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Friday, April 16, 2010

Dehydrating Basics (Lets Talk Taters!)

I was asked if I could explain the drying and rehydrating process.  This is my attempt to do so. The question was about potato's but most vegetables use the same process.  Blanching times will vary with different vegetables.         

When dehydrating potato's, there are several ways to do them.  You can slice them for uses like scalloped potato's.  You can dice them in small pieces and use them in many different things.  You can cut them into french fries as well. You can shred them and use them for hashbrowns. This part is up to you.  Peeling your potato's is optional- there are lots of vitamins and minerals in the skins . They look nicer peeled but, again, its up to you.
I will explain the sliced potato's here, but they are all done the same way.
Slice your potato's approximately 1/4" thick. Your pieces should be as uniform as you can make them. This is where a food processor or a slicer comes in handy.  I do mine by hand but that's because I don't have either of them!   While you are cutting your potato's, put on a big pot of lightly salted water and heat to boiling. 

Put your potato slices in a vegetable basket or a French fry basket and drop them in the boiling water. When they start to boil again, let them blanch for for 5-8 minutes.  Have a large bowl ready with ice water. Plunge them in the ice water and let them sit for 15 minutes or so. Then spread the potato slices out on paper towels and daub dry.
Another method you can use (I would suggest doing this with things like hashbrowns) is to steam blanch them.

Spray your racks with some vegetable spray and place the potato's as close as you can get them without having them touch.  They need air circulation around them.  Dry them until the potato's are translucent and brittle.  You should not be able to "bend" them.  Let the potato's cool down, remove them from the racks and store them in jars or baggies.  Try to keep as much air out as you can.  This is where my FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer comes in handy.  I like to put them in jars and vacuum out the air.

To rehydrate them,  place the dried potato's in a bowl or pan and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl and let them sit for about 20 minutes or until re-hydrated completely.  Drain excess water and they are ready to use.

 You can dry just about anything.  Carrots, peas, sweet corn, green beans, cabbage, spinach, swiss chard etc. I also dry tomato's for use in soups and stews.  I like drying  green peppers, hot peppers, and onions for use later in the year when these things are out of season.
I have had problems with rehydrating green beans in the past and asked a true drying guru for some help.  She suggests blanching and then freezing the green beans before drying.  The freezing breaks down the cells so they will rehydrate better  otherwise, they will take a couple of hours to rehydrate.

Here are a few ideas for using some of your dehydrated vegetables. 

I like to do mixed veggies to use as soup starter.  Diced carrots and peas are good together. You can use dried sweet corn (ground up) and add it to flour when making cornbread.  Scalloped potato's or au gratin ones. Dried diced potato's make a great hash when mixed with leftover beef and dried onions.  Cabbage dices  and fried diced bacon and onions or leeks with bow tie noodles is good.  Sometimes I add dried tomato's as well.  How about cabbage soup with potato slices, carrots, and fried bacon?  Hmm, lets see.... pickled beet slices, gingered diced carrots, green pea and boiled egg salad.
Make white bread and roll it thin. Add rehydrated hamburger, carrots, peas, onions and line the bread and make a pinwheel. Let the bread rise and bake. Slice and cover with gravy made from  the rehydrating water.

The possibilities are endless.  So what are you waiting for? 

(thanks to Gen-IL Homesteader from the Illinois Prepers Network for asking about this- I hope I helped a little bit)