Drying food is probably the oldest method of preserving food known to civilization. Meats and plant material were put out in the sun and wind to dry. This was necessary to survive the long, harsh winters when food was scarce. It also enabled people to travel long distances to explore new lands.
Did you know that the first true dehydrator, as we know it, was invented by the French at the end of the 18th century? This early dehydrator had a set temperature of 130 degrees F with a continuous circulating airflow. It was a great success.
The popularity of dehydrators has waxed and waned throughout history. At the present time, drying food has become a popular method of preserving.
WHAT IS DEHYDRATION?
Dehydration is the removal of moisture from food to the extent that micro-organisms, which cause spoilage, are inhibited from growing. Two conditions are necessary for dehydration:
Heat - which draws out moisture
Air circulation - which carries the moisture off.
WHY DRY FOOD?
For decorative purposes
Takes up less space than frozen food
Can be done without electricity
Little energy is required in electric driers
Will not spoil if the power fails
Light and compact for a camping trip
No preservatives are necessary in home drying
Lasts for 12 months if properly handled
Another method of preserving the excess
Food is left with a high nutrient value
No need to use sugar
WHAT CAN I DRY?
All kinds of food - meat, fish, herbs, fruit, vegetables, potpourri material. Whatever you use should be of top quality. The quality of food that you dehydrate determines the quality of the dried product.
METHODS OF DRYING
Microwave Electric dehydrator
Most books on dehydrating give instructions for using some of the above methods. Plans are easily available for making solar driers. Check out your local library for reference books.
USES OF A DEHYDRATOR:
You can dry fruit, vegetables and herbs. You can make your own fruit leathers and savoury corn chips.
Glacé fruit and beef jerky can also be made in a drier.
With some dehydrators, you can make yogurt and cheese.
If the trays are removable, honey can be decrystallised and bread can be set to prove.
MISCELLANEOUS USES FOR YOUR DRIER:
Drying cake decorations
Christmas dough decorations
Drying of herbs can be very useful here in the North when many herbs are annuals. Much of the strength and flavour is preserved with the rapid drying in a dehydrator. All electrical driers come with instructions for use. However, there are many factors which affect the rate of drying: atmospheric conditions, altitude, preparation of the product.
Remember it is meant to be fun.
I have found that airtight glass jars are best for long term storage. Plastic bags and plastic containers do not work here in the North. I treat my jars as if for jam making. I sterilise them before I pack them with dried products and I store in a cool, dark cupboard.
Bananas are one of the easiest fruits to dry. Peel the bananas and slice into rings or lengthwise strips. They can be placed straight on the tray at this stage. Bananas can be dipped in lemon juice, passionfruit juice or pineapple juice. They can also be rolled in coconut at this stage if so desired. Another interesting process is to dust the bananas with spices such as cinnamon.
Microwave Dried Fruit and Other Fruit Delicacies by Isabel Webb, The Five Mile Press.
Preserve It Naturally! The Complete Guide To Food Dehydration, Reston Publishing Company.
Harnessing the Sun, by Bob Fuller, Bolwarrah Press.
Trail Food, by Alan Kesselheim, Ragged Mountain Press.
DATE: May 2000
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