Preservation Techniques – Part 1, Drying

Good morning, everyone! It’s a pleasantly bright and sunny day, here in WS, even if it is a bit hot for my tastes. (I am very much a cold weather person.) I hope you are enjoying your weather, wherever you happen to be.

As the title stated, I’m going to discuss methods of preserving food. I’ll cover each method in an individual post. The lucky method of today is drying.

Dehydration is incredibly versatile and very easy. Whether it involves hanging bunches of herbs or slicing fruits and veggies and putting them in the dehydrator, it’s a “fix it and forget it” kind of method. It great if you have a busy schedule.

If you are using the hang-and-dry method, hang bunches of herbs in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area for several weeks. Dried herbs are best if you crumble them just before you add them to the dish you are preparing.

You can also dry herbs(and just about any thing else) in a dehydrator. Food must be sliced thin in most cases.

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The mandolin. Please be wary of the blade.

This little do-hickey is called a mandolin. Yep, just like the instrument. It slices veg and fruit in uniform slices very quickly.  (For the love of God, Allah, rock ‘n’ roll, or whatever deity you follow, PLEASE be careful. The blade of the mandolin is very sharp and you could cut your finger tips off, if you don’t pay attention. Use the guard at ALL times.)

The dehydrator that I have is just about as simple as it gets. Just plug it in. It uses low heat applied over many hours to remove the moisture and preserve the food. It was warm to the touch and could be moved with my bare hands. As with any kitchen endeavor, take nothing for granted and always exercise caution.

For the purposes of this post, I sliced four potatoes and put them in the dehydrator. In a single layer on each tray, barely touching but not overlapping.

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Potato slices arranged on the dehydrator trays.

Different foods call for different drying times.  Bananas, for example, dry in just 9 hours. The potatoes will take twelve. I started them (and this post!) at about 9 this morning.

Food in the dehydrator must be turned a couple of times during the process. Move upper trays to the bottom and turn left or right. The food will stick slightly to the trays as it’s drying. For best results with the food you are drying, do some research about drying times. Also, some foods need to be treated prior to drying. This usually involves dipping in lemon juice, boiling water, or marinade, in the case of meat. Of course, each food has different requirements for pretreatment.

Why pretreat? It’s to help maintain the color, shape, and/or flavor during the drying process. Potatoes don’t require pretreatment. When they are finished, allow to cool completely and store without crushing, in an airtight jar or sealable plastic bag. Check once a month. Fruit should be packed in a non-aluminum, non-plastic container and kept away from moisture.

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These potato slices are nearly finished. They will be dry and brittle when they are finished. Reconstitute by soaking in water.

Drying is an excellent way to preserve a wide variety of foods for later use.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Look forward to more posts about preservation methods and my beginner’s crochet tutorial, coming soon.

Amber, over and out.

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