Add Dehydration to Your Preserving Toolbox
There is more to freshly preserving food at home than just canning and freezing. Dehydration is a straightforward process that produces easy to use foods. Unlike canning and freezing, finding the ideal dehydration technique requires some trial-and- error. A number of factors determine the finished product, such as drying method, quality of produce, pretreatment techniques and even climate. Reference the food’s recipe as a starting point and then make adjustments as you become more familiar with the process.
The success of home food dehydration depends on three basic principles:
- A controlled heat warm enough to expel moisture but not hot enough to cook the food.
- Dry air to absorb the moisture released during the heating process.
- Air circulation to remove the moisture from the heating environment.
A useful method of preservation, dehydration removes 80-95% of moisture to deactivate spoilage processes while retaining abundant nutrients.
Getting Started – Tools of the Trade
- Dehydration recipe. Check out The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving or the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving for more information, how-to's and recipes.
- Electric dehydrator.
- Common kitchen utensils and meal preparation equipment.
- Quality ingredients (fresh vegetables, meat, poultry or seafood).
- Airtight and moisture resistant food storage containers, such as Ball® canning jars, or plastic storage containers with locking lids and vacuum seals.
- Fresh produce and other quality ingredients.
Dry It Out in Eight Steps
- Review recipe and instructions
- Gather equipment and ingredients.
- Choose the storage containers appropriate for the dehydrated food. Wash, rinse and dry containers. Allow to cool completely.
- Prep fresh produce and other quality ingredients according to the recipe. Most vegetables and some fruits benefit from pretreatment techniques like blanching. Blanching (heating in steam or water for a specific time, then cooling quickly) shortens the drying and rehydration time, sets color, slows enzyme action, and kills many spoilage microorganisms.
5. Dry foods in the electric dehydrator as per recipe. 6. Pack in home canning jars, containers, or vacuum package. 7. Label with the date and name of the product. 8. Store in a cool (50-70°F), dry, and dark place for the recommended time. Check periodically for moisture and mold, and if apparent, dispose of food.
Dehydrated food, especially fruits, can make for a great snack. However, there may be times you will want to rehydrate the food for cooking, eating, and serving. To rehydrate, add just enough boiling water to cover the food, wait 10 minutes, and serve immediately or use in a favorite recipe.
Try It Out!
- Choose any tart, firm-textured apple.
- Wash, peel, and core apples.
- Cut into ¼ to ½ inch slices or rings.
- Pretreat with Fruit-Fresh by dipping in boiling water until skins split slightly.
- Dry at 130° to 135°F until pliable (flexible; easily bent).
Use as snack, for applesauce, or in baked goods, such as pies, cobblers, or crisps. Water content 84%.
Download a printable step-by-step dehydration guide here.