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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dehyrating Food



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I went to a wonderful class today given by Dennis Prendergast through the County Extension service. Here are some of my notes plus some notes given to us in the handout. These will not be in any particular order.

He suggested dehyrators that have a thermostat on them to control the temperature. Currently the one I have does not have that, but merely goes on when plugged in. So the temperature is about 120 degrees when it might need to be 140 or more for meats and other such items.

Don't try to dehydrate onions or garlic as they leave the smell throughout the house for a month. At first we had some protests, but he pretty much convinced us to just buy them dry!

Cut all vegies and fruits on the thick side versus thin, as they will have that much more substance when dried.

You can dry ANYTHING, except fats and high fat items. You can dry whole meals, like soup and spaghetti. We tried both of those and also catalope, tomatoes, dried yogurt, applesauce and more! The soup and spaghetti dehydrate wonderfully and reconstitute to the exact same flavor and almost the same texture. Awesome!

Most good dehyrators can dry everything I'm discussing in 8 to 10 hours.

For uniform flavor, cut items using a mandolin, such as the type shown here. Apples can be sliced without being cut up or seeds/skin removed.

You can slice up zucchini and such and dry them and then use as a "chip" for use with dip. I'm excited about that one!

Tomatoes can also be done easily by quartering them (small ones) or quartering and then cutting one more time (bigger ones), and then scoring the skin a couple times, and pushing out the tomato inside out with your thumb to expose as much area as possible. Dry as usual...they are delicious!

Spaghetti: Just make as usual, but don't put in anything more fatty than 7% hamburger. Meat must be well dried and reconstitute easily, so make sure the chunks are very small. Then put dollops of it on your fruit leather trays, start drying. When half way through, use your fingers and move it around a bit more to make sure all areas get a chance to dry. Yum!

Fruit should be pliable to some extent when done, to retain best flavor.

He mentioned persimmons (which I adore!) and cantalope (which we tried), both of which sounds fantastic!

Once the item is dried, you can store it in a vacuum seal bag like Food Saver, or you can "make your own" by putting the food in a regular plastic storage bag and then using a straw to suck out the majority of the air (keeping the rest of it zipped shut). Hard to explain without seeing it, but it might work.

Oh and when you dry stuff, to avoid bugs that might be still there, FREEZE the packaged product for two days. That will kill any bad stuff.

Blend up V-8 juice with other vegies if you want and then make leather from them.

Cut up yams thinly and dry.

Fruit halves, skin side down.

Season whatever you want to dry for a different flavor. Do so while food is still in it's natural form.

There is so much more to it, but it's basically an easy way to preserve food!! Try it!

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