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dehydrating food

Preservation Methods – Dehydrating your food

In an emergency situation, 2 things are most important: water and food. Therefore, according to our survival experts and Fema`s Assistance, you should have enough supplies for at least 10 days. But doesn’t the food go bad? There are several ways to protect your food from going bad. Today we will show you different methods of preserving your food.

Dehydration is one of the oldest forms of food preservation methods. Removing moisture from food, it suppresses the growth of bacteria, mould and yeast. The main purpose of this preservation method has always been to extend its shelf life and have food available without storage costs.

Sun and air drying

The first and most basic form of food preservation methods is sun and air drying. With this method, the raw materials are exposed to the sun and/or hot air for a longer period of time.

Today, drying food at home is done using an oven, electric food dryer, or food dehydrator. However, if you have a large area on your property, you can air or sun-dry fresh goods as long as you protect them from animal activity.

Drying food at home has its advantages:

Properly dried food will keep for years if stored in proper containers (airtight bags). They don’t lose their flavour or structural integrity.

During the “dehydration” method of preservation, food loses moisture and becomes smaller. This allows you to easily pack and store them in small containers, saving space in your pantry.

Dried foods are not just for your emergency supplies. Due to their lightness, they are also perfect for travel. Not only are they easy to carry, but they can also be eaten raw, eliminating the need to cook on your travels.

Aside from a few special recipes, dried foods do not require any additional ingredients. You don’t have to use sugar, vinegar or other preservatives during the drying process.

Drying food intensifies the taste and is healthier for you. Once the water content is removed, the food tastes stronger. Not to mention you can replace commercial produce (snacks, chips, etc.) with dehydrating fresh produce. You don’t have to worry about the high levels of sugar, salt, and most importantly, trans fat.

Carrying out the “dehydration” preservation method:

It can take several days at optimal temperatures to successfully dehydrate food and is therefore a method preferred in high-temperature areas. People from tropical regions use this preservation method very often because it is an economical way to preserve their food.

Fruits, vegetables, and meat are all good options for this preservation method. However, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables, you have to use products that have reached their peak when they are ripe. Dehydrating ripe fruit helps retain flavour even as the juices are removed, leaving a concentration of sweetness.

Tools Needed for Solar Air Dehydration:

  • remember 40 degrees Celsius or more
  • cotton cloth
  • Teflon-coated baking sheets
  • shelves
  • Clothesline

Instructions for the sun/air preservation method:

Wash, cut and prepare the foods you have chosen for this preservation method. Make sure you cut the food into even shapes and sizes, this will help you store it later. Thin strips take less time to dry than thick strips. If the foods you have chosen are prone to oxidation, you can use organic/raw lime or lemon juice to preserve their colour.

Place the cut foods on the baking sheets in the sun or hang them on the clothesline. Never use aluminium pans or pans lined with copper, fibreglass or vinyl screens as they can be corroded by food moisture and give your food a metallic taste. Elevate the trays by 1-2 centimetres to allow air to pass underneath them.

Place the bowls at a safe distance from pollutants that could affect the taste or smell of the food (cars, steam vents, garbage cans, etc.). Also, make sure that children and pets are not around, as they could knock over the bowls and your work would then be in vain.

Cover the baking sheets with towels to protect them from animals and insects.

Check the food and turn it over once you have determined that one side is dry enough. Don’t touch the food too often as you can contaminate it with the oils and moisture from your hands, not to mention the microbial transmission that can occur (we don’t always think about washing our hands).

There is no specific time when you should turn the fruit and vegetables.

On very hot days, place food in the shade to avoid excessive colour loss. Depending on the weather in your area, this method can take hours or days. You will have to be patient.

As a precaution, you can place the sun-dried food in a preheated oven at 50°C for 30 minutes. This ensures that the microorganisms and spores do not have a chance to multiply.

Dehydration with an oven

This is another widely used food preservation method, but it is very different from solar air drying. This method uses a gas or electric oven and is much faster than drying in the sun. It is preferred by many as the food is not exposed to the elements, pests or any other risk of contamination and they do not have to spend time and energy securing the drying area.

Tools needed for oven drying:

  • Oven (electric or gas) with shelves
  • Slotted racks or trays

How to dry your food in the oven:

Wash, cut and prepare the foods you have chosen to dry. Follow the same instructions as the previous method in terms of slicing the food and protecting it from oxidation. Place the food in the oven, directly on the racks or in the trays.

When using this preservation method, set the oven to the lowest temperature. If you set it higher, the food will burn. Open the oven door an inch to allow airflow. This speeds up the drying process as the steam escapes.

Swap trays to ensure even drying. In any oven, the bottom shelf gets the most heat while the top shelf is much cooler, so you’ll need to turn the shelves regularly. You could just use one rack and put it in the middle, but it will take much more time to finish the entire batch of food.

When you dry meat, poultry, fish, and other seafood, you need to turn those foods. This is not necessary for fruit and vegetables.

As with the solar air drying method of preservation, the time it takes to properly dehydrate food depends on its type and moisture content. Luckily, as long as you wash your hands, it’s much easier to touch and control the food here.

Method of preserving food using a food dehydrator

Food dehydrators are special devices that have been developed exclusively for drying food. There are two types on the market, electric and solar, and they can process all types of food. You must read the user manuals carefully before using them for the first time.

A piece of advice: if you buy an electrical appliance, make sure it has a fan and a thermostat. The fan helps circulate air and remove odour, while the thermostat helps you regulate the heat at all times.

Tools needed for dehydration:

  • Automatic door

How to dry your food with a food dehydrator:

Wash, cut and prepare the foods you have chosen to dry. Follow the same instructions as for the previous preservation methods in terms of slicing the food and avoiding oxidation.

Put the food in the dehydrator and follow the instructions for the drying process to work.

Once you’ve dried the food, let it cool at room temperature before storing it in containers. When the food is cold, it does not form steam or condensation in the containers.

Note on storage:

Pack dried foods in small containers. Pack according to the servings you need to avoid opening and closing the containers too often. Store dried foods in an airtight container at room temperature.

The foods have a shelf life of years, but it is better to check them after a year to make sure they are still good. Check your pantry randomly.

Label your containers so you know what’s in them.

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