Showing posts sorted by relevance for query dehydrating. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query dehydrating. Sort by date Show all posts

Aug 21, 2017

How to Dehydrate Just About Any Food - Easily!

dehydrating food, food preservation
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Recently, I've received a few questions about dehydrating food: "How do you dehydrate such-and-such?" and "What dehydrating books do you recommend?" I was all set to send these reply with the easy way to dehydrate just about anything when I realized...I've never written such a post! How can that be?

I've been dehydrating since my children were toddlers and I experimented with using my oven's warming drawer to dehydrate apple slices. It's an invaluable way to preserve food, whether I'm squirreling away orchard fruit for the winter or I'm trying not to waste store bought food that will soon spoil. In fact, dehydrating is just about the easiest method of preservation, with very little hands-on time required and little monetary investment necessary.

And here's the deal: Dehydrating is so simple, there's really no need for a book on how to do it. Once you know the basic rules about dehydrating, there's not even any need to hop online to check how to dehydrate a specific food.

So let this post be your dehydrating "bible," if you will. Dehydrating with an electric dehydrator is really simple. And dehydrating other ways isn't hard, either.

What Foods Can Be Safely Dehydrated?

Fruits, vegetables, herbs, jerky, and seeds can all be safely dehydrated. Some people dehydrate meals (like soups) or non-jerky meats, but this is considered risky. In fact, when it comes to home dehydrating, it's easier to discuss what you shouldn't dry:

Fatty meats and dairy - All these tend to go rancid quickly because of their high fat content. A neat trick some people like to use is to dehydrate small drops of yogurt to use as snacks. This is fine - but those yogurt drops need refrigerating afterward. And yes, you can dehydrate lean meats without making them into jerky, but they aren't considered safe to store at room temperature.

Eggs - Considered by most experts unsafe to dehydrate due to salmonella (which is not killed during the dehydration process). I have dehydrated backyard fresh eggs before, but I can't recommend them from either a safety or a quality standpoint.

Nuts - You can dry these, but because they are fatty, their shelf life still isn't long. It's best to preserve nuts by freezing them.

Fish - You can dehydrate fish but it will only last 1-2 months.
Dehydrating plums.

How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last?

It depends upon the food, how dry you get it, and how well you store it, but generally speaking, home dehydrated foods last about a year.

What Kind of Dehydrator Should I Use?

Everyone raves about Excalibur dehydrators, but man are they expensive. And honestly, I don't think they are any better than my Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator, which is much more affordable (about $65). I purchased additional trays to make it more productive, and it's been going strong for years. (Actually, I love it so much, last year I bought an additional Nesco dehydrator!)

What every worthwhile home food dehydrator needs is:

* An adjustable thermostat, from 85 to 160 degrees F.
* Double wall construction.
* An enclosed heating element and a fan/blower. The heating element should not be at the base of the unit, because foods could drip onto it.
*  UL seal of approval.
* The ability to add trays.
Dehydrating yarrow.

You may also use a solar dehydrator, but these really only work in arid locations, or where you'll have low humidity and high temperatures for several days running. (If you want to try it without any upfront investment, try it the old school way: Lay a clean white sheet in a sunny area and lay the prepared food on top. Turn the food several times to speed the drying process.)

Other options include using a standard oven or using the warming drawer in an oven. Neither are ideal because very low temperatures cannot be achieved, which results in quality loss. Of the two, warming drawers are preferable.

For more on choosing a dehydrator, click here.

What Temperature to Use When Dehydrating

Herbs - 95 degrees F.
Seeds and Nuts - 105 degrees F.
Fruits - 135 degrees F.
Fruit leather - 140 degrees F.
Vegetables - 135 degrees F.
Jerky - 160 degrees F.

Dehydrating rose hips.
How to Dehydrate Just About Any Food

Herbs - For small-leaved herbs, place stems with leaves still on them onto dehydrator trays. For herbs with large leaves, remove the leaves from the stems and place in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Dry until crisp. Leaves dried on the stem are easily removed by running your fingers down the length of the stem, with a bowl beneath to catch the leaves as they fall.

Fruits - Most fruits should be sliced before dehydrating. The thinner the slice, the less time the food will take to dry. If desired, you may prevent discoloring by dipping the fruit in lemon water as you cut it up. (Use about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of water.) Place juicy fruits, like plums, peaches, and apricots, skin side down on the dehydrator trays. (This will keep them from sticking to the trays - which can make them very difficult to remove.)

Dehydrate until you can tear a piece of fruit and no fluid seeps out. Fruit should still be pliable after being dehydrated. To prevent over-drying, test a thinner or smaller piece of fruit before you think it's dry. Allow it to cool and test for doneness.

A few fruits require an extra step; for example, berries with tough skins (like blueberries and cranberries), as well as grapes, need their skins broken before being dehydrated. An easy way to accomplish this is to freeze them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Once hard, transfer the fruit to the trays of a food dehydrator. Another method is to plunge the berries into boiling water for about 15-30 seconds, until their skins crack, then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process. You may also prick berry skins with a needle or similar implement.

Fruits with a rind, like watermelon or cantaloupe, should have their rinds removed before dehydrating.

Fruit Leathers - Fruit leathers are homemade fruit rolls. Puree fruit and, to prevent discoloration, stir in 1 teaspoons of lemon juice for each cup of puree. Pour into a fruit leather dehydrator tray and dehydrate. Leather is done when you can touch the center and see no indentation is left behind. Remove the leather while still warm, roll into a scroll, allow to cool, and wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze, if not using immediately.
Dehydrating zucchini.

Vegetables - Cut, if desired, and dehydrate until you can tear a piece and no liquid seeps out. Veggies should be brittle when dehydrated.

Most vegetables require blanching (drop into boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes, then dunk into ice water to stop the cooking process) to help preserve color, flavor, and nutrients. Many times, I leave off the blanching and just pop the veggie into the dehydrator; it's a matter of personal preference. The following veggies should never be blanched before drying: cucumber, eggplant, garlic, horseradish, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and winter and summer squash (including zucchini).

Jerky - Cut all fat off the meat and season as desired. Lay in a single layer on the dehydrator tray and dry until the meat cracks when you bend it. Homemade jerky should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

For information on using a jerky gun, click here. For info on making smoked jerky, click here.

IMPORTANT: Food should not touch on the dehydrator trays, or the pieces may stick together. Always check the food every few hours during the dehydration process. This ensures you don't over-dry anything. (Yes, you can over dry dehydrated food, making it tasteless and too tough.) Remove finished pieces as they are done, consolidating pieces that still need drying time. In addition, be sure to rotate dehydrator trays periodically.

How to Condition Dehydrated Food

Experts suggest "conditioning" your home dehydrated food before storing it long term. I honestly never do this and have never had a problem - but it does allow you to spot food that still has moisture in it.

Dehydrating pineapple.
To condition dehydrated food:

1. Allow the food to cool completely.

2. Place the dried food in a plastic or glass container with a loose-fitting cover.

3. Shake or stir the food every day for one or two weeks, looking for any signs of moisture.

4. If you find moisture, put the food back in the dehydrator, dry and allow to cool.

5. Once you're sure the food is dry, store in a glass jar with an air tight lid, a Ziplock bag with the air pushed out of it, or in a vacuum sealed bag. Store the container in a cool, dark environment. Be sure to label the food, including the date of preservation.
Dehydrating strawberries.

May 23, 2017

Does Dehydrated Food Lose Its Nutritional Value?

dehydrated fruit, dehydrated vegetables, dried fruit
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Years ago, when my children were toddlers and I first dipped my toe into the world of home dehydrating, I remember a friend saying, "But why? Food loses all it's nutritional value once you dehydrate it!" In years since, I've heard similar thoughts from friends and readers - but the question is, are they right?

First, let me be clear that today I'm only addressing home dehydrated food. Store bought dehydrated food usually has sugar and preservatives added - which is definitely not something I want for my family. Home dehydrated food, however, has no preservatives and no added sugar (unless you chose to add it). In addition, I'm discussing food that's dried either by the sun or by a conventional electric food dehydrator, not food that's preserved in a home freeze drier, which is something else entirely.

Does Dehydrating Remove Fiber Content? What About Sugar?

A common belief is that dehydrated fruit and vegetables do not contain fiber. This is untrue. The fiber does not dry up and float away - in fact, compared to fresh fruit, there's more fiber in proportion to weight. This is why dried fruit is often used as a remedy for constipation; there's simply more fiber per bite than fresh food can offer.

I also think it's important to note that the carbohydrates or sugar in food do not diminish when that food is dehydrated. Just like fiber, sugar stays put - which means dehydrated food has a higher sugar content than the same food in fresh form.

Plums prepared for dehydrating.
Does Dehydrating Remove Minerals?

Some sources claim dehydrated food loses no minerals, while others claim food "generally retains its mineral content well during the drying process." However, if you blanch food before dehydrating - a practice sometimes used to help retain the food's color and vitamin content - it will lose more minerals than if you don't. Still, the mineral loss is scant.

Does Dehydrating Remove Vitamins?

The quick answer is: To a certain extent. The amount, and which vitamins, depends upon the methods used to dry the food.

According to Harvest Right, the makers of a home freeze drying (not dehydrating) machine, canned food retains 40% of its nutritional value, while dehydrated food retains 60% of its nutrients. (Home freeze dried food, they claim, retains 97% of its nutrients.)

This jibes with what I've read elsewhere; a nutritionist in The New York Times states that a cup of fresh, halved apricots "is 86 percent water, with 74 calories, and a cup of dried fruit is 76 percent water, with 212 calories. Fresh apricots have 3.1 grams of fiber versus 6.5 for dried; 0.6 milligrams of iron versus 2.35 milligrams; 15.5 milligrams of vitamin C versus 0.8 milligrams; and 149 retinol activity equivalents of vitamin A versus 160."

According to the University of Missouri Extension Office website, Vitamins A and C are most likely to see a reduction through dehydrating because they "are destroyed by heat and air." In fact, if you cut a piece of fruit, it will begin losing those nutrients right away, just from air exposure. In addition, heat - including heat used in cooking or dehydrating - reduces the amount of vitamin C in any given food.

What About Enzymes?
Dehydrated tomato paste (made from tomato skins).

Whenever you heat food, some enzymes are lost. However, the low temperatures used in home dehydration are less likely to kill enzymes than cooking that same food.

How to Prevent Vitamin Loss in Home Dehydrated Food

The single best way to preserve as much of the nutrients in home dehydrated food is simply to dry it at the right temperature. This is one area where an electric food dehydrator trumps using the oven or a solar dehydrator to dry food: Controlling temperature and keeping it low equals more nutrients in the finished food. This easy guideline ensures that almost all the food's original nutrients remain in place. So it pays to follow the standard heat recommendations for home dehydrating:

Herbs - 95 degrees F.
Nuts and seeds - 105 degrees F.
Fruit and vegetables - 135 degrees F.
Pasta - 135 degrees F.
Meat - 160 degrees F.

Dehydrating jerky.
Other things that can help retain nutrients in home dried food include:

* Pre-treating by dipping vegetables and fruit in lemon juice or citric acid. This not only helps prevent browning, but it helps preserve vitamin A and C in the food. Unfortunately, this treatment can also reduce thiamine in dried food.

* Blanching vegetables before dehydrating helps preserve their carotene...but it also lowers a food's vitamin C content and may cause a small amount of mineral loss. Steam blanching is less likely to reduce nutrients in food than blanching in boiling water.

* Not letting the food sit in direct sunlight. This is why dehydrated food should be stored in a dark location - and also why solar dehydrators should have a shading cover (like this one).

* Slicing food evenly, to ensure you don't over-heat and over-dry smaller pieces. Using a mandoline to slice makes this much easier. (This is mandoline I use.)

* Rotating dehydrator trays to prevent over-heating and over-drying of some portions.

* Planning ahead. If a food is likely to only take a couple of hours to dry, for example, don't put it in the dehydrator at bedtime, or by morning it will be over-dried.

Related Posts:

* Making Dried Apples in an Oven
* Drying Tomato Skins to Make Easy Tomato Paste
* Why I Love My Dehydrator
* How to Make Jerky in a Dehydrator

Jun 4, 2012

Dehydrating Citrus Peels (Even Without a Dehydrator)

Dehydrating citrus peels - even without a food dehydrator
If you're like me and hate wasting food, then you also enjoy finding new ways to use up the "throw away" parts of it. That's why I've been dehydrating citrus peels to use in place of fresh citrus zest in baking.

Now, I wouldn't do this if I wasn't absolutely certain the citrus was organic. There's no point in saving the peels of lemons, oranges, and other citrus if they are laden with chemicals. And dehydrating citrus peels does take a little prep time. But I think the results are worth it. Citrus zest adds a great deal of flavor to baked goods, syrups, and French toast - and by dehydrating left over peels you'll save time and money later.

Start by saving citrus peels. I spent a week using up a plastic grocery bag of lemons a friend gave me; mostly, I juiced them. As I juiced them, I placed the peels (including the left over "meaty" parts of the lemons) in a Ziplock bag and put them in the fridge. But don't feel you have to save up bagfuls of the peels. If you only have the peels from one or two citrus fruits, it's still worth dehydrating them. In my electric dryer, the drying process took just 2 hours. 

Also, while this method works for all types of citrus, I've found it next to impossible to remove the bitter white pith from thin-skinned citrus like mandarin oranges.

Now, here's how to do it - with or without a dehydrator:

1. Cut the lemons into quarters - or slightly smaller pieces, if that makes them easier to handle.

2. Remove as much of the bitter pith (the white part found between the peel and the "meat") as possible. I found the easiest way to do this was to lay a piece flat on a cutting board, peel side down. Then I shaved away thin layers of the pith using a serrated steak knife.
Remove as much of the bitter white pitch as possible.
 When you're done, the peel should look something like this:
 3. Cut any large peels into smaller pieces; you want them to be about the same size so they dry evenly and as quickly as possible.

4. Lay the pieces in a dehydrator tray and dry at 135 degrees F. until completely dry. If you don't have a food dehydrator, lay the peels on a wire cooling rack placed inside a baking sheet. Place in the warming drawer of an oven, or in the oven at it's lowest possible temperature, until the peels are completely dry, curling, and chip-like. (To test for dryness, pinch a piece between your fingernails. You shouldn't feel any moisture.)
Dried citrus peel are chip like.
 5. Use a coffee grinder to turn the peels into a powder. Store the powder in a canning jar with a metal lid and ring. (Plastic is okay, too, but because it expands and contracts, the powder will be exposed to more air and won't last as long.) Store in a cool, dark location. The powder will stay good for at least a year.

Use the powdered zest just like you would fresh zest. There is no need to adjust amounts. The flavor is slightly different - less acidic and more mellow and robust. Enjoy!

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Jul 4, 2012

Why & How to Choose a Food Dehydrator

My Nesco American Harvest dehydrator, with the jerky maker option.
In recent months, I've dehydrated some of my overflow of backyard chicken eggs, organic citrus peel (to use in place of fresh zest in baking), onions, various tea and medicinal herbs - and of course, the standbys in our house: apple rings, banana chips, and cooking herbs. Why do I bother?

Homemade dried foods are not only cheaper than buying store bought dehydrated food, but they are often healthier, too, since many store bought dehydrated foods have added chemicals and sugar. A dehydrator also allows you to make your own tea (from rose leaves or dandelion flowers, for example, or from many other common leaves and flowers), your own herbal medicine, and preserve any abundance of food you might have. For example, even though I both freeze and can foods, sometimes I don't want to fill up the freezer, or I've run out of canning jars or pantry space. So I dehydrate instead. You can even make your own backpacking and camping food, rather than buying store bought jerky or dehydrated meal packs.

I'm Not Sure I'll Really Use a Dehydrator...

Apple rings drying in an oven's warming drawer.
If you're not sure your family will eat dehydrated food, you can try dehydrating a few things in the warming drawer of an oven - or in the oven itself. Often, the product won't be of as high a quality because an oven's temperature is usually higher than a dehydrator's, causing a higher loss of nutrients. Still, it's a cheap test. For best results, use proper dehydrating temperatures:

Herbs = 95 degrees F.
Nuts & Seeds = 105 degrees F.
Fruits & Vegetables = 135 degrees F.
Meats & Fish = 160 degrees F.

Most ovens don't go below 170 degrees F., so you'll have to use a higher temperature for herbs, seeds, and nuts.

To make the foods a bit easier to handle in your experiment, place a wire cooling rack on a baking sheet and place the food on top of the rack. If the food is small (say, flowers or certain herbs), lay a sheet of parchment paper over the wire rack first.

What to Look for in a Dehydrator

An Excalibur dehydrator.
Ready to purchase a food dehydrator? Don't let anyone tell you you'll need to spend hundreds of dollars. I love my Nesco American Harvest, which I sells for about $65. I bought extra trays (I now have a total of eight - about the maximum I recommend; I've never needed more, either) and the fruit roll sheets (which I use for drying herbs and eggs). I use it a ton and it works great. But really any dehydrator will do, as long as it has these essential features:

* It must have a fan. The placement isn't as vital as some like to suggest, but if the fan is on the top or bottom, you might need to rotate the trays during the dehydrating process if you're using a lot of trays. And those famous, expensive dehydrators with fans in the back? According to the manufacturer, you're supposed to rotate those trays, too.

* It must have a way to control the temperature, making it go as low as 95 degrees F. and as high as 160 degrees F.

* It should have good reviews. These days, any decent dehydrator should be available on Amazon or similar sites. It pays to actually read the reviews - not just look at the star ratings; sometimes something that really bothers one person is no big deal to another.

* It should have the ability to expand. One area where the less expensive dehydrators excel is in the ability to expand how many trays you use - something most expensive dehydrators just don't allow. That said, it's foolish to add too many trays, since this will result in uneven drying. (As noted earlier, I think about 8 trays is all I'd use in a consumer model dehydrator.)

You may also want to learn how noisy the dehydrator is. There are times I have mine running non-stop; if it was noisy (which it isn't), this would drive everyone in the house batty.

Clearly, efficiency is another important factor. You'll want to use the least amount of electricity possible, so your home dehydrated food remains frugal. Unfortunately, this is a tough thing to know before you buy. There is a certain expensive food dehydrator (okay, let's jut call it by name: Excalibur) that many people believe is more efficient than cheaper models. The question is: Is it really more efficient? And if it is, by how much? I can't really answer these questions for you, never having had the dough to spend on an expensive dehydrator, but I would point you to a post over at  Kitchen Stewardship, in which the author uses an expensive Excalibur side by side with an affordable Nesco.

UPDATE 7/9/12: My mother in law has an Excalibur dehydrator and the magnets on the door stopped working; thinking an expensive appliance like this one would be backed up with parts for repair, she called the Excalibur company. When they heard her model number, the representative not-so-nicely balked, "That's 30 years old! We don't carry parts for anything so old." Apparently, higher cost does not mean repairable - or that customer service will be good.

Happy dehydrating!

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May 21, 2012

Eating Onion Flower Buds & Overgrown Scallions - & a Lentil Soup Recipe

These "overgrown scallions" have a distinctly different flavor.
Every spring, I discover the distinctive green shoots of onions coming up in the onion patch. They aren't supposed to be there. Perhaps some onions got choked out never grew shoots the previous year. Or perhaps I accidentally left a portion of the onion in the soil when I harvested them in the early fall. No matter. I've discovered if I leave those "hold over" onions in the ground, they become what I call "overgrown scallions:" Bigger than a scallion, but definitely not a full grown onion, these tasty veggies remind me of ordinary scallions or leeks. And their flavor has become my "secret ingredient" in many dishes, including lentil soup, which I share below.

Most people probably either pull out such "hold over" onions or leave them to grow full size. But in my experience, they never grow very big and are constantly growing flower buds. Onion flower bulbs should be cut off to redirect the plant's growth toward the onion bulb; you can remove the bulb and eat it (they taste onion-y), but if you remove the whole, young plant, I think you'll be pleased with your "overgrown scallions."

When I can, I pick these overgrown scallions just before cooking with them. But this year, I had quite a few, and I wanted to use them up before they got too big. So yesterday, I froze half and dehydrated the other half.

Onion flower buds are edible - and delicious!
Freezing & Dehydrating Onions

Freezing "overgrown scallions," regular scallions (also called green onions; both are merely young, underdeveloped onions), leeks, or onions is easy as can be. Just chop or mince them, toss them into freezer bags, and freeze them. When you want to cook with them, they break apart easily in your hands and don't need defrosting. (If you have trouble breaking them up, just bang the closed bag against a counter.)

Dehydrating onions is just as easy. Chop or mince; place a fruit roll sheet over the regular dehydrator tray (to keep the small pieces from falling through the holes in the tray), and dehydrate at 135 degrees F. until completely dry. I will warn you, however: Your house will smell onion-y during the dehydrating process! Store the dried onions in a glass container with a well-fitting lid in a cool, dry, dark location. In most instances, there's no need to rehydrate them, although you can soak them in water before using them in your cooking, if desired.

As for the onion flower buds - treat them just like you would scallions. Use them fresh and uncooked in salads, or saute, stir fry, or roast them. Or, freeze or dehydrate whole or chopped.

"Secret Ingredient" Lentil Soup

What You Need:
2 teaspoons olive oil or coconut oil
2 - 3 overgrown scallions, chopped (OR Walla Walla onions, leeks, 5 green onions, or 1 onion)
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
coarse salt
freshly ground pepper
29 oz. beef stock (or 14.5 oz. beef stock and 14.5 oz. chicken or vegetable stock)
1/2 cup cooked lentils
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Medium skillet
Large spoon
Chopping knife

How to Do It:
1. In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium high. Add the overgrown scallions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring once in a while, for 3 minutes.

2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes.

3. Add lentils and cook until the soup is slightly thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add vinegar and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 2 main dish servings.

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May 1, 2012

How to Freeze or Dehydrate Eggs

Although backyard-fresh eggs last for months in the refrigerator (and store bought eggs at least one month in the fridge), there are a few reasons you might want to preserve eggs for later use. If you have backyard chickens, you may find you're getting more eggs than your family (and neighbors!) can eat. I do recommend keeping them for when the chickens are molting and not producing many eggs, but eventually you may run out of refrigerator space. If you buy store bought eggs, learning to preserve eggs also allows you to take advantage of great sales. And with preserved eggs in the pantry or freezer, you'll always have a back up when you run out of fresh.

Freezing Eggs

Frozen eggs are very good for cooking and baking. Once thawed, you can use them in any recipe, exactly how you'd use fresh eggs.

1. Break open one egg at a time and pour the contents into a bowl. Whip to mix, using an immersion blender, traditional blender, a whisk, or a fork.
Blend together the egg yolks and whites.
2. It's generally recommended that for every cup of whole eggs you should stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar or 1/2 teaspoon of salt, to prevent graininess after defrosting.

3. Pour the whipped eggs into the cups of an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer-proof, airtight container and place in the freezer.
Pour the mixed eggs into the "cups" of an ice cube tray.

In most cases, a frozen cube equals about 1 egg.
Ice cube trays vary, so if you think you'll need to know exactly how much frozen egg equals a fresh egg (say, if you plan to bake with them), begin by whipping up a single egg and pouring it into the ice cube tray. In my experience, larger ice cube trays hold 1 egg per hole, but I have several ice cube trays that only hold half an egg.

Be sure to thaw completely in the refrigerator before using.

Dehydrating Eggs

Dehydrated eggs are good for many kinds of cooking - even scrambling - although they have a stronger egg flavor than fresh eggs. Do note that while some people say they use home dehydrated eggs for baking, I've had little success with this; for some reason, I can't get baked goods to rise properly with home dehydrated eggs.

On the plus side, dehydrated eggs take up very little room in the pantry...and they are good terrific for camping or backpacking - just add water. Homemade dehydrated eggs are much more economical than store bought dehydrated eggs - but some experts say home dehydration may not kill salmonella or other bad bugs - so use your best judgement. (Store bought eggs are more likely to have salmonella problems, so I would never home dehydrate them.)

The actual job of dehydrating eggs is very easy- but it does take a bit of time for them to dehydrate, so plan on doing a few trays at once. These directions dehydrate just six eggs - enough for one tray on a Nesco dehydrator.
Use 6 eggs for every fruit roll sheet on a standard dehydrator.
1. Place a fruit roll sheet onto a dehydrator tray. (It must be a fruit roll sheet and not just a piece of parchment paper; you'll need the lip on the end of the sheet to keep the eggs from dripping off the tray.

2. Put six eggs in a bowl and whip them to blend. I use my immersion blender, but you could do this by hand or with a traditional blender.
Blend the egg yolks and whites.
  3. Pour the whipped eggs slowly onto the fruit roll sheet. Dehydrate at 145 degrees F. for about 16 hours, or until the eggs are thoroughly dry and extremely brittle.

Pour the mixed egg yolks and whites onto a fruit roll sheet.
What the eggs look like after being fully dehydrated.
4. Put the brittle eggs into a food processor, blender, or coffee grinder and turn into a powder. Store in an air tight glass container in a cool, dry, dark location.
Powdered, dehydrated eggs.
 One heaping tablespoon is the equivalent of one fresh egg. To reconstitute, mix one tablespoon dehydrated egg with two tablespoons water. Stir; let sit for 5 minutes before using.

NOTE: Some sources say to cook the eggs in a Teflon frying pan (without any added fat) before dehydrating. This results in a much less flavorful product - and one in which many of the nutrients are already cooked out.

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Sep 22, 2015

How to Preserve Apples: Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, and Root Cellaring

Apple trees are a huge blessing. A single tree can provide a whopping 420 lbs. of filling, healthy food! As I walk around my suburban town, I always feel gratitude toward earlier residents who planted an abundance of apple trees. Some are still in private yards, but many are in public areas where we can forage. Plus, we have our two little columnar apples (which produced about 9 lbs. this year). But whether you have large or small apple trees in your yard, or you forage for apples in public areas, or you buy apples from a local farmer, fall is the time when you're faced with the question: What should I do with all these apples?

Fortunately, there's a lot you can do with apples. They can be stored in a root cellar - or stored well into winter without a root cellar. You can dehydrate them, or freeze them, or can them. So many possibilities!

Apples ready to be pressed into cider. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Root Cellaring

A root cellar is a cool, underground location designed for storing fruits and vegetables so they last many months without electricity or any special treatment, like canning. If you are fortunate enough to have a root cellar, take advantage of it!

Not all apples store well for many months, so if you're planting new trees and know you want to root cellar them, choose an appropriate variety. Generally speaking, thick-skinned apples store better, as do those that ripen late in the growing season (October - November), including Jonathans, Ida Red, Red Delicious, Winsape, Stayman, Crispin, Spur Winters Bananas, Northern Spy, and Rome. If you're unsure what variety you have already growing in your yard (or wherever you forage), a little trial and error is probably your best bet to determining whether or not your apples will store well through winter.

To store apples for months in a root cellar, first make sure your root cellar has the right conditions. The ideal temperature for apples is 30 - 40 degrees F. with an ideal humidity of 90%. Check several locations within your root cellar, because some may have the right temperature while other locations do not. Apples will rot quickly if they freeze, and will ripen very quickly past 40 degrees F., so do stick as close to those ideal temps as possible.

Next, sort through the apples and store only those without bruising or other blemishes. (Blemishes hasten the ripening - and rotting - of apples. Eat apples with blemishes right away, or use another method of preservation.) In addition, larger apples don't store as long as smaller ones, so it makes sense to separate the large, medium, and small apples, choosing the largest to eat first.  Also note that different varieties of apples ripen more or less quickly, so be sure to separate out varieties and store them separately, first eating those that ripen quickly.

Now, wrap each apple in black and white newspaper. A lot of people don't do this; instead, they just put the apples in a box or basket and store. However, if one apple in that box rots, the rest will rapidly follow. By wrapping each apple in newspaper, you protect it from rotting quickly - even if a nearby apple is going bad. A good method for wrapping each is apple is to lay it in the center of a single sheet of newspaper, pull up the edges, and twist the ends to "close" them off. Store wrapped apples in a cardboard box or basket..
Jonathan apples are a good storage apple. Courtesy of Sven Teschke and Wikimedia Commons.

More tips:

* Store apples as soon as possible after harvesting.

* Don't store apples near potatoes or onions, because the apples will take on the flavor of both. In addition, aging potatoes release an otherwise harmless gas that encourages apples to ripen more quickly, leading to quicker spoilage.

* Tart apples that are stored over winter sweeten over time.

* Root cellar apples should store well into February - or perhaps even later.


Storing Without a Root Cellar

If you don't have a root cellar, you may still be able to store fresh apples for many months. For example, you could dedicate a refrigerator toward their keeping. (According to the Purdue Cooperative Extension, 1/4 of the volume of the fridge should be left as air space for circulation.")

Although you can wrap the apples individually, just as you would for root cellar storage, you can also put them in perforated plastic bags.
Northern Spy apples. Courtesy Red58bill and Wikimedia Commons.

If you don't have an extra fridge, another method for storing apples is to put them in any cool location that won't freeze and remains dark - like a garage, basement, or in the closet of an unheated room. For best results, wrap them individually in black and white newspaper and place them in a box or basket. Also, try to ensure the location is as close as possible to 30 - 40 degrees F.

You can expect apples stored appropriately in a fridge or other cool, dark location may last into February.

P.S. If you really want to go old school, dig a pit and line it with straw, fill it with apples, then cover with a thick layer of straw.

Apples dried in the warming drawer of an oven.

Dehydrated apple slices or rings are easy to make, and last at least a year. They make an excellent snack, especially when you're on the go.

If you have a food dehydrator, simply wash and slice the apples. I like to keep the peel on because they add nutrition - but you can remove and compost them, if you wish. For me, the easiest method of preparing apples for dehydrating is to use an apple slicer; if you have large amounts of apples, this is definitely the way to go. Otherwise, you can do the slicing and coring by hand.

If you don't want your apple slices to look brown, sprinkle diluted lemon juice over them. (1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 cup of water). Honestly, though, I usually skip this step because, as far as I can tell, it's purely about aesthetics. (I've heard some people say lemon juice also helps preserve the apple's nutrients, but I can't find any scientific evidence to back this up.)

Now, lay the slices in a single layer on the trays of the dehydrator and set the temperature to 135 degrees F. The slices are done when you can tear a slice apart and not squeeze juice from it. Let the slices cool completely, then place in glass jar with an air tight lid and store in a cool, dark location.

If you don't have a food dehydrator, you can create dehydrated apples using your oven's warmer drawer - or you can dry them in the sun.

Freezing apple pie filling.

There are many ways to freeze apples. Two of the most popular are to freeze applesauce or apple pie filling. But you can also freeze apple slices and use them for baking - or making applesauce at a later date.

Begin by washing the apples, and peeling them, if desired. To prevent browning, sprinkle them with diluted lemon juice (1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 cup of water). Place the apple slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; don’t let the pieces touch. Place in the freezer. After 3 hours, transfer to freezer safe containers.  

For a sweeter recipe for freezing apples, click here.


There are also many ways to can apples. Applesauce, apple pie filling, and apple butter are popular choices. You can also can slices or rings in simple sugar. To do so, wash, peel (if desired), and core apples. Sprinkle with diluted lemon juice (1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 1 cup of water) to prevent browning. Pour into a pan and add 6 1/2 cups water and ¾ cups granulated sugar. Bring to a boil and stay there for 5 minutes; stir from time to time, to prevent scorching. Pour into hot canning jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Process pints or quarts for 20 minutes in a water bath canner.

An apple press. Courtesy Anne Dirkse and Wikimedia Commons.

Another way to can apples is to turn them into juice or cider. Yes, the traditional way to do this is with an apple press - and if you have a large amount of apples to process, it's a good idea to save up and invest in one. But you may also make apple juice or cider other ways.

To make apple juice using a kitchen juicer, choose apples of at least two or three varieties, experts suggest mixing tart and sweet types. Wash the apples and cut into pieces of the correct size for the juicer (usually halves or quarters). Run through the juicer and refrigerate juice for 24 - 48 hours. Pour off the clear liquid and toss the sediment (if any) into the compost. Strain juice through double layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Pour into a large pot placed over medium high heat, stirring once in a while. When the juice begins to boil, turn off the heat and ladle into sterilized canning jars (pints, quarts, or gallons). Leave 1/4 inch headspace. Using a water bath canner, process pints or quarts for 5 minutes, gallons for 10 minutes.

To make apple cider,  follow the same procedure - though many experts suggest using only sweet apples. Also, don't strain the liquid or refrigerate it before heating and canning.

Don't have a juicer? You can still make cider or juice! Just chop up clean apples, and put about 4 inches of water on the bottom of a large pot. Add the apples, cover, and turn the heat to medium high. Once the water boils, turn down the heat to medium and allow the apples to turn completely soft. Be careful not to scorch them! Pour the contents of the pot through a colander (catching the liquid in a bowl) and heat and can. If you're making juice, strain the liquid first, then refrigerate for 24 - 48 hours, and strain again before heating and canning.

WARNING: Any cider or juice must be heated to a boil before ladling into jars and canning.

More Posts about Apples

What to do with Crab Apples

Picking Unripe Apples for Making Apple Pectin

Apple Skillet Cake Recipe

Apple Spice Bread Recipe 

Apple Butter Oatmeal Crumb Bars Recipe

Canning Apple Pie Jam

Freezing Apple Pie Filling

The Best Tasting, Easiest Applesauce Ever

Making Dried Apple Rings in the Warmer Drawer

Title image courtesy of Spirtu and Wikimedia Commons.

Mar 6, 2018

How to Dehydrate Zoodles & Other Vegetable Noodles

How to dehydrate vegetable noodles
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In case you haven't noticed, zoodles (a.k.a. zucchini "noodles") and other vegetable "noodles" are all the rage right now. Vegetable noodle makers (called spiralizers) are huge sellers on Amazon and big box stores, and you can even buy pre-cut vegetable noodles in the frozen food section of grocery stores. There's no doubt veggie noodles are easy to make and a healthier option than traditional noodles. But did you know you can preserve them for your pantry? Oh yeah.

First: How to Make Zoodles and Other Vegetable Noodles

Years ago, before I'd even heard of a zoodle, I exchanged traditional lasagna noodles for thinly sliced zucchini. All you need to make these is a sharp knife and a steady hand. (Slice 'em thin!) But for spaghetti-like "noodles," which is what most people mean when they talk about zoodles or veggie noodles, it's really best to use a vegetable spiralizer. There are about a gazillion of them on the market, but here's the one I have, and it works very well.
Making zoodles with a vegetable spiralizer.
Basically, you just stick washed veggies in the spiralizer and crank the machine. Out come spaghetti-like "noodles," leaving just the core of the veggie as waste. (But as homesteaders, we know this won't go to waste! It will go in the compost bin, or we'll give it to the chickens or pigs or dogs.) And ta-da! You have zoodles.

One word of caution, though. Zucchini is, unfortunately, one vegetable that can be GMO. If you wish to avoid that, you have a few options. You can either buy organic zucchini from the grocery store (legally, organic veggies can't be GMO), or you can buy from a trusted local farmer, or you can grow zucchini yourself. I recommend the later, because zucchini is super-easy to grow, and there are varieties that are appropriate even for the smallest garden spots.

In addition to hand cutting or using a vegetable spiralizer, you could use a julienne peeler to create your zoodles. However, peelers often make zoodles that are quite thin - and thin zoodles dehydrate into almost nothing, which means you may end up with mush when you rehydrate them.
Zoodles store well in a food storage container in the fridge.

Once you've made your zoodles, the next step is to either eat them fresh (read tips for cooking zoodles here) or store them. They store surprisingly well in a covered food container in the fridge. I've had them last more than a week this way. But for longer term storage, dehydration is your friend.

Dehydrating Zoodles & Other Vegetable Noodles

The trick to dehydrating zoodles effectively is to put them on your food dehydrator's trays in little "nests." This makes them easy to get on the trays, and easy to store, too. (If you've simply sliced zucchini into lasagna-noodle style strips, just lay them flat on your dehydrator's trays, making sure they don't touch.)
Zoodles dry best when formed into "nests."
I use a wide mouth canning jar ring to make nests.
To help determine how big the nests should be, I use a wide mouth canning jar ring as a sort of template. This ensures the finished product stores easily in a jar - and keeps me from making the nests so big they take forever to dry. I place the ring on the dehydrator tray, add some zoodles, then remove the ring. If you make the nests too tall, they may impede putting additional trays on your dehydrator. Also, be sure the nests don't touch, or they'll end up sticking together.

Set the dehydrator at 135 degrees F. and dry until the zoodles are entirely crisp. To test for doneness, break a zoodle. No moisture should come from the break.
Don't let the "nests" touch, or they will stick together.
To store the dehydrated zoodles, place them in a wide mouth canning jar and secure the lid. Store in a dry, dark location. Dried zoodles last at least a year in storage. If you live in a moist or humid area, I suggest adding a desiccant pack to each jar, to help prevent the zoodles from rehydrating while in storage. (Zucchini is particularly prone to this problem.)
Zoodles shrink considerably when dehydrated.
The zoodles are done when they are crisp.
Store dehydrated zoodles in an airtight jar.
To use the zoodles, you may toss them, dry, into soups, stews, or heated pasta sauce. There's no need to rehydrate with water, under these circumstances. If you want to add zoodles to, say, a stir-fry, you'll need to first soak them in a little water. Another option is to boil dried zoodles for about 3 minutes; some people feel this makes them more like traditional pasta. Or simply cover dried zoodles with boiling water, place a lid over the bowl, and let the zoodles sit for about 15 minutes, or until tender. In the three later cases, be sure to squeeze the rehydrated zoodles before adding them to the pan, or the end result may be quite watery.