Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dehydrating Foods-Part 1

I like to dehydrate foods - they take up less storage room, the foods retain their color and nutrients, they are easy to store, and they look so pretty. :)

Dehydrating foods is not complicated and you do not need expensive equipment. If you can afford an Excalibur dehydrator, great. If you can't, you can use a cheap dehydrator and get wonderful results, so I hope you will try to dehydrate some things. I have been disturbed by the snobbishness I have seen regarding the "best" dehydrator and the way such an attitude has kept people from even trying to dehydrate because they couldn't afford the "right" stuff. That is just not true. EVERYTHING I have done, was done on a cheap dehydrator.......several different kinds of them and all were bought at garage sales. Please don't be afraid to try this wonderful skill.

This picture shows a cheap round dehydrator - nothing fancy, but it works fine. Some dehydrators have temperature settings or high and low and that is certainly helpful, but again, you can do a lot in just a regular machine. If you can afford it, I would definitely recommend getting one that has settings to lower or raise the heat used. Also, I feel that one with a fan and heat is the best....and even most of the cheap ones have those now.


There are so many things that can be dehydrated and I do several and use them. However, I did a lot more as an experiment, just to see how it would work and was quite pleased with the results, for the most part. Let me just say right now that dehydrating pickles is NOT a good thing.... that's my opinion, but I am telling you, they were AWFUL! The salt was so concentrated that none of us could stand them at all. I know, I know....why did I dehydrate pickles? Well, like I said....I was experimenting and the idea came so I tried it......it was not one of my better ideas.:)

The MIXED VEGETABLES are an easy thing to dehydrate...I have bought frozen mixed vegetables on sale. The nice thing is that a quart jar will hold between 3-4 pounds of frozen mixed vegetables, making it take much less storage space. Some vegetables need to be blanched to stop the enzyme activity that can lead to the loss of color, flavor, and texture. The frozen vegetables have already been blanched and are perfect for easy dehydrating because they are all ready - you just open the bags, pour the vegetables on the trays and dehydrate.

The SOUP MIX in the 2nd and 3rd jars is something that I was experimenting with. I added lots of the dehydrated mixed vegetables, dehydrated celery, tomatoes, potatoes and other dehydrated foods from my supply. I also added some black beans, rice and or lentils. Then some msg free chicken bullion, maybe a few spices - like a little chili powder, Italian seasoning or other herbs. My plan was to have a complete soup in a jar, that could be put into a crockpot with sufficient water and let it simmer until supper. Something easy for the kids to do or for me to use as a quick food. We have tested it and adjusted the liquid and it works!! I do not have meat in these jars and that can be added afterwards, but having beans, lentils and rice helps with the protein level and it is fine the way it is. I do like to add a can of diced tomatoes to add some of the liquid and more flavor also, but I use it with just water also. Either way works and you can tailor these to be what your family likes - maybe some dried hot peppers or other foods.

The POTATOES worked out well.............AFTER some changes in my method. The first time I made dehydrated potatoes, they looked WONDERFUL until they started drying into hard gray and black chunks. What a disappointment! That is the enzyme activity that I mentioned earlier that should have been stopped in a blanching process, but I had forgotten about it. The whole batch was ruined and had to be thrown out, but it was a learning experience. The dehydrated potatoes in the jar were some that I had cooked ..... like I would when making potato salad...........and then dehydrated and they are great.

The REFRIED BEANS were another experiment, using canned refried beans. My plan in experimenting with this was to have food that was cooked and ready to eat when rehydrated, without taking very long. Dehydrators come with a plastic tray that is intended to set on one of the regular trays, to hold more liquid type foods, like fruit leather. They also work for things like refried beans....since I needed more trays and didn't have them, I used cottage cheese or sour cream plastic lids on the trays and it worked very well. I put tablespoon size globs on the lids and plastic trays and flattened them out a bit...... they dried into little clumps of refried beans. These could be used to rehydrate back into regular refried beans for burritos or other purposes, or they could also be used to add to a soup or other meal.

The dehydrated APPLES were simply cut and then dipped in a lemon juice and water mixture, which helps to preserve the color and quality. They do discolor some, but still taste great for eating as a snack or for rehydrating. The apples can be dehydrated peeled or unpeeled, in slices, small chunks or in a variety of ways, depending on how they are to be used. Dehydrated apples are wonderful in apple pie and crisp or oatmeal or other foods. The dried apples are also good in a trail mix, homemade granola or snack foods.

The jar of TOMATOES looked so good. They do darken to a dark red over time.....Initially, that jar of tomatoes smelled so fresh and wonderful and they do have good flavor and even now, 1 1/2 years later, they still smell so good. - I used some of these broken in pieces, to put into the jars of soup shown above.

ORANGE SLICES look pretty in the jar, although they will turn darker. It is hard to dehydrate them all the way due to the little "capsule"-type segments in the orange. Slicing them thin helped to open those segments and allow them to dry.


WATERMELON chunks was another experiment for me - silly, I know as what is watermelon without.......water?????  Like I said, I was experimenting and surprisingly, these do taste good. We were surprised how good these tasted, so I counted this a success.

PINEAPPLE chunks also were wonderful........I used canned pineapple tidbits and drained it and it worked well. Again, if you use the fresh pineapple, you would need to stop the enzyme action and it can be done, but it was worth it to me to just use the canned pineapple since I would have to buy it either way. If you have access to cheap fresh pineapple, you could check on specifications for doing that. Dried pineapple tastes good and is great in trail mix or just as a snack.

PEPPERS and ONIONS dehydrated well and I used the frozen ones. One thing I learned though, is that the onions can be so thin that they are hard to get off of the trays, so I found that I needed to watch them and not let them get overdone. They smell good and are great to use and worked well in the soup mix above.

CUT BROCCOLI worked well and dries into larger sized pieces......again, I used frozen broccoli for the reasons stated above ............and I was preparing to teach a class and was experimenting with many things, so time was extra important to me. Using frozen veggies saved me some steps.....and when getting these on sale, it is actually a very economical way to dehydrate.

CHOPPED BROCCOLI is similar to the cut broccoli above, but then dry much smaller and are very easy to put into soups, macaroni and cheese, eggs and more. I find that the chopped broccoli dries faster since it is smaller and I like using it better, although the chopped broccoli can be broken up after dried also.

There is much information to share and since it seems like too much for one post, I will be making this a series of posts- it will probably have 2 or 3 posts in the series, maybe more. Next in the series, I will detail more of the dehydrated foods - many more that I have done and you can see how they look in jars or bags when dehydrated. The 3rd part of the series will probably have a comparison of the jars when they were done and then how they look  now, about 1 1/2 years later, at least on the ones that I still have, as well as comments on how they hold their flavor and smell. I am not sure exactly what will be in each post, but I hope the information will be helpful.

  Thank you for joining me and be sure to sign up with email if you would like to get these sent directly to your email or feel free to check back for the next parts of the series on Dehydrated Foods. I hope that you have a great week. :)

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Dehydrating Foods Series:

Dehydrating Foods Part 1

Dehydrating Foods Part 2

Dehydrating Foods Part 3

Shared on............

From the Farm
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Featured on:




186th Wildcrafting Wednesday

46 comments:

  1. Interesting! I have been toying with a dehydrater for zucchini chips.

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  2. Dehydrating zucchini works well......hope you give it a try. :)

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  3. Wow!! I had no idea you could dehydrate so many things. I bought a simple round one last year and have only used it a couple of times. I guess I'm missing out.

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    1. There really are so many things that work well......and I will be sharing about more of them in parts 2 and 3.........hope you will re-visit. :)

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  4. This post is so timely. I just bought a dehydrator and need to learn what it can be used for. I am adding you to the blogs I follow! Thank you!!
    www.gallimaufrygrove@blogspot.com

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    1. I am so glad..........there is so much you can do with a dehydrator and I will try to get the next part in the series ready here in the next week or so. I am glad you will be able to benefit from dehydrating foods. Thank you for visiting my blog. :)

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  5. I have been considering dehydrating my food in order to save more of my food. A lot of the food goes to waste and has to be thrown out, especially fruits and such. Reading your post makes the process sound so simple. I think I may have to try it.

    Thanks so much for sharing on Turn It Up Tuesday! We love having you! :)

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    1. That is great.......and a good idea to dehydrate rather than waste.......thank you for reading this post. :)

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  6. Oh. I am pinning this for sure! I actually asked for a dehydrator for Christmas, but I'm sure my husband forgot! I would love to do this. We're trying to save money and eat healthy so this would be great! I'd love for you to link up with us at {Healthy} Tips and Tricks Tuesday - I bet other thrifty, healthy people would love it too! exploringdomesticity.com. Thanks!

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    1. Saving money and eating healthy are great goals! I hope you are able to do some dehydrating. Thank you for the info about exploring domesticity - I checked it out and I appreciate it. :)

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  7. This is great! I have a dehydrator and used it a bit but want to really get going so this is great motivation!

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    1. I am glad - Part 2 has now been published on the blog and it gives more information if you are interested. Part 3 should be available in the next week or so. Thank you for visiting. :)

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  8. In my quest to not waste, this would be a good addition to save food. What about leftovers?

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    1. I think leftovers are a great idea for this, depending what they are. In my house, we rarely have such things as leftovers, so I haven't experimented much with that. :) Great idea though.

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  9. This is such great information! I also pinned for reference. Thank you so much for sharing at Turn It Up Tuesdays! Have a great weekend!

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement. :)

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  10. Thank you.........Part 2 is now completed also and can be accessed through this blog. I have learned so many things by trial and error and thought they may help others. :) Thank you for stopping by.

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  11. I enjoyed your entire series. There is so much great information here, perfect for those just beginning but I'm sure anyone who has dehydrated foods before will find a new tip or two. I'll be featuring your post this week; thank you for sharing this at the HomeAcre Hop; I hope you'll join us again this Thursday.
    Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead

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    1. Thank you for visiting........... and for the feature. So glad you dropped by. :)

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  12. Wow, this sounds great. I tried dehydrating a long time ago, but was not happy with the results. Learning from your experienced instructions, I may try it again. Such a space saver. How many years do you think a jar will keep on the shelf? (I have not read your entire post, yet, so you may have said.)

    Thanks for great information.

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    1. I think it would depend on several factors - like what is the dehydrated food, is it stored in a dark, dry area where it is protected from heat and light, has it been kept unopened, etc. If done just plain in a jar, as I have shown, I would figure that the nutrient value will decrease slowly if conditions are kept good, and should last for quite a while, but I wouldn't depend on it lasting for years and years without adding oxygen absorber packets, vacuum sealing or doing some other kind of extra help for longer term storage. I am well pleased with what I have after 1 1/2 years, but I know I could also increase the length of time the quality will stay high if I do some modifications. Hope that helps....thank you for visiting :)

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  13. Wow, your jar collection of dried goods is very impressive and inspiring! I have just gotten into dehydrating the last few years and am loving it. The only issue I have is our humid climate... It takes SO long to dry out and I fear mold. Do you ever have mold problems in your jars? I ended up using the airtight fido jars and that really helped... Have a wonderful weekend ~ JES :)

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    1. No, I haven't had mold problems, but I am pretty careful to be sure that things are completely dry and that I let them cool and air out before putting them into the jars. Mold would ruin the whole jar, so it is good to be aware of the danger of it. You could also buy the dry packets to put inside if it is still a problem. Thank you for visiting. :)

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    2. P.S. Hoping to see part 2 in our link up this week ;)

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  14. Wow! So industrious! My grandmother used to dry pears, and they were wonderful! She bought them from a local grower by the box, and canned some and dried some.

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    1. Thank you.... pears would be wonderful..... we would like to get apples also, but don't have trees of our own.... Thank you for visiting. :)

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  15. I've dehydrated foods on the lowest setting in my oven, but I think I need to invest in a real dehydrator.

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    1. A real dehydrator really is such a blessing... you can find a very inexpensive one at garage sales... or even at department stores.... the cheaper ones work fine... someday, I may have an expensive one, but for now, I love my inexpensive ones... except for the room it takes to store them, :)

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  16. Thanks for sharing this valuable information, I have a cheap dehydrator that i have had for years it works so well,
    Sue

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    1. You're welcome. :) Those cheap dehydrators are such a blessing. :) Thank you for visiting.

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  17. This is great! I was just telling hubby the other day I wanted to get a dehydrator for fruits. I LOVE dried fruit.

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    1. There are so many good uses for a dehydrator! I hope you are able to get and use one... the dried fruits are wonderful! :)

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  18. This was certianly interesting, my dear. My husband and I have often thought about doing this, but simply haven't.... Thank you for the help and tips :) I have store this information away for future use. Hugs and blessings!

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    1. I have been surprised how often my dehydrators have been used... they have been extremely helpful. :) Thank you for visiting.

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  19. You are amazing with all that you and I am so thankful that you share with us at Good Morning Mondays. I am really keen to get a dehydrator and I am going to save my pennies to get one before the growing season starts here in Australia. Thanks again and blessings to you and your family.

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    1. Oh, good! A dehydrator is such a blessing... there are so many things you can use it for. :) Thank you for visiting... it is always so nice to hear from you. :)

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  20. Wow, this is really amazing! I have a cheap dehydrator but haven't used it in years. We mainly used it to make jerky Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

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    1. Jerky is good... but other things can be so much easier and quicker too, so I do more of those... but my husband would love for me to make jerky again... need to do that. :) The dehydrator has lots of great uses. Thank you for visiting. :)

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  21. This is such a great post Gentle Joy! I need to do this more often. It's not something I've done a lot of. Thank you so much for linking up to Thriving on Thursdays. I'm featuring this post at tomorrow's party. Thanks for always linking up. Always love seeing your posts.

    Anne xx

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    1. It is such a great tool for preserving food... and I need to do it more often too. Thank you for the feature and for the great blog party... I sure appreciate it. :)

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  22. Helpful tips thanks. I do dehydrate but the only veggie I have done is kale. I may try some others this year with your tips. Congrats on being featured at Wildcrafting Wednesday.

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    1. It is helpful...and I hope you find other foods to dehydrate also. :) Thank you for visiting.

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  23. I LOVE my dehydrator! It's usually going 5-6 days a week...herbs, fruits and such! thanks for adding this to From The Farm!

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    1. Good for you... I go in spurts where I use all of them... a LOT... then again, not so much. I need to get to doing more again also. :) Thank you for visiting.

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  24. I need to give this a try. I've dried herbs, but nothing else. I hate to see things go to waste, too. Thanks for sharing with us at Funtastic Friday.

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    1. I hope you get a chance to try it... there are so many very easy things to dehydrate.. and they would be great for starting out. It really is a very simple way to preserve food.

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