Dehyrdrating Food For Fun And Storage
I’d like to start with a little history on dehydrating. We may consider it new, but dehydrating has a long history for storing food. Every culture has dehydrated some type of food. The earliest known practice is around 12000 BC. in the Middle East and Asia. Dehydrating (drying) food has a long history using the sun, wind and/or smoke. Native Americans dried corn, berries, jerky or “bapa” (dried buffalo meat). Pemmican was dried buffalo meat with tallow and sometimes berries used in the process. One can imagine many nomadic people using dehydration to preserve foods for lean times. Fish has been dried with salt or smoke for centuries. In the fresh state it spoils quickly.
There are many advantages to drying food.
- First of course is convenient storage. Dried foods need no refrigeration and take up less space than freezing or canning. 1 pound of frozen veggies yields 1/4 cup (carrots) to 1 cup (beans) depending on the starting moisture level. This is very good if the power goes out. If one needs to travel light, such as backpacking, they take up much less space and are lighter.
- Second is dried foods retain nutrients better than other ways of storage. They retain more enzymes, vitamins, and minerals as compared to freezing or canning.
- Third, dried foods taste better. They retain better flavor and color. When re-hydrated they are closer to the original. Dried, smoked fish is so yummy. Dried fruits become candy and spiced veggies become chips.
- Fourth dried foods can save you money. You can dry garden extras. Or you can buy on sale or in bulk and dry it.
- Fifth, you can make healthy snacks with dried foods. I would much rather snack on healthy veggie chips or dried fruit than processed potato chips or candy.
- Sixth, you can make quick meals such as soups or stews from dried food.
- Seventh, you can actually dehydrate meals and re-hydrate them in a pinch for a quick meal. Dried, smoked fish is so yummy. Dried fruits become candy and spiced veggies become chips as mentioned previously. And of course dried foods are just plain fun. I remember making granola,coconut macaroons, banana chips, pineapple, beef jerky, flax seed and veggie crackers, and other goodies for my family and friends. The kids really love it and beef jerky is loved by kids and adults! Another thing I like is drying veggies like eggplant or zucchini for use as healthy gluten free noodles. I use this spiral vegetable slicer to make “noodles” and then dry them.
- Old chips, cookies or popcorn can be revitalized with dehydrating to remove excess moisture. Chips can be warmed safely for chips and salsa.
- And of course dried foods are just plain fun. It can be so fun doing this with children and being creative. I remember making granola,coconut macaroons, banana chips, pineapple, beef jerky, flax seed and veggie crackers, and other goodies for my family and friends. The kids really love it and beef jerky is loved by kids and adults! Another thing I like is drying veggies like eggplant or zucchini for use as healthy gluten free noodles. I use this spiral vegetable slicer to make “noodles” and then dry them. Dehydrators can be used for crafts also. Such as drying flowers for scrapbooks or ornaments.
Methods of dehydration can range from something similar to what our ancestors did to electric, worry-free models. Drying in the sun is the most basic. By 1000 BC the Chinese were using the sun, smoke, salt and spices to dry foods. North American Indians made pemmican by dying meat (buffalo or deer) with fat for storage. Drying with smoke, especially for meat like jerky or fish are also traditional methods. Passive solar dehydrators can be used. Salting foods and drying in the sun can work. We have it so easy now a days with electric dehydrators. These have temperature settings and fans to circulate the air. This prevents mold and bacteria from getting a foothold. The cheaper dehydrators work fine. I have had a round “American Harvest” dehydrator for many (over 20) years and it still works. [Read more…]