Food is one of the most important things that you should be prepared for in case a disaster takes place. Imagine that a certain disaster occurred, and you got stuck in a place where there’s no hospitals, no electricity, no food supply, and no help at all. During that situation, everything else can be managed. People can find a way to live in dirty clothes and sleep without comfortable pillows. However, it’s quite difficult to survive without food, and if cooking is impossible, what food do you think should you have with you that can last for a longer time?
Our answer to that is dehydrated foods. These foods can be a part of your emergency food basics. Dehydrating is a method of removing moisture from foods so that they will be able to last longer. With this process, the texture and taste of foods will change, and it slows down the growth of microorganisms, hence, increasing the storage life. Let us know more about dehydrated foods for long-term storage.
What Foods Can Be Dehydrated?
There are lots of foods that can be dehydrated for long-term storage, but here are some of the best ones you can try:
Fruits are the best foods you can dehydrate. It’s better to pick perfectly ripe fruits. You can wash them and slice them into thin slices. The thinner they are, the easier and quicker they are to dehydrate. There are also some smaller fruits that can be dehydrated whole but may take a little bit longer.
Some fruits also undergo discoloration when dehydrated, like pears and apples that may turn brown, but they are still safe to eat. Some of the best fruits you can try to dehydrate are apples, tomatoes, bananas, plums, cherries, pears, and grapes.
Vegetables can also be dehydrated, but they may take longer to dry compared to fruits because they usually contain less acid. Just like fruits, vegetables need to be washed and sliced first before dehydrating.
Some vegetables also require blanching or boiling first, then dropping into icy water before dehydrating. This will help slow down enzyme breakdown, helping the vegetables preserve their flavor and texture. Some of the best vegetables to dehydrate are beets, carrots, celery, turnips, potatoes, peas, onions, and corn.
If you want to preserve meat, dehydrating is one of the best ways to do it. It can make meats last a long time and provide you with much-needed protein during a disaster. The best choice of meat to dehydrate is lean meat. It’s because fat does not dehydrate well, causing the jerky to spoil quickly.
Before dehydrating, some meats might require some sort of treatment to kill microorganisms. This applies to wild game meat. To be able to slice meat into thinner portions, freezing them is a good idea. Lean beef is the best choice for dehydrating meat.
What Is a Food Dehydrator?
To be able to dehydrate foods, you need to have long-term food dehydrator. It is a device that is responsible for removing moisture from foods to aid in its preservation. It uses a heat source and airflow to reduce the water content of certain foods. These devices usually require heat using energy sources like solar energy, electric power, or biofuel.
There are many choices when it comes to food dehydrators, but the most convenient choice is those with stackable, switchable trays. When choosing a dehydrator, pick one that has airflow technology that distributes heat evenly to prevent foods from drying extremely. Basic food dehydrators simply eliminate moisture. But there are more advanced ones that have additional features such as timers and fans. There are also some models that offer bigger spaces for drying.
Here are some of the best food dehydrators you can check out:
Steps in Dehydrating Foods
Once you’ve chosen a food dehydrator, here are the steps to dehydrate foods for long-term storage:
Step 1: Cleaning
If you are dehydrating fruits and vegetables, cleaning them is a crucial part. You need to wash them thoroughly first. After rinsing them, you can prepare a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar. Soak the food items in the solution after rinsing them well to remove wax and chemicals before slicing.
As much as possible, opt for organic foods. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly as well and disinfect them so that no bacteria will come in contact with the food you will be dehydrating. You can also wear gloves while cleaning and slicing them.
Step 2: Slicing
After cleaning the foods to dehydrate, the next step is to slice them. For fruits and vegetables, the cores, stems, and seeds should be removed. Then, peel them for better results. If you do not want the fruits to change color when dehydrated, you can spray them with lemon juice or use an acid dip. This technique will prevent apples and pears from turning brown when dried.
Step 3: Blanching
If you are dehydrating vegetables, some might need blanching, as mentioned earlier. Simply heat them in boiling water for a few minutes. After that, place them in icy water to blanch them. This will ensure that enzymes are stopped from degrading food over time. Some of the vegetables that need blanching are carrots, corn, green beans, peas, and potatoes.
Step 4: Drying
After preparing the foods to be dehydrated, it’s time to dry them. Keep in mind that the drying time of foods varies depending on the food item. Therefore, it’s important to know how long it takes for each food you have to be fully dehydrated. For example, apples can take about 6 to 8 hours to be fully dehydrated in most dehydrator models. Meat items take longer to dehydrate. If you are drying meat, you can do it with ease by turning the dehydrator at a maximum temperature of 160-degree F.
Things to Consider
When dehydrating foods for long-term storage, here are some of the important things you need to consider:
- Temperature Control: When dehydrating foods, avoid turning the temperature up. It’s because high heat does not make the process go faster. It will just create a dry and hard skin outside and moisture retention inside. Aside from that, high heat can also kill off enzymes and decrease the nutritional value of the food.
- Moisture Factor: The moisture factor of foods should also be considered when dehydrating them for long-term storage. It’s because foods need to be as dry as possible before they are stored. If they have a little moisture, they can spoil inside their containers. Therefore, before storing, it’s better to check the foods’ moisture factor first. If the food is dry enough, it should feel leathery and can be bent without breaking.
Storing Dehydrated Foods
After dehydrating foods, the next thing to do is store them for the long-term. The best storage for dehydrated foods is those with hermetic or airtight sealing. You can choose between cans, sealable food storage containers, and sealable plastic drums or food quality metal.
Remember that oxidation can reduce the flavor and nutritional value of foods. Therefore, vacuum sealing will also help retain the vitamins and nutrients in the food longer. Aside from that, you can also seal dehydrated foods in glass jars once they are dried. Another good option for storing dehydrated foods is using Mylar bags that have an oxygen-absorbing feature built into the packing material.
It is important to store dehydrated food in cool, dry areas for the best results. Dehydrated fruits and vegetables can generally last for a year, while dehydrated meats need to be consumed in 2 to 3 months.
Dehydrating foods for long-term storage can help you be prepared for emergencies and disasters, in case there will be no way for you to cook food. Aside from that, it can also help you save money, time, and effort during those times, provided you have a reliable dehydrator to meet your needs. Dehydrating foods, especially fruits, is also a great way to stock up on season specials.