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Thursday, August 30, 2012

DIY Food Dehydrating (guest post)

You can save money and space by learning DIY food dehydrating techniques.Not only will this knowledge save you money, but you will have the assurance of knowing exactly what your dehydrated meals contain.

Water in fruits and vegetables, and meat causes rapid ripening and eventual decay due to the enzymes and bacteria. When you remove the water through dehydration or circulating dry, hot air through the food item it shrinks it down in size and decay causing moisture is eliminated.

Food Dehydrating Benefits

Once canned food is open it will spoil fairly fast. Dehydrated food containers can be opened and reopened without causing the food within to spoil because there is no moisture present.

Garden-grown food can also be dehydrated. It's a great way to provide nutritious food for your family during a survival scenario.

Rather than purchasing small amounts of perishable food when it's on sale, you can take advantage of sales by purchasing large amounts and dehydrating it before it spoils.

You can save space in your pantry by dehydrating bulky fruits and vegetables like peppers and apples. One quart jar will hold 25 dried apples.

DIY food dehydrating techniques have very little effect on the vitamin and mineral content in foods when performed at home. Dehydrating foods is healthier than freezing or canning because most vitamins are retained in the dehydration process.

All dehydrated fruits and vegetables keep their carbohydrate and fiber content.

Dehydrated foods are lightweight and space saving; great for survival backpacks.

Pre-Treating Foods

You don't need to pre-treat foods before DIY food dehydrating, although doing things like marinating, dipping, and blanching will enhance flavor and color in some foods. You can inhibit mold or yeast growth by causing a chemical reaction that is a result of pre-treating foods.

Using a commercial product like Fruit Fresh is one way to pre-treat, but you can also just dip the items in a mixture of lemon juice and water.

The dehydration process can change the color of some foods which makes them look a bit less appetizing. Pre-treatment is usually used when DIY food dehydrating outdoors using the sun and wind.

Food Dehydrators

One way to dehydrate foods is by using a chamber that forces air through food which dries and preserves it. You don't have to buy a dehydrator; homemade techniques work quite well.

An electric dehydrator should have a temperature control, trays with lots of ventilation, and a fan to circulate the air. Some units have an on and off switch while others need to be unplugged. Prices run from about $50 for an American Harvest brand to several hundred dollars for the best of the best, the Excalibur.

With a little luck you might pick up one at a garage sale for $10.

Solar Food Dehydration

A DIY food dehydration system uses the sun's heat and consists of a wooden box fitted with a glass top that traps heat inside. This type of unit can have a heat-absorbing plate inside that produces an air convection current that goes through a vent at the bottom of the box. Your food is dried out as the hot air takes the moisture out of the box.

Drying food outdoors in the sun has a number of benefits:

Depending on the outside humidity, it may dehydrate faster than when using an electric dehydrating unit

Easy to set up, use and clean - can be portable

Keeps food dry when it rains

Air-tight construction prevents insects from getting in

Does not contribute to energy costs

Dehydrating can start in the spring as soon as early season crops such as strawberries, peas and other berries are ripe

DIY Food Dehydrating in the Oven

Using your oven is a good way of DIY food dehydrating and works well with foods like banana chips and jerky.

Oven drying takes longer than the sun or an electric dehydrator and cannot be used if your oven cannot heat at temps below 140° Fahrenheit. If your oven won't go below 140° it may cook the food instead of dehydrating it.

When you're drying food, put trays on oven racks that are two-inches apart to allow proper air circulation.

DIY Food Dehydrating in Your Car

Other than solar food dehydration, the above methods need access to power. During an apocalyptic event you may not have access to power. In the summer you can turn any vehicle, which may not be drivable due to lack of gas, into a huge dehydrator. Window screens make great trays and you can load them up with thin slices of things like meat, vegetables, and fruit. Put them in your car or truck and crack the windows to allow the air to circulate.

Depending on where you are living and the amount of humidity in the air, most things will be completely dehydrated by the end of the day. Things that are not dry can be left in overnight as long as you roll up the windows to prevent moisture.

C.L. Hendricks has been a Jill-of-all-trades and become an expert in some, including active participation in the preparedness movement. It is with personal knowledge and experience that she writes for such websites as Apocalypse Survival and Real Survival Skills.

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