By Joseph Parish
You perhaps may already be familiar with various ways to preserve food such as by canning, freezing or making jelly. If so you are in for an overwhelming surprise as you try to dehydrate your next year’s garden foods. Drying food is not difficult and the final product can certainly be a valuable asset to your kitchen foods. I have often heard people make excuses that “I can’t dry those foods because I do not have a dehydrator”.
That, my friend is utter nonsense. A dehydrator is nice to have but not absolutely necessary. Often we either have higher priorities such as food for the family or rent and with today’s tight budget requirements the larger dehydrators are simply out of the question. With the food prices already at peak levels it is often times cheaper to purchase the dehydrated foods already finished. It all depends upon ones outlook. Do you want to learn a new trick or too or merely stock up. Myself I like to enjoy my survival tactics to the fullest so I would vote to dry my own foods.
For those who may have a few extra dollars to invest I would recommend an entry level unit like the Nesco machine which you can usually purchase at any Wal-Mart store. These types of machines can usually be purchased new for about $40.00. As you progress in your learning of dehydration you will more then likely want to move up the scale to some of the better grades of machine. A good place to locate a first time machine would be yard sales or flea markets. It is not unusual to find them for less then $5.00.
Many people start out with the inexpensive circular machines and eventually the progress to the Cadillac of dehydrators the Excalibur. Of course the Excalibur is naturally higher priced and represents a big investment. However until such time as the funds are available you could very well use the kitchen oven and turn out some great dehydrated veggies and fruit.
When you begin you will need to use a flat, non stick baking sheet pan. Slice your food fairly thin and place it on your tray. Prop open your oven door and set the thermostat to 150 degrees. If your oven door is the kind that does not remain open by itself you could use a wooden spoon to hold it open.
Once you get this technique down pat you are in for a major treat. The number of items that you can dehydrate is endless and range from dehydrated veggies all the way to hamburger that has been cooked and slightly crumbled into small pieces and then dried out. Let us not forget the mushrooms which are best stored when dehydrated. When they are dried to the breaking point and vacuum sealed they will just about store for an endless number of years.
Dried foods make excellent additions to any Bug out bags and survival kits. If you have children who enjoy camping out then dried food would likely suit them just fine. Another great treat for small children is dried grapes. I would like to explain that simple procedure to you at this time.
First, start with firm and fresh green seedless grapes. You will want to wash them well and then pat dry them. You may wish to prick them slightly with a fork or a knife to permit the juices within it to escape otherwise you could possibly take up to a week or more to dry them out. Since when they dry naturally they are still attached to the vine, any water that is inside of them is used by the plant however, since we have picked the grape off of the vine we have to dispose of the extra water ourselves.
With that said you can now place the grapes in your dehydrator or in your oven and dry them out. The final product is something that will delight just about any child. You will quickly find that you can not make enough of them.
Copyright @ 2009 Joseph Parish