How to Dehydrate Food for Long-Term Storage
Imagine this: a disaster takes place that forces the world to shut down. However, humans are still alive. There is a continuous life threat outside the security of the walls of home or safety centers.
There are no hospitals open, no food supply, electricity, and gas are shut off, and you’re stuck in a place with no help at all. Nobody has an idea of how long this disaster will last. In such a situation, everything else can be managed. You’ll find a way to live in dirty clothes, sleep without a comfortable pillow, but you won’t be able to survive without food. Dehydrated food is part of the emergency food basics that you should have.
This is why we bring you the best tips on how to dehydrate food for long-term storage. With this, you’ll be well prepared for any emergency. Even during a disaster, you’ll have nutritious food prepared to ensure your healthy survival.
What to dehydrate
The first and foremost decision you need to make is that which food to store and which do not. When it comes to how to dehydrate food for long-term storage, a lot of issues will eradicate only by the selection of the right things. Certain foods may sound like a yummy treat during a disaster but neither will they dehydrate easily nor will they last as long.
Of course, our list of suggested items is based on a balance between efforts taken to dehydrate the item compared to its nutritional value. If it is not providing enough energy and taking up more during the dehydration process, we’ll never recommend it.
Dehydrated fruits and vegetables are pretty much the best-dehydrated foods. They work for vegans too. Some fruits do lose a lot of moisture and do not retain any nutritional value.
The same is true for certain vegetables. Follow our given list to prevent yourself from any such issue. The process to dehydrate fruits will be to pick very ripe fruits. Wash them properly. Cut them into thin slices. It’s easier to dehydrate thinner pieces rather than whole fruits or thick slices. Some small-sized fruits can be dehydrated whole if they are not too thick and bulky.
Dehydration does lead to discoloration of fruits. Although this doesn’t mean that the fruits aren’t good to eat, some people do get bothered by this. To prevent this issue, you can use ascorbic acid. Soak your slices in this acid before dehydrating them.
Vegetables work pretty much the same as fruits. The main difference is that the quantity of acid is lesser in vegetables so they dry up quicker than fruits. Just like fruits, pick ripe vegetables and wash them. Then cut them into thin slices just like with fruits. After that, you’ll have to blanch the vegetables.
The process to do this is that you boil the vegetable slices and then instantly after they are boiled, put them ice cold water. This is important so that the flavor and nutrients in the vegetables remain preserved. After that, dehydrate them just like fruits.
The recommended fruits and vegetables to dehydrate include apples, bananas, cherries, grapes, pears, plums, tomatoes, beets, carrots, celery, corn, onions, peas, potatoes, and turnips.
When you’re thinking of how to dehydrate food for long-term storage, you cannot ignore protein supply. Without meat, you’ll have a hard time surviving because proteins are the main source of energy. Fatty meats are not easy to dehydrate because the fat content does not dehydrate. Lean meat is easier to store and works just fine.
If you’re using fresh meat, you’ll have to treat it in order to kill any bacteria that may be present. After that, freeze it for a couple of days. Once it is fully cold, cutting thin slices of the meat will become easy. Beef gives the best results as dehydrated meat. Make sure you cut the meat against the direction of the grains. Also, never cut a slice that is thicker than a quarter inch.
Required dehydrating product
The issue with dehydrated food is that it loses some of the nutrition. It is important that the correct dehydration method is used so that the nutrients can be retained. When it comes to how to dehydrate food for long-term storage, we would recommend you to invest in a good dehydrator.
Although some foods can be air dried, it can become a very long process. On the other hand, oven drying foods is an option too. But, since the heat in ovens is pretty high, a lot of the nutrients are lost. If you don’t want to do that then get a dehydrator that will work as something in between.
Picking the Right Dehydrator
The dehydrator you should get must have a tray. It is most convenient to have a sliding tray. Built-in trays work just as fine but stacking the food in and getting it out gets a bit inconvenient.
Similarly, a changeable thermostat is what you need to look for. A fixed temperature will not work for all kinds of foods. For example, fruits will dehydrate quicker whereas meat requires a higher temperature.
Another thing to look out for in dehydrators is an air flow vent that will allow the air to circulate. This way the moisture from inside the dehydrator will keep moving out. If you’re looking for a more advanced product, you can get a dehydrator with an auto-shut system. The built-in timer will prevent your foods from burning in case you forget about it.
The dehydrator that we recommend is the Excalibur 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator. It provides a 26-hour timer with an automatic shut off. The thermostat is adjustable from 105F to 165F.
There are some things you need to take care of before you start with the dehydrating itself. This includes firstly gathering all your foods. Then you have to deep clean all the foods. After that, move on with peeling and slicing. Never slice any fruit or vegetable thinner than 3mm.
Next, you have to treat the foods according to their requirements. For example, vegetables need to be blanched, meat needs to treated, fruits and vegetables need to be soaked in ascorbic acid or vinegar, etc. After that, the slices are ready to be dehydrated.
The process of how to dehydrate food for long-term storage is pretty easy. The only complicated thing is to get the timing right. If your food slices aren’t too thick or extremely thin, the suggested time will do the work.
Since dehydration needs to be done on slow heat to prevent loss of nutrients, it is a long process. Dehydrators with timers work best for this reason. When it comes to fruits, apples will take around 6 to 8 hours to properly dehydrate. On the other hand, bananas can take up to 10 hours too. Blueberries, strawberries, and other berries need more than 12 hours for dehydration. Some vegetables will be good to go in a couple of hours but others will need up to 16 hours. Meat generally takes longer than any other food.
The recommended temperature for dehydrating meat is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Fruits work fine between 125F to a 135F range. Make sure to spend longer time but never turn the temperature higher. Not only will it burn up your food, the moisture in the food will not evaporate, and you won’t be left with any useful nutrients. To find out more about the exact timings, you need to refer to your dehydrator manual since that is where you’ll find the exact temperature details.
Storing the right way
Airtight containers are vital for storage of dehydrated food for the long-term use. Among some of the handiest options are cans, sealable buckets, and metal or plastic containers that come with a seal. It is important that the container is airtight because otherwise, the oxygen will cause the food to oxidize. The air will also minimize the shelf life of the food, minimize the vitamin content, and lower the nutritional value.
There is a possibility that air will enter the containers over time. To tackle this, you can add oxygen absorbers along with all your dehydrated food. If you don’t plan on consuming the food within a few months, stick to glass containers instead of plastic.
This is because plastic can be absorbed by the food and that is not healthy at all. Generally, dehydrated meat tastes best if consumed within 2-3 months after dehydration. Herbs, fruits, and vegetables will last for a couple of years without a worry.
We suggest you store the dehydrated food in a small airtight jar for a few days before preserving it for long-term use. If the jar gets condensed moisture on the inside, this means your food isn’t dehydrated completely. Repeat the process of dehydration with a lower temperature and for lesser time to fix the problem. Another way to check if the food is dehydrated is by breaking the slices. If they crack instead of crumbling, they’re ready!
That is how to dehydrate food for long-term storage in the easiest way possible. Now you’re prepared to tackle any disaster at any time!
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