeframe at room temperature, which is great for camping/road trips or hunting. I advise longer term be vacuum sealed and placed in the freezer for later use.

For Shelf stable meat, purchase your food storage meat commercially or can at home (canning meat food storage shelf life is 1-2 years…

How to Make Fruit Leather

Basic Instructions – How to Make Fruit Leather

(fruit leather recipe ideas to follow)

For the best quality home-made fruit leather, select fruit that’s at it’s peak in color, texture, flavor. It should be ripe, but not overly ripe.

Wash the fruit, remove stems, pits, etc. Peel. Remove any bruised areas.

Puree the fruit in your blender or fruit processor until smooth and liquid (should be easy to pour). Taste the puree and season/sweeten as you wish. It’s better to slightly under-season as the flavors will intensify (concentrate) as they dehydrate.

If the fruit leather puree needs sweetening, add sweetener 1 tbsp at a time, and reblend, tasting until it’s at the desired taste. For sweetener use your choice of: honey, corn syrup, or concentrated fruit juice, or sugar.

Spread the fruit leather puree out on plastic (solid) dehydrator trays. If you don’t have solid trays or liners for the trays, you can line your trays with plastic wrap. (To avoid your leather sticking to the tray or the wrap, coat with just a little vegetable oil.) It’s best to not use wax paper or foil to line the trays.

When spreading the puree on the liner, allow about an inch of space between the mixture and both the inside & outside edge. (The fruit leather mixture will spread out as it dries, so it needs a little room to allow for this expansion.). Spread mixture to 1/4″ thick.

Dry (dehydrate) the fruit leather at 100 degrees (F) for about 16 (+/-) hours. Finished consisency should be pliable and easy to roll.

NOTE: it’s best not to dry your home made fruit leather at a temperature over 100 degrees (F) as it destroys the beneficial enzymes in the fruit, as well as much of the nutritional content.

Storage: to store the finished fruit leather, remove from the dehydrator while still warm. Roll them up and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Place in an air-tight container, and store in a dry, dark place. (Light will cause the fruit leather to discolor.)

You may also find some other creative ways of serving your home made fruit leather. For example: try rolling it up around a filling (such as peanut butter or cream cheese).

You can cook your fruit leather puree (and I actually recommend it) though you don’t have to. Fruit Leathers arent really meant for longer term storage, more for a healthy snack for kids. If you cook it and blend it tends to be more pliable once dehydrated and you CAN cook it at a higher temp if you choose to. Some dehydrators don’t even allow you the choice anyway. If you blend fruit with lemon juice and spready it stays light and it dries completely crisp if you leave it in the dehydrator long enough. The time tables really depends on the sugar content. (Dehydrate2store.com actually has an awesome youtube.com video about fruit leather and talks about these differences, though none of the other information was lifted from it, but if you would like to reference it as a tool to compare, it might be helpful)

Fruit leather that will snap will store for a much longer period of time.

Recipe Ideas for Making Your Own Fruit Leather

Apple Raisin Fruit Leather Recipe:

6 cups chopped apples, 1/2 cup chopped raisins, (optional, season with cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg)

Apple Rhubarb Fruit Leather Recipe:

5 cups chopped apples, 1 cup cooked rhubarb

Apple Raspberry Fruit Leather Recipe:

3 cups chopped apples, 3 cups raspberries

Apple Blueberry Fruit Leather Recipe:

3 cups chopped apples, 3 cups blueberries, (optional, season with cinnamon)

Apple Cranberry Fruit Leather Recipe:

3 cups chopped apples, 3 cups cranberries

Apricot Plum Fruit Leather Recipe:

3 cups chopped apricots, 3 cups chopped plums

Banana Strawberry Fruit Leather Recipe:

4 cups mashed bananas, 2 cups strawberries

Banana Raspberry Fruit Leather Recipe:

4 cups mashed bananas, 2 cups raspberries

Banana Cherry Fruit Leather Recipe:

4 cups mashed bananas, 2 cups cherries (pits removed)

Banana Pineapple Fruit Leather Recipe:

4 cups mashed bananas, 2 cups chopped pineapple, (optional, sprinkle with a little dried coconut)

Banana Peanut Butter Fruit Leather Recipe:

4 cups mashed bananas, 2 cups peanut butter

Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Leather Recipe:

4 cups chopped strawberries, 2 cups chopped cooked rhubarb

Peach Pear Fruit Leather Recipe:

3 cups chopped pears, 3 cups chopped peaches, (optional: cinnamon, or other spices)

Peach Blackberry Fruit Leather Recipe:

3 cups chopped peaches, 3 cups blackberries, (optional: season with cinnamon)

Pear Cranberry Fruit Leather Recipe:

3 cups chopped pears, 3 cups cranberries, (optional: season with cinnamon, ginger)

Pumpkin Apple Fruit Leather Recipe:

3 cups chopped apple, 3 cups cooked pumpkin puree, (optional: season with cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves)

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Common Problems & Solutions when Making Fruit Leather

Problem: The puree for the fruit leather is too thick (won’t pour easily).

Solution: Add fruit juice or water, a little at a time until the right consistency. Also, you can add other fruits that are higher in water content.

Problem: The puree for the fruit leather is too thin (too runny).

Solution: mix with fruit that have a lower water content (make a thicker puree), or cook a little to reduce the water. Note: cooking it will destroy much of the nutritional content for your fruit leather and it also changes the flavor.

Problem: The fruit leather doesn’t dry evenly

Solution: The puree wasn’t spread evenly on your drying tray. When spreading the puree mixture, try tilting and shaking the tray to help it distribute more evenly. Also, it’s a good idea to rotate your trays throughout the drying period.

Problem: The fruit leather is discolored

Solution: Many fruits will discolor as they dry. It doesn’t affect taste, only the appearance of your fruit leather. To make fruit leather that doesn’t discolor, you’ll need to add a little ascorbic acid solution to the puree.

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