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How to Preserve Your Harvest - Dehydrating

Posted by kaninchenrabbits@gmail.com on February 6, 2018 at 9:30 PM

How to Preserve Your Harvest

Dehydrating

If you're looking for a way to preserve the abundance from your garden, dehydrating is a grea way. Almost anything can be dehydrated; from fruits and vegetables to sauces, soups, and potpouri. If you purchase a dehydrator things are even simpler. I have a 12 tray Nesco FD60 American Harvest. It works great, but it's a bit small for what my garden produces. I can easily fill 2 or 3 of these with what I harvest on a heavy week thanks to all the herbs. All I have to do is rinse the herbs and pop them in. Some fruits and vegetables need to be blanched (put into boiling water for a short time) and all of them need to be cut into smaller pieces before going in the dehydrator. Vegetables that are high in starch like potatoes need rinsed several times to reduce browning. To find out if your produce needs blanched, check online or consult a handy guide like the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (ISBN: 978-0778801399).


Drying Temperatures

95°F - Herbs, Spices, & Greens

105°F - Nuts & Seeds

115°F - Crafts

135°F - Fruits & Vegetables

160°F - Meats, Fish, & Jerky


Why do we dry them at that temperature?

Herbs and greens are very sensitive and should be done between 90°F and 100°F. Too much heat or too long of a drying time causes a loss of the aromatic oils in the plants. Nuts and seeds are higher in oil and will go rancid or develop strange flavors if dried at too high of a temperature. Fruits and Vegetables dried between 130°F and 140°F will keep more heat-sensitive vitamins like A and C. Meat and fish should be dried on the highest temperature to keep bacteria and other harmful organisms to a minimum.


Drying Time

There are many factors that influence drying time. If the trays are loaded very heavily, if food is in more than one layer, if pieces are large/thick, or if it is a day with high humidity, your produce will take longer to dry. Generally you will want to check your items every hour or so. For my dehydrator, herbs and greens take 1-2 hours, but some like Kale (with the thick midrib) can take 4-6 hours depending on the day. Fruits and vegetables are 4 hours minimum, but I usually expect 6-8 and will dry them overnight.


Dehydrating Cautions

  • Don’t get the power head unit wet. Clean it with a damp cloth or sponge, but don’t submerge it.
  • Remove the trays and accessories before your dishwashers dry cycle or they can warp.
  • Make sure to keep foods away from the air intake.
  • Do not dehydrate food that has been marinated or prepared with alcohol. Alcohol + heat = fire.
  • Read your owner's manual. Some have unique requirements like using 4 trays at all times, even if 3 are empty.
  • If you are drying with a screen outside, make sure to cover the produce so bugs do get in it.


Dehydrating Tips & Tricks

  • You can cut some window screen down to fit inside your dehydrator trays so smaller particles and food do not fall through.
  • When drying sauces, liquids, or fruit rolls use a solid drying sheet.
  • When drying jerky put a fruit roll sheet on the bottom tray to catch drips.
  • After opening, you may want to store foods in the refrigerator or freezer or vacuum seal the container shut again.
  • For bulk greens that take up a lot of tray space dehydrate them on a cookie sheet in your car on a hot summer day.
  • You can make your own non electric dehydrator with some old window screens stapled to a wooden rectanglar frame. Just place them in the sun and wait.

Categories: Garden

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