I have talked about canning, freezing, and root cellaring. There is another way to preserve food! Dehydrating. It is easy, saves space, concentrates flavors, and who doesn’t love a dried cinnamon apricot?
I bought my fancy dehydrator when Doug and I were on our Raw Foodie kick. We used our income tax refund to purchase a Vitamix and the Excalibur dehydrator. Luckily we bought high quality items so that even now they work fabulously. The Excalibur has temperature controls so you can control how quickly or how slowly you want to dehydrate your food. I layer the trays with apples (disappeared in two weeks upon completion), apricots (just finished the bag. I hid it for awhile so Doug wouldn’t finish them in two weeks as well), and tomatoes. The finished product slides into zip lock bags and sits in the basement.
The first year that I dehydrated food to put up for winter, I only processed it to the point where it looks like the ones in the stores. The stores add a preservative. So those juicy looking dried tomatoes quickly molded and the whole batch was ruined. At home I have to dehydrate everything until there is no sign of moisture. You could dehydrate it until moist and eatable now but then you would have to freeze them and that seems counterproductive to me! The apricots are not crispy, just leathery. Same with the apples. The tomatoes are hard, so are the peas, green beans, and carrots that I dehydrated and put in canning jars.
We are able to chew on the leathery fruit for awhile as it slowly starts to reconstitute, releases juices, and becomes a satisfying snack. The tomatoes I pour boiling water over and let sit until I am able to snip them with scissors into smaller pieces and drop into sauce. The same can be done with the soup vegetables as well as dried mushrooms from the store if you don’t grow them (something I’d like to learn). I made the error of throwing the peas, green beans, and carrots in with rice while it was cooking. Sautéed it all together with soy sauce and egg to make a stir fry. We all bit into it, made a face, Doug kept eating, Emily and I made popcorn! They were still pretty hard. I prepare the dried vegetables first before adding them to meals now! You can add the water you soaked them in to stock or sauces. Particularly the mushroom broth, very rich and tasty. You can bring the vegetables to a boil for five to ten minutes to reconstitute as well.
I thought last year, as I am trying to do things without electricity more, that I would sun dry all these things. I placed my large folding rack for laundry on the hot back porch and balanced the trays from the dehydrator between the rungs. An hour later they looked great until closer inspection when I noticed all of the ants. I read that if one sprinkles cinnamon around the trays the ants will stay off. Ants love cinnamon at my house, apparently. I brought everything back in and finished it in the dehydrator. But I tell you what, the cinnamon apricots were my favorite! Maybe covering the fruit and vegetables with cheesecloth? Does anyone know of any clever ways to achieve bug free sun dried food?
This year I would like to dehydrate onions. I buy a tremendous amount of dried, minced onion because I love the flavor in food. I sat there while opening the bag thinking, “I could do this!” Isn’t that how homesteading starts? Look at something that you always buy or always use and think, “I could do this!”
I hope you are planning on preserving lots of food this year. In these uncertain times it sure feels good to have a full larder and dehydrating can help bolster your stores!