Everything you need to know about drying food at home – practical, solid advice on why, how and what to dehydrate.
You have wondered about drying food, haven’t you? Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Get ready because I am going to answer all of your questions and get you well on your way to dehydrating like a champion.
I’m not kidding – this is the in-depth guide to dehydrating your own food at home. We’re going to cover the essential tools for drying food, the types of food you can dry, a step-by-step outline on how exactly you do it, and a bunch of things that you can do with your dried food.
A quick note – this used to be all in one HUGE 5500 word post but people complained because it was too hard to read. Because of that, I’ve broke it up into sections.
Are you ready?
Just about every season there is some kind of food you can dry, and the variety of dried foods is significant – from berries in the summer to wild game jerky in the fall – so you you can be drying food all year long. Vegetables like corn and green beans can be dried, and all sorts of fruits – including bananas and apples.
But why bother?
Are there really any benefits to dried foods?
Drying Food is Economical
Have you looked at the price of jerky and dried fruits and vegetables in your grocery or health food store? You might have had to look twice – they’re expensive. They are particularly pricey if they are healthful versions, free of preservatives and artificial colors and flavors. Drying food at home – your own wholesome food – is much less expensive, especially if you dry foods that are in season and/or on sale.
Also, bringing along some of your own dried foods on car trips and vacations can save you a lot of money on snacks and meals on the road.
Dried Food Has a Long shelf life
If you like camping, it’s great to take along – dried food is lightweight, doesn’t require refrigeration, and is high in nutrition. You can also store it for use in an emergency, and include it in emergency kits you may have for yourself and your family. If the power goes out during a summer storm or due to some other act of nature, you can still have fruit, vegetables, and meats available for a meal. (Okay, you probably need to have some water on hand, too)
Dried Foods Are Convenient
There’s no doubt that dried foods are convenient. They are especially handy if you have children and need to grab a quick snack on the way out the door.
What if one of your children needs to go to the ER, and you don’t know how long you’ll be sitting there? (I don’t know about you but I’ve spent hours waiting in the ER!) You and the other children will need something to eat.
Even for running errands, it’s nice to have snacks in the car. In fact, you can have a take-along bag with dehydrated food that you always take with you in the car.
Dried food is also convenient when you can’t get to the store, such as during a snowstorm. It’s also nice to be able to have dried produce on hand for soups and stews and other recipes. You can serve up a fresh-tasting raspberry sauce with your holiday roasts without spending a ton of money on store-bought berries.
Dried Foods are Healthful
Dried foods retain most nutrients, except those that depend on the presence of water. All of the fiber is intact in dried foods. And it’s chemical free, devoid of preservatives and artificial flavors and colors. Think of being able to reap the nutritional benefits of, for example, raspberries in December when you feel a cold coming on.
Even when we are committed to eating seasonally, it’s great to grab a handful of immune-boosting dried berries that you picked and dried in the summer. Harvested in season and processed at home, they retain all the benefits you need.
Easy and Inexpensive to Prepare
Drying food at home is not particularly complicated. When drying food, you don’t need to fuss over sterilizing jars, using a pressure canner, and spending money on added ingredients like sugar and vinegar. (If you understand the basics of canning, it’s not difficult, but drying food is definitely easier).
You just dry the food – it’s simple, and the food is not too far from its natural state. As my grandfather would have said, it still remembers where it came from.
The links below all open in a new window so that you don’t lose your place.
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Before refrigeration, air drying and sun drying were the most common way to store food, and it remains a simple, effective method of food preservation. There are still things you need to know if you want to have healthy, useful dried food
Generalized articles and recipes are fine, but sometimes you really just need some basic information that breaks a process down into doable steps.
Drying your own herbs is an economical, healthful, and flavorful way to preserve your herbal harvest, and it’s a very practical part of drying food. Here’s how to dry herbs and spices at home.
Now that you have dehydrated a variety of foods at home – what will you do with it? Here are a few creative ideas to get you started using dried food.
So what do you think? Do you have a good idea now about what you need for dehydrating, what foods you can dry, how to go about drying food, and what you can do with the dried food when you’re done? I hope so!