Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dehydrating Made Easy

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Homegrown tomatoes in the dehydrator
Dehydrating your food is simple, cost-efficient, and space-efficient. It is such a simple way to have fruits and veggies in your storage without spoilage.  If we were ever to eat solely from our home stored food we would soon be craving fresh fruits and veggies, and having a variety of dehydrated foods on hand allows you to have that!  

American Harvest Dehydrator

I have been experimenting with dehydrating the past couple of years and it is really fun to see everyday foods shrink down to tiny pieces of themselves.  I also love to dehydrate because I can purchase produce for a great price, and use all my garden produce, dehydrate it, and seal it in a mason jar using my FoodSaver.  It allows me to save money and stock my pantry at the same time.  Storing dehydrated food takes up minimal space in your pantry and is so simple to do!! Just remember that there are 4 key factors that will affect the success you have with food dehydration.  (From "The Dehydrator Bible)
  1. Time
  2. Temperature
  3. Air speed
  4. Raw material preparation (use quality produce for a quality finished product)
Check with the instructions that came with your dehydrator, but if you keep all items within 1/4" then everything will dry equally.  "The Dehydrator Bible"  is a amazing resource for dehydrating along with the website.

I have dried tomatoes, zucchini, celery,rice, pureed fruit for fruit leather, frozen veggies, grapes, apples, green onions, strawberries, cabbage, etc!!!  The possibilities are endless!!  I love to buy frozen fruit when it's on sale and then puree it and make fruit leather out of it.  My kids eat it as fast as I can make it! Another great idea is to dehydrate soups (use the plastic dehydrator tray inserts to hold liquids), rice dishes, and other meals to make backpacking dehydrated meals.  All you need is to add water.  

Using a FoodSaver to seal dehydrated zucchini in a mason jar.

 I have dehydrated a chicken and rice dish and I was so excited to see it actually worked!  Dehydrating is all about experimenting.  Zucchini is really easy and abundant, especially right now, just slice or shred and dehydrate.  Now you have zucchini for breads, soups, etc. all year long!!
Zucchini and Cherry tomatoes.

Shredded Zucchini
One of my favorite tips is to save your veggies from dinner (I serve a lot of frozen veggies and we don't always finish them)  and when you have enough to fill a tray, dehydrate them all. Now you have veggies for soups or you can even blend them into a powder and toss that into anything!! Waste not want not!! I use dehydrated food in many soups, spaghetti sauces, muffins, banana bread, pizza, enchiladas (onions), sauces, etc. 
Dehydrated veggies from dinner.

If you don't have a dehydrator you can use your oven.  My oven actually has a dehydrator setting, but the very lowest setting that you can get will work. Depending on the water content of the food it can take anywhere from 4-36 hours to be fully dehydrated.  I would look online or get a book from the library for exact times.  Just remember to have fun!!  Don't stress about it, this is really one thing I don't think is intimidating and you get great results!!  So don't let all that garden produce go to waste!!  Dehydrate it!!

 Dehydrating is only one of our goals this month.  Click HERE to see them all!

Enjoy the Journey!
Enjoy the Blessings!
Feel the PEACE!!

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