Many homesteaders and off-gridders dehydrate food but limit themselves to the “basics.”
I am among that group, and thought I knew what could and what could not be dehydrated. Boy, was I wrong! We all know the usual stuff that gets dehydrated:
- Fruits like grapes, apples, dates, figs, plums, pineapples, bananas, cherries and coconut.
- Vegetables like onions, garlic and hot peppers.
- Mushrooms and all kinds of herbs.
- Meats of all sorts in the form of jerky — sliced or ground and “tubed” into sticks.
- Tomatoes, though they are usually called “sun-dried” – it’s still dehydrated before they are stored in oil.
And then there are all the foods you may not have known could be dehydrated. Here’s a list of nine, although you may know of others (let us know in the comment section):
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peppers (green, red, yellow)
The process can take between one hour and 48 hours depending on what you are dehydrating. Herbs such as parsley, basil, marjoram, etc., are on the lower end of the scale, since most of them will be leaves with a relatively low moisture content to begin with. Potatoes and pumpkin will be on the higher end of the scale, since they are more dense with a higher moisture content.
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Most foods that can be dehydrated should be treated in some fashion prior to being dried. Blanching is the usual method. It involves briefly precooking the food in either boiling water or steam. It stops the enzymatic reactions within the food and kills many of the organisms that cause spoilage. Blanching also shortens the drying time – which is a good thing!
Below, I have built a table to give you an idea of blanching methods and times. If it doesn’t show up on the table, then it doesn’t need to be blanched before drying. (I’ve added potatoes and a few fruit to the table, too, because those are popular items.) There are a few exceptions, which we will discuss later.
|Food Item||Blanching Method||Blanching Time|
|Carrots||Steam / Water||3 ½ min.|
|Peas||Steam / Water||3 min. / 2 min.|
|Potatoes||Steam / Water||6-8 min. / 5-6 min.|
|Pumpkin||Steam / Water||2 ½-3 min. / 1-1 ½ min.|
Let’s discuss exceptions now.
First is beets. They need to be cooked completely before they can be dried, just as if they were being canned. You will want to cut off the tops and roots before boiling the beets. Once they are cooked, the skin will slip off easily and they can be sliced as soon as they have cooled. It’s best to refrigerate beets and other root vegetables overnight before slicing them to dehydrate so that your “chips” or shreds aren’t mushy around the edges and your cuts are clean. The best tools to use for slicing chips is a mandolin slicer with an adjustable blade depth. The thinner your chips, the faster they will dry. Shredding can be done with a regular box shredder. No matter the method you use to chip or shred your fruits or vegetables, you want to be sure that the product doesn’t turn to mush.
Second is pumpkin. It appears on the table above, but what if you don’t want dried slices or shreds of pumpkin that you have to reconstitute before you can use them? Another option is to make a “mash” of pumpkin. If you add spices for pumpkin pie filling but don’t include sugar, you will have a sheet that should dry brittle and can be powdered. This powder can be used in place of canned pumpkin for pies, quick bread, pancakes or cookies. Obviously anything that is dehydrated needs to be reconstituted, so you would simply add water or other liquid to bring your powdered pumpkin back to a mash if you’re making pumpkin pies.
I really hope that you found this article interesting and helpful. As always, whenever you are dehydrating something, you should always do your research before getting started so that you are sure to have all of your equipment readily available. Research will also ensure that you know exactly how much time and effort is going to go into dehydrating your garden’s bounty.
Good luck and enjoy!
What other foods have you dehydrated that most people would not dehydrate? Share your tips in the section below: