Dehydration is a way that you can preserve meat, fruits and vegetables while also saving precious freezer space. The basics of dehydrating are pretty simple. You wash your food, cut it into pieces of the same size, put it in your dehydrator with spaces in between each piece, set the heat level, dry and store. Yes, it really is that simple. Even better while you’re food’s dehydrating you can attend to other tasks like laundry or making dinner.
The Farmer’s Market
When dehydrating, as with all other culinary techniques, fresher is better. If you want that amazing taste like it just came from the farm, go where you can get good products, especially organics. Here you can buy in bulk, do one large batch of dehydrating and then have enough of your goods for the whole winter or longer.
What you need:
While you can use your oven or microwave for dehydrating, if you plan on doing a lot of it get yourself a multi-tiered dehydrator so you can do a lot of one item or several different items at the same time, which saves electricity. You’ll also need air tight storage units (bags work fine), a good kitchen knife, and labels. That’s pretty much it. A 700 watt round dehydrator with 7 levels goes for about $60; a 400 watt for $40. That is not a huge investment for safe preserving at home.
Besides saving storage space, there’s several other advantages to dehydrating. First, it helps create a waste-free kitchen. All those ends and pieces that normally get thrown out now get put to work. Carrot tops, celery ends, fruit rinds – all of it can be used in dry form (or in re-hydrated form after storage).
Second, you can pre-season your foods so that when you use the dehydrated form, there’s no spicing necessary. This is a great time saver.
Third, dehydrated goods make a great foundation for gift items when creating kitchen baskets during the holidays.
So how can you use the food you dehydrate? You can use it as it is for soups, stews, baking etc. bearing in mind that the dry item absorbs moisture, so adjust your recipe accordingly.
Make the item (like fruit) into leathers for a refreshing and healthy treat.
Dry things that would otherwise create a sticky mess in shipping, like mango flavored honey dehydrated and powdered. In this form you can add it to anything where you’d enjoy fruited honey.
Powder the resulting items like vegetables and use them for soup stock. Get creative!
Once dehydrated, if properly stored dehydrated food stays fresh for at least a year.