Simple Secrets of Food Dehydration
Buying canned goods and extra bags of flour and sugar has been the easiest part of food storage for me. Dehydrating my own food seemed to belong in the same category as spinning my own wool. Yes, it can be done, but why would I want to go through all the trouble??!
I found out for myself that dehydrating food is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to stock up. Now, if I say it’s easy, you know. It’s easy! The foods are fresh with no additives of any kind, so I know exactly what my family is consuming. I save money since commercially dried fruits and herbs, in particular, have a premium price at the market.
I purchased a NESCO American Harvest dehydrater on Craigslist for $30 one January morning and went to work. I’ve had some hits and misses, but here is what I’ve had the best luck with so far.
- Canned peaches. Easy, easy, easy and so good! Buy #10 cans of peaches at Costco for $5 or so. Pour the fruit into a colander and rinse with water. Lay out the peach slices on the dehydrator trays and dry at a medium setting until the peaches are chewy. These are a great travel snack and will last for years if you store them using a Foodsaver system.
- Herbs. It’s amazing how quickly these dry and are ready for storage. Kellene over at Preparedness Pro recently wrote a great article about growing and and preserving herbs. I love having jars of fresh herbs and have saved a pretty penny because I no longer have to buy fresh and then need them for a recipe only after they’ve turned slimy.
- Applesauce! Buy a #10 can of applesauce at Costco for right around $5. Spread a thin layer of applesauce on a plastic tray and dehydrate. When it is dry, you have your own fruit leather! Roll it up, and store. Add cinnamon, pureed strawberries or peaches, or anything else you can think of for variety. My kids love this treat.
- Mushrooms. This is another veggie that spoils all too quickly. Slice, dry, store. Couldn’t be easier! Dried shrooms can even be ground into a powder and added to sauces and gravies for flavor.
- Sliced carrots and celery. These are a staple in my soups and stews, and I hate having to run out to the store when I don’t have them on hand. Again, slice, dry, store!
One of my camping-crazy friends dehydrates sheets of spaghetti sauce, rehydrates them with water over a campstove and has almost-instant pasta sauce. She’s also been known to make hamburger rocks in her dehydrator.
It does take time to prepare the fresh food to dry (peel, slice, chop, etc.), but once they’re on the dehydrator trays and a timer is set, I can spend my time chasing kids and doing laundry.
This doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. Seek out farmer’s markets, produce co-ops, produce stands, and the like to get the freshest food at the lowest prices. Check Craiglist, Freecyle and eBay for bargains on dehydrators. The Excalibur brand is considered to be top of the line, but there are directions online for making your own from scratch.
For more specific how-to details, check out these websites, and have fun dehydrating your own foods!
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