Imagine being able to enjoy seasonal foods free from additives and preservatives all year round, cut down on packaging, save storage space in your kitchen, and have nutritious snacks available at the drop of a hat? These can all be achieved easily by using one of the oldest and healthiest forms of preserving food: dehydration.
The process involves removing water from food, therefore preventing mold and bacteria from growing, and making foods less likely to spoil. If you’re worried about dehydration affecting the nutritional value of your food, don’t! It only affects the food minimally, especially when you dehydrate foods yourself and ensure there are no added chemicals or preservatives.
One of the many benefits of dehydrating is that it locks in the flavor of whichever foods you use. Foods become richer and darker in color, more fragrant, and sweeter in taste.
When using food dehydration as a cooking tool, you can be as creative as you like and benefit from in-season fruits and vegetables, herbs, nuts, and meats, buying them in bulk and dehydrating quantities for later usage.
The three main methods of dehydrating food are sun drying, oven drying and electric dehydrating.
Sun drying is a good method to use for foods such as tomatoes and herbs, although you do need three consecutive sunny days to allow the process to work. The best time to dehydrate by sun is in Summer.
Oven drying is another way to dehydrate foods if you don’t own an electric dehydrator. This works well for finely sliced vegetable chips and activated nuts. An oven temperature of under 90 degrees Celsius (about 195 degrees Fahrenheit) is best. Leave the oven door open slightly during the process to circulate air throughout the oven to help bring moisture out of the food.
Electric dehydrating is another means of preserving food. A popular dehydrating product on the market currently is the energy efficient electric dehydrator, which works on extremely low temperatures to enable food to maintain its nutritive value.
Why not try these 10 healthy tips next time you are planning on dehydrating food to improve the process?
1. Start with fresh, high-quality food and buy in bulk to save time and money.
2. Always check food for spoilage or bruising and if damaged don’t purchase.
3. Remember to slice food uniformly and thinly for even dehydration as smaller foods take less dehydrating time.
4. It’s a good idea to space food evenly apart on food trays for steady dehydrating.
5. Blanching certain vegetables before placing in the dehydrator can help fight bacteria, preserve color and maintain flavors.
6. Remember that you can marinate, salt, spice or sweeten with Stevia any foods before you dehydrating them to increase flavor even further.
7. For oven drying don’t keep temperatures too low or too high, a good temperature is 50-60 degrees Celsius. If the temperature of the oven is too low it could result in the growth of bacteria on the food and too high temperatures result in the food being over cooked.
8. Turning food and rotating trays whilst the food is drying is a great way to ensure that food is evenly dehydrated.
9. Food will be ready when it has no pockets of moisture and feels leathery to touch Vegetables should be crispy and meat should be tough. Nuts should also be crispy.
10. Cool dehydrated food before storing and store in airtight containers or plastic freezer bags to keep moisture out as dried food will attract moisture from the air. For best results, store containers in a cool, dark, dry place.
Now that you have the tools and tips for food dehydrating, get ready to enjoy the benefits of delicious healthy food, herbs and snacks all year round.