Getting started dehydrating by making snacks with fruit and vegetables. It won’t take long to get comfortable with the process and see your family enjoy it.
This new obsession will make you want to dehydrate all the food
Dehydrating or drying out food is one of the oldest food preservations out there and something that’s making a bit of a comeback in recent years. The idea is to preserve the food by removing as much as 90% of the moisture or water content of the food.
Once you give it a try, you’ll be hooked! Dehydrating is the only preservation method that can be used on EVERY fruit and vegetable.
Not only will dehydrating keep fruits, vegetables, and even meats from spoiling, it also removes a lot of the weight and size of each piece of food. Dehydrating allows you to store your harvest more easily.
Many dehydrated foods taste terrific eaten just as they have been preserved, but you can also soak the food in water or another liquid to rehydrate them.
The reason dehydrating works so well to preserve a large variety of food is because yeast and bacteria need water to grow. By removing all the water from the food, there’s no way for these microorganisms to thrive, thus leaving your food well preserved.
You can dry food in the hot sun, or the oven, which is a great place to get started, The most efficient way to dry food is with a dehydrator, it will give you better control over the drying process, and lower temperature settings you can achieve, allow you to dry your food for raw settings under 115 degrees. Dehydrating food results in tastier dried foods.
There is no optimum temperature for drying food. Most fruits and vegetables should be dried at temperatures from 115F to 135F, and as mentioned, Raw foods and herbs are dried at the lower temps from 90 to 115 degrees F.
This low temperature can be a little hard to hold in an oven, even on the lowest setting. If you are dehydrating in an oven or using the sun, you should probably invest in an oven thermometer. It will help you determine what the actual temperature in your oven is so you can turn the heat on and off as needed to stay at or close to the ideal dehydrating temperature.
Types of Dehydrators
You may find it best to start with a small dehydrator so you can make sure you like rehydrating and cooking with vegetables that have been preserved this way. If possible, borrow a machine before you purchase your own.
There are many models on the market today. You may be concerned that you don’t know how to purchase a quality dehydrator, for the best price. Look for reputable manufacturers like Nesco and Excalibur, don’t be afraid to jump in with a low-cost machine buy a different manufacturer. Even garage sale machines are worth a look.
Dehydrators have three main ways that the air moves around the machine for drying. Bottom heat machines sit on top of the motor, top heat machines have the motor in the lid, and rear heat machines are box-shaped and have a blower in the back for horizontal airflow. The cost increases with each stage of drying.
There is no reason to invest in a larger dehydrator in the beginning, and you can often get into a small one for between $40 and $80. Upgrade when you find yourself using the machine a lot, and you will have two different dehydrators that you can run at the same time, preserving more food during the harvest.
Getting Started Dehydrating with Snacks
The easiest way to get started is by drying fruits and vegetables. It won’t take you long to get comfortable with the process and more importantly, see how your family will enjoy the food.
If you have been a fan of snacking on dried fruits and veggie chips from the store, this preservation method is certainly for you. Not only will you be able to make healthy food, but you will also be able to reduce that amount of salt, sugar, and fat in your diet and you’ll know exactly what ingredients you are giving your family.
The spice measurements below are just suggestions. Start with these spice measurements; you’ll know how to adjust to your taste after the first batch. Use 1 teaspoon chili powder for mild, 2 teaspoons for medium, and 3 teaspoons for a spicy chip.
Yield: 5 cups | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 10 to 12 hours | Dry at 135°F for 10 to 12 hours.
4 medium zucchini squash
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
chili powder, to taste
- Slice the zucchini into ¼-inch thick rounds. It’s best to keep the thickness the same for even drying. Experiment with using a crinkle cut slicing blade on a mandolin slicer that makes ridges in the chips; the ridges tend to give spices more area to grab. If you don’t have a slicer, make you thicknesses as even as possible.
- Add apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and chili powder to a wide bottomed, nonreactive bowl. Stir until incorporated. Don’t be afraid; the ACV does not leave an aftertaste on the chips. If ACV isn’t your thing, use filtered water. The purpose of the liquid is to help the spices adhere to the zucchini slices.
- Add a handful of raw chips to the bowl and toss them with a spatula until the pieces get completely coated with the vinegar and spice mix. Separate any slices that stick together to make sure that all the zucchini slices have spices on them.
- Arrange the chips on dehydrator trays. They can touch but should not overlap.
- Dry for the recommended time (10 to 12 hours) until the chips are crisp, Check the batch after 5 hours and rotate trays if necessary. If you have high humidity levels on the day you are dehydrating, it will take the chips longer to dry.
If you have a bottom-heating dehydrator, you may need to rearrange the trays halfway through the drying cycle. After 5 hours, move the top trays to the bottom so the chips will be evenly dried.
This process works well with other vegetables too. Try sweet potatoes that have been blanched for 30 seconds, or frozen green beans that have been thawed and tossed in spices. These vegetable snacks will not taste the same as the ones you purchase in a bag at the grocery store. They will be better – without preservatives, harmful oils, and unpronounceable ingredients.
Once upon a time dehydrating got a bad rap. You might have been called an outdoorsman, a prepper, or a hippy if you enjoyed dried food. No longer! Dehydrating is the new smart way to take control of your own food.
Once you see how your family enjoys this healthy snack alternative, you will be as obsessed with dehydrating as I am.
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