Dehydrating foods is a great way of preserving it so that it can be used for a longer period. It simply involves the removal of moisture in the foods such as meat etc. so that one can increase its shelf life. Dehydrating of foods is slightly different from the traditional methods such as freeze-drying. Dehydrating encompasses removal of moisture from the foods. It also takes up less space as compared to other methods e.g. traditional canning. Foods which are dehydrated can typically last for up to one year or more.
There are basically five methods which can be used to dehydrate foods. They include the following;
Off Grid Drying Racks – This method allows a person to use natural dehydration to preserve his or her food. It does not involve the use of artificial heat. The use of the mesh or grid on the sides helps in keeping away unwanted matter and bugs from the food. The only type of energy used in this method is either the sun or the wind. The grids are easy and expensive to build by simply using wood and window screening. However, this method is slower compared to other methods.
Electrical Dehydrators – This is one of the best methods of dehydrating foods. It is very convenient in that one just throws his or her stuff and walks away. You don’t have to worry a lot about the weather or any unwanted staff such as the bugs. However, its major limitation is that it is dependent on power. So in case power is lost, the dehydration process is halted. Despite that this is the most reliable method of dehydration bearing in mind that is the safest.
Oven Drying – In this method, dehydrators are not used. It allows one to have the benefit of heat drying with the exclusion of dehydrators. In this method, however, less food is dehydrated and one has to keep an eye every now and then so as to regulate the temperatures and switch the trays.
Air Drying – This is one of the oldest methods of dehydration. In the olden days, it was mostly used for dehydrating herbs and flowers. It simply involves tying a bundle of foods and then hanging them in well-ventilated space. This gives room for the foods to dry naturally from the circulation of air and pulling out of the moisture. However, this does not work well in climates with high humidity. So as to keep away unwanted substances such as dust and insects, some people usually tie a paper bag around the bundle to be hanged.
Microwave Drying – One can also use a microwave to dehydrate foods. It involves layering the foods in a wax paper and then cooking them for substantially longer periods of time. In this way moisture is drawn out of the foods and into the microwave. However, in this method one has to keep checking the food from time to time so as to prevent possible damage in the food. Another limitation of this method is that it is a primary method. For the food to be completely dehydrated it has to be put in a conventional oven.
Factors to consider before dehydrating foods
- One should first understand his or her dehydrator clearly, this, of course, applies to those who will use an electrical dehydrator. If one does not have a dehydrator, he or she can use the above-mentioned methods. So the first consideration is first to understand the technique of dehydration one is using for the type of food.
- Also, one should seek to understand the kind of food he or she is dehydrating. For example, some vegetables require to be blanched before dehydrating. Also when dehydrating, make sure that you only dehydrate one family of foods at a time. For example, fruits can be mixed together but should not be combined with vegetables which are strong tasting or smelling. Also, different foods require different dehydration temperatures.
- Also, one should consider the time available. This is because some methods and foods consume more time than others.
- Consider the storage factor. Storage is very vital for any preserved food. The foods should either be stored in heavy duty sealed mylar food storage bags, or in a dry sterile, glass jar, etc.
- Join a support group so that you can do it together. Or go to facebook pages related to long term food storage.