Most people cram their entire collection of dried foods into one cupboard or drawer. But these herbs and spices are just the beginning. Hikers can dry their own fruits for trail mix or soups and bean dishes for backcountry dinners. Fruit leather can be made for lunchboxes—your kids can even learn to make their own. Our latest experiment in drying—hot peppers grown, smoked, and dried at home—is developing into paprika and chipotles in adobo for everything from sprinkling to Grilled Tomato Chipotle Salsa.
The dehydrating process is ancient. A combination of warm temperatures and circulating air pulls moisture from food. Removing sufficient water from food prevents its natural microorganisms from multiplying and spoiling it. Keeping the food dry keeps it preserved.
So when drying food, moisture is often the primary issue. Food that isn’t fully dried can mold. Even food that is properly dried but isn’t properly stored can reabsorb moisture and spoil. Some tools and techniques can make the process smoother and inspire you to dehydrate more foods.
Tips & Tricks
The posts on this site include tips and tricks for dehydrating the foods found in the given recipes. But there are a few things to keep in mind every time you plan to dry garden goodies.
- Always allow food dried in a dehydrator to cool completely; warm food might be dry but still sweat moisture. It’s also easier to check that a food is completely dry when it is at room temperature.
- Store dried food in the portions you plan to use so that you reduce air and thus moisture exposure when you open the package. Snack-size zip-close bags can be handy; the smaller bags can be stored in a gallon one.
- When you open a package, check that the food is still dry. Spoiled dried food will be moldy and inedible. An overly moist batch can be redried and repackaged.
- Temperature and light can affect the quality and shelf life of dehydrated food. The cooler the temperature, the longer the storage time.
- Some foods are eaten directly or thrown into other dishes in their dried form, but others are best when rehydrated.