How to Dry Foods Step by Step – With or Without a Dehydrator

 

Dehydrate Raw Food

This image is made by Natubico for Nature; www.vivism.info

Generalized articles and recipes are fine, but sometimes you really just need some basic information that breaks a process down into doable steps. It’s also helpful to learn more than one technique for drying foods. Here’s a how-to guide for drying foods step by step, focusing on fruits and vegetables. Read through these steps before embarking on your venture.

Step 1: Obtain Your Produce

Your produce may come from your own garden, a friend/neighbor’s garden, a local farmers’ market, grocery store, etc. The main thing is that you have fresh produce that is at its peak. Even though you’ll be drying it, you don’t want shriveled, dried-up produce to start with. However, fruit that is somewhat overripe can still be dried if you use it to make fruit leather.

Look for fruits and vegetables that do not have soft or mushy spots, and avoid hard, green, under ripe fruit as well. The food does not have to look perfect; it just needs to be ripe and free of decay.

Step 2: Prepare Your Produce – Wash and Blanch

If possible, obtain your produce and dry it on the same day. Wash it well and pat it dry. Then, bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a large bowl or pot with ice water. You will also need a slotted spoon or steamer basket to get the produce out of the water quickly. You are preparing to blanch your produce – dip it quickly in boiling water, and then plunge it in cold water to stop the cooking.

Sources recommend that you do not skip this step, because it will make all the difference in the quality and shelf life of your foods. This is because blanching kills bacteria that cause decay. The exceptions to the blanching rule are mushrooms, which should just be wiped clean, and bananas, which will soften too much in boiling water.

Blanch vegetables for 3-5 minutes and fruits for 2-3 minutes.

Step 3: Pat Dry

After blanching, place your produce on cookie sheets covered with several layers of paper towels, and then pat it dry.

Step 4: Slice and Cut Food

Slice fruits like strawberries, bananas, pineapples and apples into thin slices. Cut corn kernels off the cob. Halve stone fruits and remove the stones (pits).

Step 5: Place Food in Dehydrator (if you don’t have one, skip to Step 6)

Place the food in the trays with space between the pieces with no overlaps. Turn the dehydrator to the setting recommended by the manufacturer.

Step 6: Place Food on Cloth-Covered Screens or String with Thread

Using old window screens (as long as they are lead-free) is fine, and so is stapling screening to a plain wood frame. Cover with cloth, place food on the cloth (close together but not touching), and cover with another cloth. Place outside in a dry, shady area and bring in at night. Repeat for several days.

If you string your food on thread, as with green beans or whole, small mushrooms, you’ll need to hang it in a dry, shady area as well and bring it inside at night. Both methods can be done indoors in a dry attic, too.