Drying is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. In short, it is simply removing moisture from foods while exposing it to heat and moving air. There are three primary ways to dry food. Sun drying, oven-drying, and using a food dehydrator.
Sun drying is ideal for fruits such as apricots, peaches, grapes, and figs. It requires several dry hot days in a row (85 degrees or higher). Simply spread thin pieces of fruit in shallow pan and cover with cheesecloth to keep the bugs out.
Oven drying food is similar to sun drying; it just uses the oven instead of the sun. Set the temperature between 130-150 degrees depending on your oven. The drying time will vary based on the size and specific food being dried. There are a few precautions for sun and oven food dehydration. You must keep an eye on the food. If the temperature is too low or the humidity too high, your food could dry too slowly or even spoil. If it is too hot, you could cook the fruit on the outside while the inside remains moist and vulnerable to mold or microorganisms.
Commercial food dehydrators offer a controlled drying environment. They provide a constant, ideal temperature along with heated air that is circulated throughout the dryer. Many food dehydrators offer tray liners so you can dry small sticky foods or even make fruit leathers which are a tasty, inexpensive, and healthy alternative to store purchased fruit snacks. You can also make your own beef jerky in a dehydrator!
Along with the various foods you can dry, think of being able to dry while you're away at work, doing other chores, or even asleep! There is minimal worry or fuss involved when you use a food dehydrator, especially when paired with a great and informative instruction booklet with recipes and how-to's that will help you create a bountiful harvest of dried foods in your own kitchen.
After drying your food, be sure to cool it to room temperature and follow the packaging how-to's we discussed last week, using plastic bags, Snapware, or other airtight containers. Enjoy back packing and camping with your own dried fruits and meats or simply store it away for later months when the sweet taste of summer's harvest will brighten a cold day!
Drying your own foods can be simple and fun by following this simple Dry DIY!