Dehydrating foods is a popular technique used in home and commercial kitchens all over the world. It is a way to preserve foods for days and sometimes months( depends on conditions of preservation). Fruits, vegetables and meats can be dehydrated for future use.
What is Dehydration of foods?
It is a food preservation process where we extract moisture out of food items through a slow and warm flow of air. Hot-air dehydration began in France in 1795. Seeping the moisture out of the item inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast in it.
Evidence shows that the Middle East and oriental cultures dried foods in the hot sun as early as 12,000 B.C. The Romans were particularly fond of any dried fruit they could make.
Which Foods can we Dehydrate?
- Fruits like Coconut, Apples, Bananas, Raspberries, Kiwis, Mango etc;
- We can dehydrate vegetables like Mushroom, Garlic, Ginger;
- Desiccated Meats like Prosciutto and Beek jerky are popular all over the world;
- Dried-up Fish for eg: Cod, is a source of protein in most of the European diet;
Advantages of Dehydrated Foods:
Dehydrated foods are nowhere less in nutrition. Snacking on apple crisps or dried nuts are great snack options. They meet hunger pangs and also keep you away from junk food.
2. Price Point
There’s a barrage of brands selling fruit/vegetable crisps in the market. Then there’s produce which is organic. You have to pay through your nose for them. Even with all the good intentions, we end up buying cheaper alternatives. Dehydrating food at home can save you a whole lot of money. You can buy foods in bulk at discount deals – dehydrate it at home – Reuse for snack or cooking till months later.
3. Sans Chemicals
When you buy packets of snacks, they either come with preservatives and additives or loaded with sugar. But when you dehydrate the foods at home, it’s natural, fresh and healthy.
Food Fact: Dehydrated food has about 1/15 the bulk of the original product.
Disadvantages of Dehydrating Foods:
1. The process of dehydration is tedious. It requires absolute precision in treating foods: While preparing meats for dehydration, maintaining correct temperatures for cooking/steaming the foods is important. Right temperatures kill the Bacteria. Inability to do the same can result in an unsatisfactory product.
Here’s a short article on how to prep meats for dehydration.
2. While drying fruits and vegetables, size and cut of the product plays a big role. If they are cut too thick then it will take a long time to desiccate. If the slices are too thin then it will dry out quicker, robbing the product of its nutritional value, taste and texture. kind of defeats the purpose.
3. Rise in electricity bills as the process take a long time. To dry out the food to its best, we are easily looking at oven or dehydrator running for a least of 8-10 hours.
Tips to Store Dried up Foods:
You finish with your batch of home-dried foods. Now, how to store them? Yes, you are going to need airtight jars and zip sealed bags(prefer freezer bags) for storage but there’s more to it.
Something to remember: At any point during the first week of dehydration if you see condensation in the jar/airtight bag, put it back in the dehydrator.
- After the food dehydrates. Allow it to cool completely. If it’s warm to touch then the warm air surrounding the product will create moisture in the jar. Thereby, reducing the shelf-life;
- Condition the product whilst storing them in jars. Which means, for the first 7-10 days pack the fruit/vegetable loosely. Shake it once every week;
- Store the foods in small batches to avoid spoilage. As many times you open the container, you are introducing air to it. Which may contaminate by introducing bacteria and mold to it.
Store them in a cool, dry place, away from light – is a prerequisite. A temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 degrees Celsius (or less) is best. If that’s not possible then think of finishing the food faster.
Desiccated foods like dried nuts and herbs can last up to a year;
Dried meats, fruits and vegetables last for six months. Even longer if you put them in the freezer.
Types of Dehydration (you can try them at home):
Traditionally foods were either air-dried or sun-dried. Technology has now progressed. Modern methods like Dehumidifiers( or Dehydrators), Oven-drying and Freeze-drying have taken over. Microwave and Toasters are an option too but they yield average results.
Even though the process is tedious. Incorporating dehydrated foods in our diet has numerous health benefits. Do make an informed decision before trying out and investing in the right appliance.
Which food will you begin home dehydration with?