Food Dehydration Basics

Store the flavor of summer by drying some of your harvest.

December 6, 2010

Dehydrated food can be fun (as in "fruit leather"), chic (sundried tomatoes) and handy (herbs). It is also easy to make and store.

When you're drying food, you're removing a good part of its moisture through evaporation. Air movement is the key. But the drier and, up to a point, warmer the air is, the faster and more complete the evaporation of the water.

Prepare for drying
Blanch vegetables and fruits before drying them. This sets their color, hastens drying by softening the tissues, halts the ripening process, and prevents undesirable changes in flavor and texture during drying and storage.

The recommended blanching time for foods to be dried is shorter than for other types of processing since pieces of food cut for drying are exceptionally small and thin. And theres no need to plunge the produce into a ice water bath after blanching as you do when canning and freezing because the fruits and vegetables heat up during drying anyway.

How to dry food
At its simplest, dehydrating food takes no more effort than slicing the food and placing it out in the warm sun on a dry day. Warm, dry air passing over, under, and around the food pulls moisture from it. And that's it.




Slightly more effective and safer than simply sun-drying food is putting it in a solar food dryer, which helps protect it from insects and concentrates the sun's warmth right where you want it.

For even more control, place the food on wire racks in your oven at very low, steady temperatures.

An electric food dehydrator is the easiest and most reliable way to dry food. It is designed to provide just the right amount of heat and maximum air movement. Many food dehydrators have stackable trays, a small warming device and fan. You can also build your own.