If you are like me, you are looking for a frugal way to preserve your food. What I’m talking about are those bananas sitting on your kitchen counter and they are starting to get those tiny brown spots. Well, I can’t make banana bread all the time, so I slice a few of those bananas and dehydrate them for snacks. Once dehydrated I place them in a wide mouth mason quart jar with a lid, either by using my FoodSaver to remove the air or just using those Ball jar lids like these: Ball 37000 Wide Mouth Plastic Storage Caps 8 Count. I prefer using the wide mouth mason quart jars because they are wide enough so my hand fits nicely in the jar to grab a healthy snack like dehydrated bananas.
I want to show you how easy it is to dehydrate food. Here again, this is for short term food storage only. I do not use oxygen absorbers or Mylar bags ever. If I want food storage with a longer shelf life I buy commercially processed #10 cans by the case or one #10 can at a time. I also buy food when my local stores have case lot sales for short term food storage. I have a printable for you at the bottom of this article with the temperatures you need to dehydrate foods per my Excalibur book. You will need to verify the temperatures for your own dehydrator. I would bet they are very similar, but check your book to be sure.The length of time to dehydrate any food items will depend on the humidity of the room where you are dehydrating. No worries about dehydrating fruit and vegetables, it’s really easy to do, I promise.
Preserve Your Food
When I talk about long term food storage I am talking about a shelf life of 25 years or so. I prefer freeze-dried food over dehydrated because it lasts longer. Therefore, I have little or no loss of food and the related expense when buying my long term food storage that I can rotate. Today this post is about dehydrating the surplus in our refrigerators or that bumper crop we harvest in our gardens.
I sometimes use my FoodSaver to remove the air out of my jars, but not if I have made vegetable or fruit powders from my dehydrated food. For instance, you can dehydrate those 12 tomatoes you have left after you pressure can that huge batch of tomatoes. I can only eat so many bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. I can hardly wait until my tomatoes are ripe. It’s funny because I can see six tiny green tomatoes outside in my garden right now. Oh man, does that get you excited too?
If you dehydrate say for instance tomatoes, you can pulverize them in a food processor or your blender. Then I can use this powder in scrambled eggs, quiche, soups or spaghetti sauce. Here’s the deal, though, do not use your FoodSaver with your powders. The powder will get sucked up in the tube and damage the tubes that seal your jars. I went to class once and they showed how to use a baggie on top of the powders when using your FoodSaver. I can’t afford to replace my FoodSaver so I will never use it when making my vegetable or fruit powders. I do however use it all the time when storing several jars of dehydrated fruits and vegetables.
Now, you can make snacks or powders with any of your fruits and vegetables. It does take a huge amount of dehydrated vegetables or fruits to pulverize into a powder to fill a quart jar, just so you know. Dehydrated pineapple is my favorite, just giving you the heads up. I like to buy fresh pineapple at Costco where it’s already sliced into spears. If I can see that I won’t be able to eat that pineapple sitting in the refrigerator before it goes bad, I dehydrate it. You can do this year-round with most fruits and vegetables to preserve them for later.
A few ways to dehydrate and preserve food:
Dehydrate in your oven: I have heard people do this, but my electricity costs are so expensive where I live this would cost me way too much money to dehydrate food.
Dehydrate on homemade screens outside: If you have some extra window screens just place your food outside covered with netting (I live where we have critters) and let the food dry naturally. I would bring the food in at night and take it back outside the following morning to continue to dry the food.
Dehydrate some food on trays in your car: I have seen some awesome pictures of people drying food on their dashboards of their cars to preserve their food.
I am only talking about fruits and vegetables today, meat jerky is a whole different story. You must have a good dehydrator to maintain the temperature correctly for meats.
I use an Excalibur dehydrator similar to this one: Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator, Black. It’s quiet and I set it right on my kitchen counter, unless I’m drying onions and then it goes outside. It has a timer and that’s great for me because I can turn it off by hand when I want to, or set the timer to turn off on its own if I leave the house or go to bed for the night.
I have friends that use a Nesco and love it like this one: Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator FD-75A
I love my FoodSaver that’s similar to this one: FoodSaver V3460 Automatic Vacuum Sealing System
Dehydrating FRUIT Tips from Food Storage Moms
FRUITS: (cut away any bruising or bad spots) I use an Excalibur dehydrator, so be sure and check the temperatures for your dehydrator.
Apples: wash, pare, core and slice. I use an apple peeler. Cut in 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch slices. Dip in lemon juice to keep from browning. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired, before dehydrating. Dry at 135 degrees until pliable.
Apricots: wash, cut in half, remove seeds and slice into desired thickness. Dry at 135 degrees until pliable.
Bananas: peel the bananas, cut into 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch slices. Dip in lemon juice to keep from browning. Dry at 135 degrees until leathery.
Blueberries: wash and remove the stems. I did not dip my blueberries. I placed them directly on the racks and dehydrated them whole. Dry at 135 degrees until dry and leathery.
Cherries: wash, remove pits and cut them in half. Get a cherry pitter, if at all possible. You can dry them whole, but they will take a very long time to dry and the quality will be reduced. Place the cherry halves on the racks or trays skin-side down. Dry at 145 degrees for two hours then lower the temperature to 135 degrees for the remaining time until leathery.
Grapes: wash and remove the stems. I do not boil mine before drying. Dry at 135 degrees until wrinkled and pliable.
Kiwi: wash, peel and cut in 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices. Dry at 135 degrees until leathery.
Peaches: wash, remove the pits and skin, if desired. I do not peel mine. Cut them in 1/4 to 3/8 inch slices. Dry at 135 degrees until pliable.
Pears: wash and peel, if desired. Remove the seeds and stems. Cut in 1/4 to 3/8 inch slices. Dry at 135 degrees until pliable.
Pineapples: rinse, cut off the leafy crown, peel and cut off the bad spots. Remove any of the tough sections that are too fibrous to eat. Slice in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Wear gloves if you are going to do several as pineapple is very acidic. Dry at 135 degrees until pliable.
Strawberries: wash and remove the caps/stems and cut in 1/4 to 3/8 inch slices. If you have a strawberry slicer it makes it a lot easier, plus they are cut more uniformly. Dry at 135 degrees until leathery and crisp.
PRINTABLE for dehydrating fruit: Dehydrating FRUIT tips from Food Storage Moms
Dehydrating Vegetable Tips from Food Storage Moms
VEGETABLES: (cut away any bruising or bad spots) I use an Excalibur dehydrator so be sure and check the temperatures for your dehydrator.
Bell peppers (green or red): Wash, remove the stem, seed, and the membrane sections. Chop or cut in 1/4 inch circles or slices. Dry at 125 degrees until leathery.
Cabbage: Wash the head of cabbage and remove the outer leaves. Cut the head into fourths and shred or grate into pieces about 1/8 inch thick. Dry at 125 degrees until brittle.
Carrots: Wash the carrots, trim the tops off, scrape or peel the skins off. Cut into 1/8 inch chunks or circles. Dry at 125 degrees until leathery.
Celery: Scrub the stalks to remove any dirt from them. Cut into 1/4 inch strips. Leave the leaves whole. Dry at 125 degrees until the stalks are leathery and the leaves are brittle.
Cilantro: Wash, chop and cut the tough stems off. Dry at 115 degrees until brittle.
Corn: Remove the husks and scrape the corn off the cobs or buy frozen corn on sale. Place the corn on the racks and dry at 125 degrees until brittle.
Cucumbers: Wash, cut the ends off and remove any bad spots. Slice into 1/4 inch pieces and dry at 135 degrees until brittle.
Kale: I prefer to buy baby Kale because to me it is sweeter. Wash the leaves and dry at 125 degrees until very crisp.
Mushrooms: Wash or use a brush to clean the dirt off of the mushrooms. Wash in cold water, but do not soak them. Remove the stems and discard. Use a mushroom slicer or slice them in 3/8 inch pieces with a knife. Dry at 125 degrees until leathery.
Onions: I cut the ends off and then cut the onion in half. Remove the outer membrane and discard. Chop in chunks that you would use for casseroles, soups, tacos, etc. Dry at 155 degrees until leathery. I would dehydrate these outside or your entire house will smell like onions for weeks, if not months.
Peas: If you have fresh peas those are the best, besides frozen ones you get on sale. Wash and shell the peas and dry at 125 degrees until brittle.
Tomatoes: Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems. I dehydrate mine with the skins on because I pulverize them for powder. You can cut the small cherry tomatoes in half and place the skin side down to dry. Slice larger tomatoes 1/4 inch thick and dry at 155 degrees until leathery and brittle.
Spinach: Wash and remove the bad pieces and discard. I prefer to remove the stems as close as possible. Dry at 125 degrees until crisp and crumbly.
Zucchini: Wash, cut the ends off and remove any bad spots. Slice into 1/4 inch pieces and dry at 125 degrees until brittle.
PRINTABLE for dehydrating vegetables: Dehydrating Vegetable tips from Food Storage Moms
Let me know what you like to dehydrate and how you are drying your surplus food, I would love to hear. Thanks for being prepared for the unexpected.