Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dehydrating Food - The Old Fashioned Way

Instead of spending money on an expensive dehydrator, the old fashioned way of dehydrating food is easy and effective. Granted, electric dehydrators cut down on the time it takes to thoroughly dry food, but the dollar savings should more than make up for that. Besides, after preparing the food and setting it out to dry, there is nothing for you to do. Go about your life, come back in a few days, and pack up the dried food.

Homemade Fruit Leather

When my children were young, fruit leather(fruit roll-up in today's vernacular) was the "sweet" of the day, with apricots being the first choice of fruit. Just wash, cut in half, toss the pit away, add sugar to taste (or not), and throw the fruit into a blender. Add a little lemon juice to keep the leather from going dark as it dries. Cover a cookie sheet with plastic wrap and pour on the pureed fruit.

If it reaches the edges of the cookie sheet, stop pouring or it will be too thick. Get another cookie sheet for the rest. Cover the cookie sheet with cheese cloth to keep the flies out, using wooden spring-type clothes pins (or other type of clasp) to hold it taut so it doesn't touch the fruit puree. Put it out in the sun. If the wind is blowing, the drying time will be shorter.

Drying Vegetables

Tomatoes (I know, they're really a fruit) - Slice very thin and season with anything that sounds good to you - experiment with various spices. Lay out in a single layer on cookie sheets covered with cheese cloth. They almost taste like a candy treat when dried!
Green beans can be strung by using a needle and strong thread. Tie a knot in one end and push the needle through the center of the beans, pushing the beans towards the knot. When you get 2 or 3 feet of beans on the string, hang the beans up by the end in a warm dry area, but out of direct sunlight. Let them hang until the beans are dry. Store in a paper or cloth bag until ready for use.
Peas can be laid in the sun to dry. After they are dry, wait for a windy day. Place them on a sheet and beat the hulls off with a stick. The wind will blow the chaff away and leave just the peas. Store the peas in a paper or cloth bag until use.
Corn - cut the corn off the cob and lay in the sun until dry.

Most fruits and vegetables can be dried without any special instructions if you just use common sense. That means good sanitation practices. Don't dry any produce that is badly bruised or has any rot. Keep the food clean and protect it from insects during the drying process. Window screens can be used to make a box allowing airflow but protecting the fruits and vegetables from flies, etc.

I heard of an interesting method using your car - providing you don't need to drive it anywhere. Place the drying racks across the backs of the seats and just leave the windows slightly cracked. With the car sitting in the sun, the intense heat speeds up the drying process and gives some protection against insects and dirt.

Dehydrated fruits and vegetables can be stored in zip-lock bags for about a year. For longer term storage, put into #10 cans or glass bottles with oxygen absorbers.

Joan Crain is a "food storage enthusiast" who has experienced using food storage to survive. She is the publisher of Family Survival Planning and a regular contributor on Self Reliance Works. Both websites are chock full of helpful ways to become more self reliant and prepare your family to survive in any crisis.

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