Drying Foods

Instructions on drying foods at home, and ways in which to use the fruits and vegetables you have dried.

Drying foods for storage is probably the oldest method of food preservation, while electric food dehydrators have made our lives much easier. Drying foods is a wonderful way to preserve them for later use, dried foods are not only useful, but they also take up less storage space than canning or freezing. They are sometimes used or consumed in their dehydrated state, or as in the case of corn, are rehydrated before cooking. Here I will give you instructions on drying various fruits and vegetables, then also examples of how to use them for cooking.

Some basic items that you will need for drying fruits and vegetables are; of course, a food dehydrator, a mandolin is very helpful in making uniform slices, a sharp paring knife, cutting board, a pot for blanching vegetables and some type of acidic to keep fruits from oxidizing and turning brown. I like using Ziplock Bags for storage but any tightly sealed container will work.

Be sure to select fresh produce for drying, and prepare as suggested here.

Apples: Peel and core your apples, then slice in 1/8 inch slices. You will need to dip your apples either in lemon juice or some type of fruit preservative (you can buy this in any grocery store, it is generally kept with the canning jars). Apples will dry in 4 to 5 hours, they should be leathery, but pliable. You can store dried apples for up to 8 months.

Bananas: Peel and slice in 1/8 inch slices. Dip your bananas either in lemon juice or a fruit preservative. Dry bananas for 4 to 6 hours, or until rather crisp. Dried bananas will keep for up to 4 months.

Blueberries or Cranberries: Wash berries and prick skins with a pin or a toothpick. Dry for 5 to 6 hours, until hard and shriveled. These will keep up to 6 months.

Carrots: Wash and scrape the carrots, then slice in 1/8 inch slices. Blanch carrots (in a large pot, boil water, then quickly add your vegetables, allow to remain in the water for the allotted time, drain) for 5 minutes. Carrots will dry in 2 to 4 hours, and should be very crisp. Carrots can be stored up to 8 months.

Citrus Peel: Any citrus peels can be used here, but do not use any fruits with color added. Wash well, cut a thin layer of peel, but do not remove any of the white pith. Cut into strips. Dry until crisp. Will keep for 12 months.

Corn: Husk and remove all silk. Blanch whole ears for 5 minutes. Remove corn from cob. Dry 5 to 7 hours, stirring occasionally until crisp. Dried corn can be kept for 8 months.

Garlic and Onions: While garlic is not really a fruit or vegetable, I am including it since it dries so well and can be used like many dried vegetables. Peel and mince your garlic or onions. Dry for 5 to 7 hours, stirring occasionally until crisp. Dried garlic or onions can be kept for 8 months.

Grapes: Only dry seedless grapes, unless you wish to remove the seeds. Wash grapes and prick the skins in several places with a pin or toothpick. Dry for 32 to 34 hours or until the grapes look like raisins, there should be no moisture left in the center. Raisins will keep for 6 months.

Green Beans: Wash and string the beans. Diagonally slice into 1 inch lengths. Blanch for 4 minutes. Dry, then freeze on drying tray for 40 minutes. Beans will dry in 6 to 10 hours and will be brittle and shriveled. Will store up to 6 months.

Mushrooms: Wash your mushrooms quickly, being sure to remove any traces of dirt. Slice in 1/4 inch slices. These will vary drying time, but make sure that they are brittle. Will store up to 8 months.

Nectarines, Apricots or Peaches: Peel and pit. Slice in 1/8 inch slices. Dip in lemon juice or fruit preservative. Dry for up to 11 hours, until leathery but still pliable. There should be no moistness left in the center. These fruits will last for 6 months.

Peas: Shell and wash the peas. Blanche for 3 minutes. Dry 5 to 6 hours, until shriveled and hard. Peas will keep for up to 6 months.



Peppers: any kind of peppers can be dried, from sweet to hot. For larger peppers, wash, stem and core. Then either cut in strips or cubes. For smaller peppers, they can be dried whole, but poke several holes in the skins, using either a pin or a toothpick. The drying time will vary here, but generally 9 to 11 hours. The peppers should be brittle. Peppers will keep for up to 12 months.

Pineapple: Peel and remove the "eyes". Core and slice crosswise into 1/8 inch thick slices. Pineapple will dry in 7 to 12 hours, it will be leathery, but not sticky. Pineapple will keep for 8 months.

Potatoes (Sweet, White or Yams): Wash well to remove any dirt, then peel and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Blanch 5 to 6 minutes for white varieties, 3 minutes for sweets and yams. Dry until brittle. Potatoes will keep for 8 months.

Strawberries: these do not rehydrate well, they are best used in the dried state. Use only fully ripe strawberries. Remove the caps and cut into ½ inch slices. Dry until crisp but still pliable. These can be stored for 4 months.

Tomatoes: Wash and dip in boiling water for 30 seconds. Peel off skins. Slice into 1/8 inch slices. Dry 5 to 7 hours or until tough. Store up to 4 months.

There are many other fruits and vegetables that I have not added to this basic list such as cherries, turnips, okra, plums and squash. All you need to do, is choose a vegetable or fruit that is similar to the one you want to dry, and follow those instructions. The drying times may vary, but just keep checking.

To store your dried foods, Ziplock Bags work wonderfully, but canning jars can also be used. Actually anything with a tight seal. For the first 7 to 10 days, it is a good idea to shake your dried foods. This will allow the drier pieces to absorb some the extra moisture from the other pieces.

As I mentioned many of these dried fruits and vegetables can be eaten in the dried state. But they are wonderful to use in cooking also. Dried foods have come a long way from being a camping staple. If wanting to rehydrate foods, just cover the amount needed with water and let sit until the water is mostly absorbed, then simmer gently to make tender. Also dried fruits can be added to just about any baking recipe, whether it be breads, cakes or muffins. Just use the half the amount of the dried fruit as the recipe calls for fresh. The fruit will rehydrate while baking.

Also dried vegetables can just be tossed in the pot while making soup or stew. Again the vegetables will rehydrate while cooking. I also like to add some dried vegetables along with dried garlic and onions to any meat I may be roasting in the oven, it will really add to the flavor of the meat.

Here are several unusual recipes using dried foods.

SALAD CRUNCHIES

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons dried carrots

2 tablespoons dried green pepper chunks

8 dried tomato slices

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoon sunflower seeds

Toss the first six ingredients into a blender and process until the vegetables are flaked. Combine this mixture with the sunflower seeds. Store in an airtight container and serve with tossed salad. Will keep for one month.

EASY VEGETABLE SOUP

1/4 cup dried carrot slices

1/4 cup dried corn

1/4 cup dried green beans

1/4 cup dried peas

1/4 cup dried okra

1/4 cup dried sliced tomato

2 tablespoons dried diced green pepper

6 ½ cups water

3 chicken bouillon cubes

½ teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1 bay leaf

Combine your dried vegetables and the water in a large pot. Let soak for 1 ½ hours. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender.

DRIED APPLE PIE

3/4 pounds dried apples

1 quart cider vinegar

½ cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch or flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoon butter

pastry dough for a 9 inch pie

Combine the apples and the cider, and simmer for 30 minutes or until soft, but not mushy. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cider. Cool. In a large bowl combine the sugar, cornstarch and spices. Add apples and toss gently to coat. Add the reserved cider, and toss again. Place the apple mixture into the prepared crust. Dot with butter. Cover with the second crust, and crimp edges, cut several steam vents. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350 and continue baking for 30 minutes.

TRAIL MIX

½ cup each of almonds, dried apples, dried apricots, dried banana chips, coconut flakes, dried pears, dried pineapple, raisins and sunflower seeds. Combine all ingredients and store in airtight container. Makes 4 ½ cups.

AU GRATIN POTATOES

3 cups dried sliced potatoes

3 cups boiling water

1 ½ cups cheddar cheese

3/4 cups milk, heated

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

butter or margarine

paprika

Butter a 2 quart casserole. Add dried potatoes, covered with boiling water and let stand 2 minutes. Add 1 cups grated cheese, milk, salt and pepper. Stir gently. Bake, covered at 375 for about 35 minutes. Remove cover, add remaining ½ cup cheese, sprinkle with paprika, and continue baking 25 more minutes or until liquid is absorbed and potatoes are tender.

MIXED VEGETABLE QUICHE

½ cup dried mixed vegetables (corn, peas, green beans, onion, carrots)

2 cups milk

3 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

½ cup shredded Swiss cheese

9 inch pie shell

Rehydrate vegetables in ½ cup boiling water. Let stand 1 to 2 hours or until vegetables are soft. Drain off excess liquid. Beat together milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Stir in mixed vegetables. Pour into prepared crust. Top with cheese. Bake at 375 for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and filling is set.

These are just several examples using dried fruits and vegetables. Just use your imagination and cooking skills to create wonderful dishes using the foods that you have dried.

© High Speed Ventures 2011