Prepare Every Needful Thing

"If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear"

Equipment and Supplies–January 2015

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Food Dehydrator

dried applesDehydrating is an excellent way to preserve produce for later use. One does not need to worry about maintaining high acidity, jars breaking or failing to seal and storage space requirements are greatly reduced over canning. Many foods retain excellent nutrition and are easy to use in cooking. I have found that my home-dried fruits and vegetables rival or exceed the quality of products I have purchased, including many of the ultra-expensive freeze-dried goods. I recently broke open a box of home-dried mixed vegetables I had prepared three years ago when we needed to empty our freezer. We’ve been adding them to soups this winter and have found their flavor and texture perfect for this use.

The process is typically quite simple. Wash, cut to size, blanch or dip if required (these steps can be omitted if you are dehydrating frozen vegetables!), spread on dehydrator trays and set dehydrator temperature. When food has reached your desired level of dryness (long-term storage items should be crisp, shorter-term can remain leathery), freeze your items for 72 hours to kill insect eggs, then seal in airtight packaging and store away from light and heat.

In addition to mixed vegetables, a few of our family’s favorite dehydrated foods are apples, pears, pineapples, mangoes, bananas, apricots, peaches and tomatoes. Detailed instructions on how to dry these and other foods can be found online as well as in many food preserving books.

When purchasing a dehydrator, pay attention to capacity, power, heat adjustability and airflow. An adequate machine will make the difference between a tool that is used regularly and one that sits on a shelf. My dehydrator is a Nesco brand machine and I have been very happy with it. I like that I do not need to rotate trays and that I only need to purchase additional trays if I ever decide I need more space. My mom has an Excalibur that she has been very happy with as well.

Alternatives to purchasing an electric dehydrator include oven dehydrating (keep the temperature range between 105-165F for best results), dehydrating near a wood stove or solar dehydrating.

For more on solar dehydration, see: http://lifehacker.com/5660969/build-a-simple-solar-food-dehydrator-for-chemical-free-food-preservervation

 

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