Thursday, June 23, 2011

Advantages of Dehydrating Foods for Short or Long Term Storage, with Instructions

This is the time of the season when fruits and vegetables are really ramping up production and we have more than we can eat but not enough to justify getting out all the canning apparatus.  You know, ten tomatoes a day, a quart or two of figs, six or seven cucumbers, an armful of basil, a half bushel of squash.

In past years I’ve tried freezing these small bits and although it's quick and easy, it degrades the flavor of some things, like tomatoes.   Freezing also requires a lot of apparatus:  freezer bags are usually single use; plastic containers are, well, plastic, and jars take a lot of space.  Obviously, you'll need a freezer big enough to hold what you freeze and electricity to keep it going.  Sad and busy is the day when electricity goes out for more than a short while (as it does occaisonally in our neck of the woods) because then you've got to try to find ways to use or alternatively preserve all that hard won garden produce.

Canning requires a lot of apparatus and time. Jars need to be sterilized, water boiled, syrups made, processing tended.  Especially if you have small children running around underfoot, it can be hard to carve out a chunk of time  when everyone will be safe from boiling liquids.

Dehydration has a number of advantages as compared to freezing and canning:

1.  Dehydration can be done in absentia.  Just wash, slice, pop in the dehydtor and go about other business.
2.  Dehydration often improves the flavors of foods.  Tomatoes become richer and more intense.
3.  Dehydrated foods store compactly.  A bushel of dehydrated tomatoes can be stored in a couple of canning jars.
4.  Dehydrated foods are easy to use.  Ever tried to make tomato paste from canned tomatoes?  Prepare to be at the stove all day as they cook down.  Ever tried to make tomato paste from dehydrated tomatoes?  Soak in water, then blend.  That's all.

By the way, the instruction part of the title of this post is a little joke.  There’s really nothing to know, no real instructions needed to dehydrate fruits or veggies.  Just wash and cut produce in more or less even pieces and then dry until you’re satisfied.  The drier the food, the longer it lasts.  But don’t overdry herbs. 

1 comment:

  1. weve been thinking of getting a dehydrator. gosh the tomato paste sounds fabulously easy