Drying food offers many advantages
Dehydrated fruit, vegetables and meat not only keep longer, but are also more flavourful due to the loss of water.
Dehydrating is a very old and simple method of conserving foods. Although nowadays there is less need for it, if you have your own garden and a rich harvest of fruit or vegetables, dehydrating is an excellent alternative to boiling down the produce in order to preserve it. Drying the food removes the moisture needed for microorganisms and bacteria to grow, thus making them less likely to settle on dried foods.
Dehydration requires a heat of 30 to 60°C. The dried food must be sliced into small, preferably thin pieces. When you are dehydrating apple for example, it should be approximately 5 millimetres thin.
Thanks to refrigerators and exported goods, it is possible to eat fruit and vegetables from all over the world, year-round. Dehydrating fresh produce is therefore no longer as important as it used to be. In recent times, however, more and more people are favouring regional products, and dehydration is a good solution for enjoying certain fruits and vegetables out of season.
Dehydration intensifies the flavour and preserves the important vitamins and nutrients – unlike the preservation technique of boiling down foods. Dried fruit, vegetables, fish or meat are also extremely lightweight, making them the perfect provisions for long hikes. The advantage to dehydrating foods yourself is that you can be sure there are no preservatives or artificial additives.
In principle, you can dehydrate foods at home without any electricity or appliances, simply with fresh air. This method is especially useful for herbs but because it takes a lot of time and the temperatures are not constant, it is not so well suited to fruit and vegetables, and especially not meat. There is also the risk that the meat will spoil rather than dry. The air-dried goods must also be protected from insects.
If you want to dehydrate items without any special appliances, try using your oven. Set the oven to the convection setting and leave the oven door open to ensure sufficient air circulation and exchange. With such a long cooking time, the temperature may be problematic as it may be irregular and the energy consumption will be very high.
If you’ve already tried out dehydrating at home and you enjoyed the process and the flavour, then maybe it is worth getting an electric dehydrator. This appliance allows you to set the exact temperature, and it requires less energy whilst ensuring adequate air circulation.
An electric dehydrator has a few different levels, usually racks, upon which you can rest the food item. With this constant temperature and air circulation, all items can be cooked methodically – for example, apple rings at 50°C for 7-10 minutes, or pineapple pieces at 60°C for 14 hours.
After being dehydrated, the food item should still contain roughly 10-15% of its moisture to ensure a longer shelf life. If you plan on eating the fruit or vegetables as a snack, a higher water content tends to make them less tough and more pleasant to eat. Dehydrated mushrooms can be very dry and can be stored for a long time. They can be soaked in water and rehydrated before using.
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