5 ways to prepare fruits for drying.
Dried meals are less glamorous but no less delicious than canned goods, which sparkle with vibrant hues that are lovely to look at. Foods that are dried do offer benefits.
The product may be fairly pleasant and practical to use, plus it has more nutrients than things in cans.
One of the first ways people discovered to save food from times of plenty for use during periods of need was drying. In the hot, dry environment of the Middle East, farmers have been drying olives and dates since before the time of the Bible. Fishermen have also dried and smoked fish.
The simplest and most organic method of food preservation is by far drying. Little equipment is required, but the environment is crucial. If you’re lucky enough to reside in a warm, dry area, all you need is some time and fresh food. Food will taste better when reconstituted the quicker it can dry without actually cooking.
You should learn how to utilize a dehydrator, your oven, or, in certain situations, the sun, if you reside in an area that is quite humid. Always start with the freshest foods possible since the final result can never be better than the raw materials.
The idea behind food drying is rather straightforward. Food spoilage germs can no longer develop after all of the moisture has been removed from the product. Only an atmosphere with enough water for them to develop can maintain bacteria, molds, and yeasts. About 80% of the water is removed from properly dried fruits, while 90% of the water is removed from well-dried vegetables.
As a result, depending on the storage temperature, you may expect to store your home-dried meals for anywhere between six months and two years.
Keep in mind that lower temperatures are preferable for storage. Food stored at 52°F keeps longer than food preserved at 70°F.
TIP to prepare fruits for drying
Never dry food in the microwave. However, you may blanch food in the microwave before drying it. You’ll discover that if you use a microwave to dry food, the food will cook before it can dry.
PREPARE FOOD FOR DRYING
Use only flawless fruits and veggies that are devoid of flaws. Fruit ought to be completely ripe but not too so. Save too ripe fruit for sauces or for creating fruit leather.
The amount of time needed to adequately dry a piece of food will decrease as it becomes smaller. To ensure that each piece dries at the same pace, try to keep them all around the same size.
TIP to prepare fruits for drying
For fruits that will be dried, pretreatment such as steam blanching is optional; however, it is a must for vegetables.
The enzymes that lead to food deterioration are rendered inactive by proper blanching, which warms the food without actually cooking it. Only steam blanching of vegetables is advised for use in the drying process.
The practice of dipping vegetables in boiling water, which is common around the globe, is not advised since it increases the amount of water in the produce and lengthens the drying process.
In addition to robbing the food of nutrients, the lengthier and higher heating does not completely shield the product from organisms that cause deterioration.
If you must boil fruits or vegetables, use 3 quarts of water for every 1 quart of food. After the food has finished boiling, drain it, cool it in cold water, and then pat it dry.
Use a steamer, a large Dutch oven, or a canner with a cover to blanch by steaming. Use a colander that will enable two or more inches of water to boil without coming in contact with the vegetables, a wire basket with legs, or a basket that fits within the top of the pot.
If you reside at 5,000 feet or higher above sea level, steam for 1 minute extra than the recommended period. (For a chart with steaming times, see page 86.)
Drain the food after blanching, then cool in cold water to halt the cooking. Drain once more, then dry on towels.
Before drying, food is steam blanched.
In cold water, cool blanched vegetables.
On towels, dry blanched fruit.
Microwave ovens may be used for blanching, but only in tiny amounts.
Consult the manufacturer’s instructions since wattages might vary.
DRYING PREPARATIONS IN ADDITION
Fruit slices should be dipped into a prepared solution to increase the likelihood of excellent color retention (see the dipping chart on the next page). However, this is only partly successful. The best method for maintaining color for both fruits and vegetables is still steam blanching.
For many years, dried fruit was pretreated with sulfur to keep its color.
Fruit that has been sulfur-pretreated must be dried using the solar technique. Fruits should not be sulfured before using a home dehydrator.
While sulfuring many fruits keep their color and vitamin C content, it may be quite problematic for those who have allergies or asthma. As a food preservative, sulfur is no longer allowed on grocery shelves or in restaurant salad bars.
FOUR DRYING TYPES
Exposing the food to a gentle heat and circulating air is all that is necessary to dry meat and produce. You may do this by putting food outside, in the sun, in a dehydrator, or in an oven.
DRYING BY AIR
Sun drying and air drying are fairly comparable processes. Dry air bubbles move around the meal, absorbing any moisture and carrying it away. To avoid color fading, keep the meal away of the sun’s direct rays.
Try hanging steam-blanched green beans on cotton thread beneath the eaves of the house, on the porch, or in a well-ventilated attic to dry them out naturally.
Depending on the circumstances, you may get dry, supple “leather britches,” which are excellent for adding to soups, in two or three days.
The beans should be brought inside at night to avoid dew building up on them. Keep them out of the sun’s direct rays; doing so will ruin their color.
Mushrooms may be dried by wiping them clean, stringing them together with cotton thread, and hanging them in a well-ventilated area. Alternately, arrange clean mushrooms on multiple layers of paper towels.
As the day goes on, rotate them numerous times, and replace the paper towels as moisture is absorbed. Place the mushrooms in a dry, open area (you may place them in the sun, but remember to bring them inside at night).
The mushrooms will become virtually brittle in one or two days.
The mushrooms are strung on cotton thread.
Both green beans and mushrooms need to be cooked in a 175°F oven for 30 minutes after drying to kill any remaining bug eggs. Produce should be conditioned before being stored for up to 6 months in a cold, dry environment.
Pretreating the produce by blanching it or using other techniques is considerably more crucial since sun drying takes more time. The optimal temperature and humidity levels are at 100°F and 60 percent, respectively.
Try sun drying if you live somewhere in that kind of environment. Use caution in other environments. The ideal conditions for spoiling to develop before drying can be completed are low temperature and high humidity.
I like using vintage picture frames that I find at flea markets to create sun-drying apparatus. Clean the frames first with a towel dipped in soapy water. Then use mineral oil to seal the frames. Stretch a cheesecloth or clean, 100% cotton sheet over the frames, then attach it with staples.
Some individuals utilize window screens. This is OK, however, avoid using screens made of galvanized wire since they may give food “off” tastes.
Set the prepared vegetables in the frames on the cloth, bracing them so that air can flow around them on all sides, and then place the frames in bright sunlight. (Bring them inside at night to avoid dew building up on them.)
To shield the food from birds and insects, cover it with a second screen or cheesecloth. About halfway through the drying process, flip the vegetables (after about two days).
By employing reflectance and air vents to raise the temperature and promote air circulation around the food, solar dryers outperform sun drying. Things dry out more quickly, lowering the chance of mold or spoiling.
On a screen placed over an old picture frame, vegetables is drying in the sun.
Remove the fruit from the frames and freeze it for 2 to 4 days at below 0°F, or cook it on a baking sheet in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes at 175°F, to kill any insect eggs that may still be present in your cultivated items.
Check out the post-drying methods on page 84. Bring the vegetables to room temperature before freezing or heating it, and then store it for up to 6 months in sealed jars.
DEHYDRATOR It’s easy to use a food dehydrator:
just load the trays with prepped vegetables, set the timer, turn the dehydrator on, and go on with your day. Despite being pricey, a commercial dehydrator may pay for itself over multiple seasons.
The best way to compare prices is online since the majority of commercial dehydrators are purchased via mail orders. You may find the websites of many of these businesses by Googling “dehydrator” or “food drying.” Before placing an order, ask for details. Before making a purchase, take into account a number of factors.
There are several different designs for commercial food dehydrators.
- • Underwriters Laboratories should have certified the dehydrator as safe (UL).
- • Make sure the size you choose will fit comfortably in your home and enable you to dry the appropriate quantity of fruit or meat at a time. Trays should be strong and lightweight. Metal screens are inferior to plastic ones and are simpler to clean. Metal screens have a tendency to corrode, hold heat longer, and may burn food.
- • If your model has a door, ensure sure it can be entirely removed and that it opens with ease.
- • It should be simple to read the controls. An automated built-in timer is helpful, and control options that modify vents for airflow and manage the heat are also crucial.
- • The outside cabinets’ construction materials are quite diverse. Think about how simple it will be to transport, maintain, and store the cabinet.
- • Seek a refrigerator with insulation that has two walls.
- • Seek dehydrators with lower power use.
- • Verify that the dehydrator you choose has easy access to customer help and repair services.
The bottom of the oven should be lined with foil to prevent a sloppy cleaning.
If your oven will accommodate them, you may even utilize the wooden drying frames you built for solar drying. Although baking sheets may be used, they don’t enable air to flow around the food on all sides. Useless in the oven are window screens made of plastic or metal.
Of all the techniques, oven drying requires the most effort, but it also could be the most costly. Using this technique, you can either put the food directly on the oven racks or you may cover them with cheesecloth or clean, all-cotton sheets.
Set your oven to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Regularly check the temperature using an oven thermometer. You may need to experiment with a temperature between 120 and 145°F since ovens differ.
At 145°F, my gas oven dried food the best. To prop open the door and allow the moisture out, use a wooden spoon. Don’t overcrowd your oven, as the drying process will take a very long time.
Depending on the objects and amounts being dried, allow 4 to 12 hours. When food is chilled, it should be malleable yet dry. (Test a piece or two.)
The microwave will cook your product before it dries it, therefore although some authorities assert that it is feasible to dry food in the microwave, I don’t advise it. Herbs may, however, be successfully dried in the microwave with ease.
Put sun-dried tomatoes in a large, transparent, inert container.
- Once the food has been dried, condition it by dumping it into a sizable, open pot, such as a large enameled canner. Avoid using metal or porous containers since they could change the taste or consistency of the dried food.
- Place the pot somewhere warm, dry, and airy. Stir it once or twice every day for the next 10 to 14 days. Since you want everything to complete drying at the same time, avoid adding freshly dried food to the batch already in the pot.
Food is only partially sterilized during pasteurization. Food that has been dried outdoors or in an oven should be pasteurized since these methods are less accurate.
The requirement for pasteurizing grows the longer you want to store the dried food.
Food may be preserved for extended periods of time thanks to pasteurization, which guarantees the destruction of insect eggs and spoilage-causing microbes.
Pasteurization may be done in two ways:
Heat. Place the dried vegetables on pans in a thin layer and bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 175°F. Cool.
Freeze. Place dried food in plastic storage bags and freeze it at 0°F for two to four days. Compared to using an oven, this approach damages fewer vitamins. At 0°F, the freezer must be. It won’t do to use a refrigerator’s freezer section.
Freshen up fruit first thing in the morning. Your reconstituted vegetables will be ready when your day is done and it’s time to prepare supper.
STORAGE AND PACKAGING
Dried food has to be packaged as soon as possible in “user-friendly” portions that are ready for meal preparation. A cold, dry, dark location is ideal for dried foods since air, light, and moisture are all terrible for them.
(The gloomy, damp, and wet refrigerator are not always intended.) With all the air pushed out, completely fill an airtight, clean glass container or a clean resealable plastic bag. To shield them from light, place the jars or plastic bags inside a brown paper shopping bag.
Make sure you date the dry food appropriately on the label. Use the earliest package first, always. If the heat of the summer becomes an issue, move to the refrigerator, but make sure the packaging is completely sealed to prevent moisture buildup.
A filled resealable plastic bag should be compressed starting from the bottom up.
Simply cover dried food with hot water to rehydrate it. Allow the vegetables to soak up the water for a few hours before cooking it in the remaining soaking liquid. Fruits recover more quickly than vegetables do because fruits lose less water when they are dehydrated.
As opposed to food that hasn’t been rehydrated before cooking, this product requires significantly less time to prepare. Because the nitrogen generated by dried beans in the soaking water is challenging to digest, drain the rehydrated beans and boil them in new water. until meat is soft.
To shield the dried goods from the light, put the full jars or plastic bags inside a brown paper bag.
Fruit that is too ripe may be used to make fruit leather.
LEATHERS OF FRUIT
Fruit leathers taste great when made with apples, bananas, peaches, and berries. Vegetable leather are also enjoyed by many adventurous individuals.
However, the kid-favorite “fruit rolls” or “fruit taffy,” as leathers are often known, contain an extraordinary quantity of concentrated natural sugar that commonly adheres to teeth.
Because of this, dental specialists advise cleaning your teeth as soon as possible after indulging in this delightful pleasure. The color of cooked fruit leathers is quite vivid.
Small seeds are removed with a squeezer strainer.
Fruit that has been cleaned, ripe, and raw must first be pared and pitted before being put through a food mill to create fruit leather. The VillaWare Strainer and the Squeeze Strainer are my favorites since they remove the little seeds and skins and give you a thick, rich purée in their place.
You may also use a food processor or blender for this. To get a pouring consistency, it may be required to add a tiny quantity of liquid (water or juice would work). If a blender or processor is used, the fruit doesn’t need to be strained. But ultimately, everything comes down to personal preference.
Over a lined cookie sheet, spread the purée evenly.
Simmering clean, peeled, and pitted fruit in a little water or juice for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the combination is broken down, is another cooking technique for puréeing fruit. To avoid burning, make sure you’ve poured enough liquid. Then use a food mill to process as previously indicated.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you’re making fruit leathers in a food dehydrator. Use regular cookie sheets with sides that measure 1012 by 1512 inches to dehydrate your purée in the oven. After covering each cookie sheet with freezer paper or plastic wrap, add 2 to 214 cups of purée to each.
The purée should be between 1/8 and 14 inches thick. For 8 to 10 hours, bake the cookie sheets in a 135°F oven. To maintain low heat and let the moisture escape, use an oven thermometer and leave the door ajar with the handle of a spoon.
After approximately 6 to 8 hours, when the leather can be removed from the wrap with ease, flip it over onto a new prepared sheet, remove the old wrap, and let the leather dry in the oven for an additional 6 to 8 hours.
While drying the purée, keep an eye on the temperature using an oven thermometer.
Remove the old wrap by turning the fruit leather over.
When it’s finished, take off the plastic and let the leather cool on a cake rack for a number of hours. Before rolling, dust with cornstarch to avoid sticking.
Form a fluted form out of the leather.
Some individuals like to stack the layers; nevertheless, when using this technique, cornstarch dusting is essential. Use an airtight container for storage.
To avoid sticking, lightly dusted the cooled leather with cornstarch.
Since ancient times, dried herbs have been used as remedies to treat common illnesses, to enhance the perfume of spaces, and to transform even the most basic food into a culinary masterpiece. Numerous herbs may be helpful in treating medical conditions, both physical and mental, according to a recent study.
A growing number of individuals are turning to herbs as a natural substitute for prescription medication, even though the Food and Drug Administration forbids producers from making unsupported medical claims. Additionally, the usage of herbs for cosmetic reasons is increasing.
Which Herbs Dry Best?
- Betel leaf
- cumin seed
- Caraway seed
- Citrus verbena
- Canola oil
- Aromatic geranium
However, cooking is by far the most typical place where herbs are used. They may be used in many sorts of cuisines, including sweets, and are low in fat and calories, enhancing practically every course of a meal.
Herbs have gained popularity as individuals who are concerned about their health search for alternatives to salt and fat to enhance the taste. Cooks are turning to herbs because they are often so simple to cultivate, whether in a kitchen garden or on a windowsill.
It makes sense to preserve herbs and use them in conjunction with other meals, and drying herbs to preserve them is a straightforward operation. Dried herbs are a standard on every kitchen shelf and can be counted on to enhance the taste of any meal, even if they don’t quite impart the same flavor as fresh herbs.
When replacing dried herbs in a recipe that calls for fresh herbs, use caution.
Adapt the quantity as necessary. According to a sound rule, 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh herbs is equal to either 14 teaspoons of dry herb powder or 12 teaspoons of crushed dried herb leaves.
COLLECTING HERBS AND AIR DRYING THEM.
Herbs should be collected just before blooming or bolting, when plants start to create seeds, and when their essential oils are at their peak. The optimum time of day to pick them is when the dew has dried up and the sun hasn’t yet wilted them.
Cut them 6 to 8 inches or less from the plant’s root. Part herbalists advise against washing the leaves unless they are heavily pummeled by rain or covered with grit since washing removes some of their fragrance.
The leaves of the chopped herbs should point downward when they are hung with garden twine in an airy, warm, dry location away from direct sunshine. The essential oils will be forced into the leaves by gravity.
Herbs dried by hanging upside-down attract the essential oils into the leaves.
Herbs should never be hung over a stove, fridge, or freezer. These appliances’ heat contributes to degradation.
Additionally, avoid keeping the herbs and spices you buy in the cupboards above these items. Consult the instructions for drying herbs provided by the manufacturer if you want to use a dehydrator.
Check for any leftover moisture before storage. Stems and all, store dried herbs in sealed containers in a warm location for one or two days. It is preferable to put the herbs back through the drying process if there is moisture on the inside of the container.
When the herb leaves are completely dry, place them on a tray and dry them for a further 2 to 3 minutes in a warm oven.
Leaves should be separated from stems. The optimal storage location for the leaves is in a dark glass container or within your kitchen cabinet, both of which are cold, dark, and out of direct sunlight.
As required, crush the leaves between your palms for cooking; doing so unleashes the taste and scent. The leaves may be reduced to powder using a mortar and pestle. In any case, degeneration occurs within 6 to 12 months, so the next season, start again with new batches.
Try hanging the bouquet of fresh herbs inside a brown paper bag, like the size of a shopping or lunch bag. To get the bag ready, punch holes in it in a beautiful design to provide room for airflow.
The herbs dangling upside down in the middle of the bag are secured by gathering and tying off the top of the bag.
The drying herbs are kept clean using this technique. To tie the bags, use vibrant yarn, and lay them upright on a shelf in a warm, breezy location. Give the herbs as gifts after a week or two, still in their brown bag, or use them yourself.
For use in cooking, crush the herbs between your palms.
ALMOST DRIED HERBS
Start with clean, dried-off herbs that have been washed if necessary. The herbs should be spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Heat the herbs for approximately 45 minutes with the oven set to around 140°F.
(This won’t be accurate, just as using a woodstove to heat a room won’t be exact.) Prop the oven door open using the handle of a wooden spoon to let the moisture out.
By avoiding opening the door wider to peer inside too often, you can maintain a uniform temperature. Better still, use an oven thermometer to assist with temperature control. Remove the herbs from the oven after 45 minutes, allow them to cool, and then leave them out for around 12 hours (or overnight).
Try the prestorage technique, which involves sealing the dried, cooked herbs in a glass container for 24 hours, to check for moisture.
Return the herbs to the oven for a short period of time if moisture forms on the inside of the glass. When they are totally dry, put them in an airtight container in a cold, dark location.
Dried herbs should be kept in sealed containers.
The night before you want to harvest the plants, try hosing them off. Make sure they are straight and not weighed down with water before giving them a vigorous shake. They won’t need to be washed after harvesting since they will be grit-free the next day.
For use in soups, stews, sauces, and braised meat and vegetables, bouquet garni, a traditional French herb collection, combines parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and lovage or celery leaves. When using dried herbs, crush them between your hands before putting them in a cheesecloth bag that has been dampened.
(Wetting the cheesecloth stops the fibers from absorbing the oils from the herbs.) After cooking, the cheesecloth bag may be simply taken out of the liquid. Another option is a tea ball.
HERBS DRIED IN A MICROWAVE
Herbs that are microwave-dried need a lot of work, but the drying process takes less time overall. This method may be used to dry every herb and seed specified at the beginning of this section. Start with clean herbs, please.
If required, give them a thorough washing before drying them with a paper towel. Simply pinch off little clusters of leaves or use leaves off the stalks to dry.
The stems shouldn’t need to be microwaved since they are thicker and would dry more slowly than the leaves. Employ modest batch sizes.
Put several layers of paper towels in the microwave first. Spread the leaves or clusters out in a single layer after that. Depending on the size of your oven, heat on high for 1 to 2 minutes. Following a 180-degree towel rotation, repeat the 1- to the 2-minute heating process. For various ovens and herbs, there are varying times.
You ought to have considerably drier leaves at the conclusion of the second cycle. Watch out for this.
Don’t push yourself too much. Process for a maximum of 30 seconds at a time as you go. To determine whether the leaves are brittle, remove one or two and let them cool fully.
When they are, chill the whole batch on a wire rack, test their moisture content, and store them in dark, airtight containers. You may preserve your herbs if the container doesn’t contain any moisture at all. They ought to keep their taste for six to twelve months.
In the microwave, spread the leaves across multiple layers of paper towels.
Dry meats between 140° and 150°F. There is a chance that the meat may deteriorate before it has a chance to dry if it dries too slowly and at a lower temperature.
With the exception that the drying temperature must be maintained at 140 to 150°F to avoid spoiling, meats are dried in a manner similar to that of fruits and vegetables.
The USDA recommends that all meats be dried after being cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F.
Use only the freshest lean beef, and store the completed product in freezer-safe resealable bags to get the longest storage period (1 year). In the fridge, dried meats last for two months.
The shelf life of meat jerky, which may be marinated before drying, is much less. It is simple to create and highly practical to use, and it will keep for two to six months. I keep jerky in resealable packets in the freezer.
Because pork has more fat than lean beef chops, which might get rancid, it doesn’t function as well. Chicken should also not be used since it has too much fat for proper drying and might be harmful to your health. Lean beef is the most dependable option for dried meat, as indicated.
The oven shouldn’t be set lower than 140°F, however, drying meat for a longer amount of time at a lower temperature can maximize taste.
Drying meat in the sun and then storing it on a shelf is the oldest technique of meat preservation. But this approach is hardly the safest. Store dry pork jerky in plastic bags in the freezer or refrigerator for increased safety. Within 6 months, use frozen beef jerky; within 2 months, refrigerate.
Create beef cubes.
Lean lamb or beef, weighing 2 pounds, may also be utilized. Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes. Put in a deep pot, then cover with water. Boil for one hour with the lid on the pan. The pieces should be spread out in a single layer on trays or cookie sheets and dried in the oven for 4 to 6 hours at 140 to 150°F.
To allow moisture to escape, prop open the oven door with the handle of a wooden spoon. To test, chill a cube, cut it open, and look inside to see whether there is moisture.
Lower the temperature to 130°F and continue drying the meat for another 4 to 6 hours, or until there is no moisture left in the core of the cubes. You can keep your low temperature steady with the use of an oven thermometer.
Keeping in the freezer
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 cup of meat to rehydrate it. Leaving for three to four hours. Use in soups, stews, and casseroles. If required, prepare to marinade food for taste.
By boiling the beef and water in the same proportion of one to one in a covered pot for 40 to 50 minutes, you may hasten the rehydrating process.