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Dehydrating for Beginners - Please Advise

 
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How to start with home dehydrating to preserve food? A complete newbie here.

We have quite some surplus of summer vegetables (tomatoes, zucchini’s, eggplants and bell peppers) and fruits (figs, plums, and grapes).


We have enough sun, so we sliced the vegetables and cut the fruits into halves, left the vegetables in a drying net in the sun for 2-3 days, and the fruits for about a week.

The fruits we simply put in ziplock bags and we keep them in the fridge… not sure what to do to keep them safely outside of the fridge.
The vegetables we put in sterilized jars with olive oil, herbs, and some dried chilies, and they’re resting in a dark cupboard.

Any advice, feedback, recipe ideas… all welcome…

🙏🙏🙏


 
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Also would like dehydrating tips. Interested in purchasing dehydrator for summer peppers, etc.  Burning question: can you dehydrate garlic? Lost all my picked crop to humidity; turned bitter even before I could use.
 
Molly Gordon
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To clarify: I know you can dehydrate garlic into hard chips...but can you just dry it out enough so same hardness as you would buy in the store?
 
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To dry garlic bulbs for storage, wait until they are fully mature to harvest and them hang whole plant bulb side down someplace with good air circulation for several weeks until stems have dried all the way through.  I string mine up under my porch roof.

If you just have to much humidity for them to dry, maybe try another preservation method.  Brined garlic has a nice mellow flavor. The fancy "black garlic" that was trendy a few years back is made by some slow fermentation process.
 
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In answer to the original question, I've dehydrated many kinds of fruit and veg, and I find well dehydrated food to be the most bulletproof food preservation method I've ever seen. I keep some things mostly in glass jars, other things just sit open on the counter, and I almost never refrigerate anything. It all lasts forever, as far as I can tell. I've never had anything spoil. I've had 3-year-old fruit leather and "raw food" ginger snap cookies that got "lost" and looked tasted great, just like the day they were finished dehydrating. I'm not sure about things like figs that probably retain more moisture, though, I've never done those. Maybe someone who has can say.

I would say in general, relax. And at least with part of your crop, experiment with just dehydrating it well and storing it in a jar in the cupboard and see if your experience is like mine.
 
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Just a note that powdered onion and powdered garlic is just dehydrated and ground, nothing magic.

Two things I really like doing are celery and kale. I use them in soups and neither of them lasts long in the fresh form. Any vegetable you put into a soup is a good candidate to try out for dehydrating.
 
Dave de Basque
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Two things I really like doing are celery and kale. I use them in soups and neither of them lasts long in the fresh form. Any vegetable you put into a soup is a good candidate to try out for dehydrating.



Whoa! Celery! And all my soup vegetables! Never thought of that, thanks for the idea, Tony!
 
N. Neta
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Dave de Basque wrote:I've had 3-year-old fruit leather and "raw food" ginger snap cookies that got "lost" and looked tasted great, just like the day they were finished dehydrating.


“Raw food” ginger snap cookies… could we get the recipe, Dave?
 
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I prefer storing dehydrated foods in canning jars.

A good way to dehydrate garlic cloves thoroughly is in an open jar placed on the back deck of a car parked with the sun shining in the back window. Be aware that it does leave a strong garlic smell for a few days afterwards.
 
Molly Gordon
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Mike Barkley wrote:

A good way to dehydrate garlic cloves thoroughly is in an open jar placed on the back deck of a car parked with the sun shining in the back window.  [/quote


Interesting idea. How long to dry in your zone?

 
Mike Barkley
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About a week.
 
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Mike Barkley wrote:I prefer storing dehydrated foods in canning jars.



Ditto. In fact, this is the primary reason I save glass jars, from the store.

 
Tony Hawkins
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Dave de Basque wrote:

Two things I really like doing are celery and kale. I use them in soups and neither of them lasts long in the fresh form. Any vegetable you put into a soup is a good candidate to try out for dehydrating.



Whoa! Celery! And all my soup vegetables! Never thought of that, thanks for the idea, Tony!



Yeah, totally. I started with apples and bananas originally because they're easy and snack food. But with things like celery and kale, which don't keep long, are terrific. I put them in canning jars and they'll last until the next time they can be harvest fresh again. The ideal way of rehydrating things is low and slow cooking in warm water, which is totally what soup cooking is all about.

 
N. Neta
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So no need to vacuum seal any dehydrated produce?
Simply put them in a jar and keep in a cool and dark place for months?
Just trying to clarify for myself…
 
Carla Burke
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Vacuum sealing isn't,*necessary*, but it can greatly extend the shelf life. I generally don't, but I do use jars, and both oxygen and moisture absorber packets, and seal the jars as tightly as I can, by hand. I don't use mylar or plastic.
 
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I dry lots of vegetables because we have a long winter where no fresh fruit or vegetables are available in the market here due to road closures.

I store dried vegetables in glass or plastic jars to keep mice out. They seem to stay good for a year like that. Maybe they start losing some color and flavour after about that much time, but not too serious.

Tomatoes: Slices stick to the trays badly, so instead, I cut them in half, and then in sections shaped like sections of an orange, so they can stand up on their skin and not lose juice or stick to the tray so much. I like to cut them not quite all the way through so that the skin remains intact along a few sections, to help them all stand upright. Small tomatoes can be just cut in half.

You mentioned eggplants, zucchinis, and bell peppers. I have dried all of those, too. I find that eggplants in bite-size chunks rehydrate nicely, but long sections don't.

Zucchini dries and rehydrates easily, and I feel that it rehydrates a little sweeter and tastier than fresh zuke: go figure!  

I don't really like green peppers much in the first place but I dried a little for variety, and they were fine.

Small pieces dry faster than big pieces. Most vegetables and fruits, the skin protects it from drying, so make sure the cut surfaces are exposed to air. If it's something not juicy, dry it on cloth rather than trays: it seems to dry faster and arranging things skin-down is not an issue.

Dry air moving through is what dehydrates things, not actually heat per se. If the air is damp or has high relative humidity then heating the air will lower its relative humidity, ie make it able to carry more moisture away. Alternatively, if you think the air is not quite dry enough or moving through enough, a fan can help.

Things shrink a lot as they dry, so if you're running out of space, the next day you can probably push yesterday's half-dry things together and make more space. When you think things are fully dry, they probably still have thick bits with lots of moisture inside, so pile them together but leave them out to dry further for a while longer before putting them into storage.

 
Tony Hawkins
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N. Neta wrote:So no need to vacuum seal any dehydrated produce?
Simply put them in a jar and keep in a cool and dark place for months?
Just trying to clarify for myself…



That's what I do. I've thought about getting a vacuum sealer but haven't pulled the trigger. There's no real waste generated from using mason jars, and everything seems to last well. Yeah pretty much it's (a) clean and chop (b) dehydrate (c) put into jars.

There are some little details here and there that you can use to do it "better", but largely the above works. I think with some things you want to blanch them first, but I don't know that stuff too well.
 
N. Neta
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Rebecca Norman wrote:I dry lots of vegetables because we have a long winter where no fresh fruit or vegetables are available in the market here due to road closures.


Wow, Rebecca… thank you so much for your crash course in dehydrating…
It’s so valuable to learn from someone with experience.
 
Dave de Basque
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N. Neta wrote:

Dave de Basque wrote:I've had 3-year-old fruit leather and "raw food" ginger snap cookies that got "lost" and looked tasted great, just like the day they were finished dehydrating.


“Raw food” ginger snap cookies… could we get the recipe, Dave?



Sure you can! They're delicious! Oops, and they're graham crackers, not ginger snaps. Adapted from Practically Raw by Amber Shea Crawley, a great book!

1 c / 128g almond flour (just finely ground-up almonds)
0.5 c / 52g coconut flour
0.25 c / 41g coconut sugar
2 Tbsp / 17g ground flax seeds (or maybe try 25g)
1 Tbsp agave nectar (or use honey, but then it's no longer vegan, or maybe a 2-3 juicy dates)
1 tsp vanilla extract, or I use between 0.25-0.5 tsp ground up vanilla beans
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a bit of powdered ginger, a grating of nutmeg and/or a pinch of ground cloves if you're so inclined
a pinch or two of salt
1 c water

Combine the dry ingredients on the one hand and the wet ingredients on the other. If using dates to sweeten, put them with the wet ingredients and either whiz it all up in a blender or food processor, or chop them up really really well and let them soak for a good while in the water. Add the water mixture a bit at a time to the dry ingredients and mix each addition well. Add additional water maybe 1 Tbsp at a time if it's needed so the mix combines. Spread about 3-6 mm thick (1/8-1/4") onto non-stick sheets, err towards the thinner side, or put it between two sheets and flatten it with a rolling pin. If you use your hands, wet them a bit. Dehydrate for about 2 hours on a sheet, then flip it over, remove the sheet, and score it into cracker sizes with a sharp knife. Dehydrate 4 hours to overnight, until dry, I say plenty dry, and then break along the score lines into crackers. Keep them in a tin or a glass jar. I have found them to be like-new delicious and crunchy years later when forgotten about. Happy cracking!
 
N. Neta
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Dave de Basque wrote:Sure you can! They're delicious! Oops, and they're graham crackers, not ginger snaps. Adapted from Practically Raw by Amber Shea Crawley, a great book!


Wonderful, Dave… Thank you so much.
Gonna definitely try them.
 
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