Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Pantry: Dried Foods

One of the oldest ways to preserve foods is drying.  Drying is available to anyone and can be done with little expense for the frugal homemaker.  Dried food takes up little space and is light weight, making it easily portable for campers and hikers.

Some dried foods can be eaten out of hand while others need to be rehydrated and cooked.  A clean source of water and a heat source is all you need to make a meal for your family.

The equipment for drying can be made inexpensively or you can splurge and buy an electric dehydrator.  To make your own nail together a wood frame (no treated woods please), then staple screening to the bottom.  My wood frames were made small to fit my small oven and I wish I had them made with a finer mesh screen.  My electric dehydrator is an Excalibur.

Wooden Frames 

Choose the highest quality produce for preserving.  Any produce should be blanched for a minute in boiling water to destroy the enzymes that can cause discoloration during drying.  Slice or dice your produce to the desired sizes (smaller dries faster and takes up less storage space), then lay out on the dryer screens.  The wooden frames can be placed in a gas oven with just the pilot light burning or in an electric oven on "warm".  The oven door should be propped open; air circulation is a must.   Follow the manufacturers instructions for time and heat level when using the electric dehydrator.

Tomatoes in Electric Dehydrator

Some people like to lay their wooden frames outside in the summer when it is dry.  Be sure to protect the food from insects by covering it with netting or screening.  Once again, dry air circulation is key to preventing the food from molding before it is completely dry.  Drying outdoors may take several days, so be sure to take in your food at night.

Your drying is complete when the produce is dry to the point of being leathery, dry to the touch or crispy.  Any moisture left in the dried produce will cause it to spoil while it is in storage.  Experience will  teach you what to look for in your end product.  Try drying in small batches until you get comfortable with the drying process.

Try making fruit leather by pureeing fruit, then spreading it on a plastic (food grade) or silicon sheet.  Place on top of the frame screen and dry as you would produce.  A taffy like product can be made by using flavored yogurt in place of the pureed fruit.

I think that drying has a place in every home that wants to preserve their own food and keep a well stocked pantry.

God bless,

P.S.  For my asian friends and family, "Happy Lunar New Year"!


  1. I have been dehydrating now for a few years. One of our favorite snacks is dried onions. We munch on 'em constantly. I have to monitor my dried foods to make sure some actually make it into the cupboard to be saved for later.

  2. I have never had dried apples last more than a week. We eat them like candy. I will try dried onions to snack on. Bought some sweet onions yesterday with the intent of drying them.