As a prepper, it’s not enough to have long-lasting food items at home. To be really prepared, you need to know additional food preservation methods to make sure you won’t run out of supplies when SHTF, and that includes dehydrating food. Now, you might be wondering: Can you dehydrate food for long term storage?
You can dehydrate food for long term storage. The preservation method ensures compact, lightweight, nutritionally dense food supplies that can last for months or even years when stored properly.
In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of dehydrating food for long term storage, including what types of food to dehydrate, the best techniques for dehydration, how to store your dehydrated goods, and much more.
- Understanding Dehydrated Foods
- The How-to Guide for Dehydrating Food
- DIY Dehydration: Using an Oven or Dehydrator
- Storage: The Ins and Outs of Storing Your Dehydrated Food
- Weighing the Pros and Cons of Dehydrating Food for Long Term Storage
- Expert Tips for Dehydrating Food for Long Term Storage
Understanding Dehydrated Foods
Dehydration is as old as civilization itself. It’s a simple concept: remove moisture from food to inhibit the growth of microorganisms, leading to extended shelf life.
But, how effective is it for long term storage? And what types of food are best suited for this method? Let’s dive in.
The Science Behind Food Dehydration
When you dehydrate food, you’re basically sending bacteria and fungi packing. These critters need moisture to thrive, and depriving them of it puts a serious damper on their party.
But is dehydration enough to keep your food safe and tasty for the long haul?
In short, yes. Dehydration, when done properly, can extend the life of food by months. If done right, they can even last for 30 years or more. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that while dehydrated food lasts longer, it may undergo changes in taste and texture.
The Best Foods for Dehydration
Prepper or not, here are some of the best foods for dehydration.
Fruits: Dehydrated fruits are a popular choice due to their natural sweetness and long shelf life. Apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, and pineapples are excellent options.
Dehydrated fruits make for healthy and portable snacks, and they can be added to trail mixes, granola bars, or baked goods.
Vegetables: Dehydrated vegetables are versatile and can be used in various dishes. Bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, kale, and onions are commonly dehydrated.
They can be rehydrated for soups, stews, or stir-fries, or eaten as vegetable chips or snacks.
Herbs and Spices: Dehydrating herbs and spices intensifies their flavors, making them ideal for seasoning dishes.
Basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and chili peppers are commonly dehydrated. Once dried, they can be crushed or ground into powder for use in cooking or homemade spice blends.
Meats and Jerky: Dehydrating meats, such as beef, poultry, or fish, can produce tasty and protein-rich snacks.
Properly dehydrated meats have a long shelf life and are ideal for hiking, camping, or emergency food supplies. Making homemade jerky allows you to control the ingredients and flavorings.
Nuts and Seeds: Dehydrated nuts and seeds are convenient and nutritious snacks.
Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds can be dehydrated to remove excess moisture, enhancing their crunch and preserving their natural oils.
Grains and Pasta: Dehydrating grains and pasta can significantly extend their shelf life. Rice, quinoa, oats, and pasta can be dehydrated and stored for later use.
They can be easily rehydrated by cooking, making them suitable for camping or emergency situations.
Dairy Products: Certain dairy products can be dehydrated, such as cheese or yogurt.
Dehydrated cheese can be grated or powdered and used in various recipes, while yogurt can be dried and turned into yogurt powder, which can be used as a flavoring or in baking.
Now that we’ve established that, yes, you can dehydrate food for long term storage, it’s time to break down the how.
The How-to Guide for Dehydrating Food
Dehydrating food is much easier than you might think. It doesn’t even require much in terms of specialized equipment.
DIY Dehydration: Using an Oven or Dehydrator
While you can sun-dry your food, using an oven or a food dehydrator gives you more control over the temperature and humidity.
Simply slice your food thin, lay it out on a baking sheet or dehydrator tray, and let low, slow heat do its work.
Storage: The Ins and Outs of Storing Your Dehydrated Food
You’ve put in the effort to dehydrate your food; now it’s time to store it properly to ensure it remains fresh, tasty, and safe for consumption.
Here are some key considerations when storing your dehydrated food.
Choosing the Right Containers
Selecting the appropriate storage container is critical for maintaining the quality of your dehydrated food.
1. Vacuum-Sealed Bags
Vacuum-sealed bags are a great choice because they remove most of the air surrounding your food, reducing the risk of oxidation and spoilage.
2. Airtight Containers
Another solid option is airtight containers. These can be made from glass or plastic. The key is to ensure the lid seals properly to prevent air from entering.
3. Mylar Bags
A mylar bag, often used in conjunction with oxygen absorbers, offers an additional layer of protection against light and oxygen, both of which can degrade food over time.
Proper Storage Conditions
Even with the right containers, the conditions in which you store dehydrated foods play a crucial role in its longevity.
1. Cool Temperatures
Heat accelerates spoilage. Hence, it’s best to store dehydrated food in a cool environment. A pantry, basement, or cellar are often good choices.
Light, especially sunlight, can degrade food and cause loss of nutrients. Always store your dehydrated food in a dark place.
3. Dry Environment
Humidity can introduce unwanted moisture back into your dehydrated food, leading to mold and spoilage. Aim for a dry storage location.
Regularly Check Your Stored Dehydrated Food
Lastly, make it a habit to check on your stored food from time to time. Look out for signs of spoilage such as mold, off smells, or changes in color and texture.
If you spot anything suspicious, it’s best to discard the food to avoid foodborne illnesses.
Remember, proper storage is the key to ensuring that your dehydrated food remains safe, tasty, and nutritious in the long term.
So, while “out of sight, out of mind” may be a useful mantra for decluttering, it doesn’t quite apply when storing dehydrated food!
Now that we’ve got the how-to down pat, let’s talk about the benefits and potential pitfalls of dehydrating food for long-term storage.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Dehydrating Food for Long Term Storage
As with any food preservation method, dehydrating food for long-term storage has both advantages and drawbacks.
Understanding these will help you decide whether this method is right for your needs.
Pros of Dehydrating Food for Long Term Storage
Let’s start by exploring the positive aspects of dehydrating food for long term storage.
Dehydrating food, when done properly, retains a large portion of the food’s original nutrients. While some vitamins—specifically C and A—may degrade in the process, many others remain largely intact. This includes dietary fiber and minerals, which are unaffected by the process.
Dehydrated food takes up much less space compared to its fresh counterparts. This is a boon for those with limited storage space or those looking to stock up on essentials for emergency preparedness.
If you’re a fan of concentrated, intense flavors, dehydrated food is a real treat. The dehydration process removes water, leaving behind the essence of the food, which can make for a deliciously rich eating experience.
Long Shelf Life
When stored correctly, dehydrated food can last for months or even years, making it an excellent option for long-term storage.
Cons of Dehydrating Food for Long Term Storage
Now, let’s delve into some potential downsides of dehydrating food for long-term storage.
Texture and Color Changes
Dehydrating food can significantly alter its texture and color. For instance, dehydrated fruits may become chewier and take on a darker hue.
While this isn’t a deal-breaker for many, it’s something to consider if texture and aesthetics are important to you.
The process of dehydrating food can be a slow one, often taking several hours or even days. It’s not as simple as tossing food into the dehydrator and having it ready in an hour.
While it’s possible to dehydrate food using an oven or even natural sunlight, a dedicated food dehydrator will yield the best and most consistent results. However, these machines can be a significant upfront investment.
Possible Nutrient Loss
As mentioned earlier, certain vitamins like A and C can degrade during the dehydration process. However, this loss can be mitigated by blanching vegetables before dehydrating or storing the dehydrated food properly.
All things considered, while there are some cons to dehydrating food for long-term storage, the pros, in most cases, outweigh the cons. It’s a reliable, space-efficient, and flavor-packed method for preserving food that’s been used for centuries.
Expert Tips for Dehydrating Food for Long Term Storage
Dehydrating food for long-term storage is a craft that can take some time to master. Here, we provide some insider knowledge to set you on the path to success.
Tip 1: Select Quality Produce
Like with any culinary endeavor, the end product is only as good as the ingredients you start with. When dehydrating food, always opt for fresh, ripe, and high-quality produce. This will ensure optimal taste and nutrient retention in your dehydrated goods.
Remember, the dehydration process concentrates flavors, so it’s worth splurging on the best produce you can find.
Tip 2: Slice Evenly
Slicing your food evenly is a crucial step in the dehydration process.
It promotes uniform drying, which is key to preserving food quality. Uneven slices can result in some pieces drying faster than others, leading to inconsistent texture and potential waste.
Using a food slicer or mandoline can help achieve uniform thickness.
Tip 3: Blanch Certain Vegetables Before Dehydrating
Blanching—briefly boiling vegetables before plunging them into ice water—can enhance the color, flavor, and shelf life of certain veggies.
This step also helps in retaining vitamins A and C, which are often lost during dehydration.
Tip 4: Patience is Key
Dehydration is a slow process, often taking several hours to complete. Rushing the process by cranking up the temperature can result in uneven drying and compromise the taste and texture of your food. So, as the old saying goes, patience is a virtue.
Tip 5: Store Properly
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: proper storage is paramount to the longevity and safety of your dehydrated food.
Store your dried goods in vacuum-sealed bags, airtight containers, or mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, and keep them in a cool, dark place.
Tip 6: Regularly Check Stored Food
While dehydrated food can last a long time, it’s important to regularly check your stored goods for any signs of spoilage like mold or off smells. This helps ensure food safety and prevents potential waste.
Remember, food dehydration for long term storage is as much an art as it is a science. It may take a few tries to perfect your technique, but with these expert tips, you’ll be well on your way to success.
Food dehydration is an effective method for long-term storage, allowing you to preserve the nutritional value and flavors of various foods.
By removing moisture, dehydrated foods can be conveniently stored for extended periods, making them ideal for emergency preparedness, outdoor activities, or simply extending the shelf life of seasonal produce.