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How to Dry Fruits and Vegetables

Part 8 of "How to Can Fruits and Veggies From Your Garden."

Dehydrate Fruits and Vegetables
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Food Dehydration is the oldest form of food preservation. In the beginning, people used a lot of salt to preserve foods, and they dried their food in the sun or on stove tops. Today we have the food dehydrator to help in the process of drying.

Food dehydration is safe because water is removed from the food. Because water is removed from the food, mold and bacteria cannot grow on it;thus it will not spoil. There is, however, a loss of vitamin A and C in dried foods due to heat and air. It usually takes vegetables 6-16 hours to dry, and fruit 12-48 hours. One can dry fruit and vegetables, and make jerky and fruit leather.

Choose Which Drying Method is Right For You

The Drying Process

When drying food, don't keep temperatures too low or too high. Temperatures too low may result in the groth of bacteria on the food. Temperatures too high will result in the food being cooked instead of dried. Food that is underdried will spoil, and food that is overdried will lose its flavor and nutritive value.

Food should be dehydrated between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. You can begin drying your food at higher temperatures, but turn the temperature down after the first hour or so. The last hour or so of drying time should be turned down on a lower setting. You must turn the food and rotate the trays while the food is drying.

You will know your food is dried when when you touch it, and it is leathery with no pockets of moisture. If you are testing fruit, you can tear a piece in half. If you see moisture beads along the tear, it is not dry enough. Meat should be tough, but shouldn't snap apart. Vegetables should also be tough but can also be crisp.

When storing your dried product, keep in mind that no moisture should be allowed to enter the container...ever. Dried food absorbs moisture from the air, so the storage container must be airtight. Some acceptable storage containers are jars and plastic freezer bags. If storing fruit leather, wrap in plastic wrap and store in a another airtight container. Store your containers of dried food in a cool, dark, dry place. 60 degrees Fahrenheit or below is best.

Vegetable Drying Guide

All vegetables except onions and peppers,and mushrooms should be washed, sliced, and blanched. Dry vegetables in single layers on trays. Depending of drying conditions, drying times make take longer. Dry vegetables at 130-degrees Fahrenheit.

Fruit Drying Guide

All fruit should be washed,pitted and sliced. Arrange in single layers on trays. Dry fruit at 135 degrees Fahrenheit. You may wish to pretreat your fruit with lemon juice or ascorbic acid or it won't darken while you are preparing it for drying. Just slice the fruit into the solution and soak for 5 minutes.

Fruit Leathers

Fruit leather is easy to make if you have a blender of food processor. The fruit leather is like a "fruit roll-up" and is made out of pureed fruit. Applesauce works great for fruit leather since it is already in puree form. Overripe fruits can also be used since these are easily pureed. For an added flare, you can add coconut,raisins,poppy seeds,seasame seeds, or sunflower seeds to the fruit leather. If you add any type of garnish to your fruit leather however, you will have to store them in the freezer or refrigerator. Otherwise, you can store fruit leather in an airtight container. Just roll up the fruit leather into a roll after it has dried, wrap in plastic, and store them altogether in an appropriate container.

To make fruit leather, puree your fruit. Apples, pears, peaches, and nectarines should be cooked before pureeing. Pour the fruit puree about 1/4-inch deep on special fruit leather drying sheets, or drying trays that have been lined with plastic wrap. Since the center does not dry as quickly as the edges, Only pour the puree 1/8-inch deep towards the center.Dry at 135 degrees Fahrenheit until pliable and leathery. The center should also be dry and have no wet or sticky spots.

Making Jerky

Meats should be dried at 145-150 degrees Fahrenheit. Jerky should dry between 6-20 hours until pliable. It shoud not be brittle. Wipe fat off of the jerky while it is drying. Jerky does not store as long as fruits and vegetables. For long term storage longer than a month, store in the freezer or refrigerator. To aid in the curing of jerky, meat must be marinaded in salt and spices. The pioneers used 1 1/2 cups pickling salt to 1 gallon of water and soaked the meat strips in this for a couple of days. As an alternative to soaking, they also rubbed the meat with salt and spices (like garlic and pepper) before drying. You may want to use one of the following marinade recipes instead. Marinade the meat strips overnight.

Jerky Marinade No.1

Jerky Marinade No.2

Jerky Marinade No.3

How to Use Dried Food in Recipes

You will need to soak or cook your dried foods before using them in recipes. Some foods require soaking and cooking.Vegetables are usually soaked btween 1/2 to 1-1/2 hours and then simmered. Some vegetables can be rehydrated while they are cooking. Fruits are soaked, and then cooked in the water they were soaked in. Don't add extra sugar until the fruit is cooked;otherwise, the fruit may be tough. Fruits are sometimes eaten in their dry state as snacks. You must remember that after a food is rehydrated, it may spoil quickly, so use it promptly. To cook dried food, use the following information and simmer until tender.

Recipes Using Dried Foods

Apple Pie

3 1/2 C. dried apples
2 C. water
3/4 C. sugar
1 t. cinnamon

Cook apples until tender. The apples wil rehydrate during the cooking and baking process. Add sugar and cinnamon. Fill and top with pie crust and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cherry Pie
3 C. dried cherries
3 C. boiling water
1/2 C. flour
1 C. sugar

Cover cherries with water and let soak for 30 minutes. Simmer and add sugar and flour to thicken. Pour into pie crust and add top crust. Bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes.

Peach Pie

3 C. dried peaches
3 C. boiling water
2/3 C. flour
1 C. sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg

Cover fruit with water and let soak for 30 minutes. Simmer and add sugar, spices and flour to thicken. Pour into pie crust, dot with butter, and cover with pie top. Bake at 400 degress for 30 minutes.

Creamed Corn

1 C. dried corn
4 C. boiling water
2 t. sugar
1/2 C. milk
1 T. flour
1 T. margarine
salt and pepper to taste

Add corn to water and let stand for 30 minutes. Simmer corn until tender. This may take as long as an hour or so. Drain and add remaining ingredients. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.

Green Bean Casserole

2 C. boiling water
1 C. dried beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Add beans to water and cook until tender. Add soup and simmer.

Cream of Tomatoe Soup

1 t. Dried Tomato powder
!/2 C. boiling water
1 T. flour
1/2 C. milk

To make tomato powder, blend dried tomatoes in food processor. Add powder to water and simmer. Add flour to milk and stir. Add flour/milk mixture to water and tomatoes. Simmer and stir to prevent scorching.

Cooked Fruit

3 C. dried fruit of your choice
2 C. boiling water
1 t. cinnamon
Sugar to taste

Let fruit soak in the boiled water for 20 minutes. Simmer for another 20 minutes and add cinnamon and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved and serve.

Vegetable Soup
1 C. diced cooked meat
3 C. dried mixed vegetables
salt and pepper

Cover dried vegetables with boiling water and soak 1 hour, then simmer for 2 hours or until tender. Remember you can add fresh vegetables, in case you don't have a particular dried one, to the pot as well.

Other Links You May Find Helpful

Introduction on Canning Fruits and VegetablesPage 1 of "How to Can and Freeze Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden." This page talks about what you should know before you begin to can.

How to Can Vegetables Using a Pressure CannerPage 2 of "How to Can and Freeze Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden." This talks about canning vegetables using a pressure canner.

How to Can Vegetables Using a Boiling Water CannerPage 3 of "How to Can and Freeze Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden. This page talks about canning vegetables using a boiling water canner.

How to Can FruitPage 4 of "How to Can Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden." This page talks about canning fruit.

How to Freeze Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden.Page 5 of "How to Can and Freeze Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden." This page talks about freezing basics and "how-to's."

How to Make Jams and Jellies Page 6 of "How to Can and Freeze Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden." This page talks about the tips and tricks of making homemade jams and jellies.

How to Make Pickles and RelishPage 7 of "How to Can and Freeze Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden." This page talks about pickling.

How to Dehydrate Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden.Page 8 of "How to Can and Freeze Fruits and Vegetabes from Your Garden." This page talks about drying and lists dtying times for fruits and vegetables.

How to Make lye Soap and Other Homemade Concoctions Page 9 of "How to Can and Freeze Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden." This page talks about making lye soap and other old-fashioned, homemade concoctions and remedies.

Home Processing Troubleshooting GuidePage 10 of "How to Can and Freeze Fruits and Vegetables from Your Garden." This page answers your questions about canning and freezing garden produce.

Other Home Canning Links This site lists other links that you may find helpful.