By Jenny Brown
Canning, freezing, and dehydrating food. I’ve used all these methods of preserving, but I have to say that dehydrating is my personal favorite for a few reasons:
1. When food is dehydrated, it shrinks! It is amazing how much food I can fit into a gallon jar. I dry peppers, carrots, and zucchini for fall and winter-time soups. One gallon of each will last us all winter! What would take an entire shelf in my freezer for sliced zucchini, I can fit it in a single jar.
2. It saves money on my electric bill. Running a freezer all year doesn’t come without a price. My frozen foods continue to cost me but my dehydrated foods need no power to preserve! I have an electric dehydrator so there is some cost involved initially when I run it but nothing compared to keeping the food in the freezer all year.
Solar drying is even a better option if money is the main issue. I learned from some Vietnamese friends that all you need is a tarp! I dried hundreds of sun-dried tomatoes with just a tarp, an old trampoline net that my kids wore out, and two camp chairs. I placed the chairs on either side of the tarp and draped the netting over them. This kept the tarp up off the tomatoes and the flies out of my food.
There is also no consumable items to purchase every year such as ziplocs or canning lids. I store all my dehydrated foods in recycled glass jars.
3. For all of you with the survivalist mindset, all you need to prepare the food, if at all, is water! That’s doable for anyone. If water isn’t available, we’ve got bigger problems than re-hydrating food. Most of the time I just throw the dried vegetable ingredients into my soups. No need to defrost in a microwave (which I avoid anyway) or waiting for it to thaw in a puddle on the kitchen counter. And of course, dried fruits and fruit leathers can be eaten as is! There are so many ideas and uses for dehydrated foods, such as drying apple slices which can be reconstituted for apple pie or creating a killer granola with various dried fruits such as huckleberries.
4. Another favorite reason I like dehydrating is the nutrition is not cooked out as it is when you process (cook) foods. Most of the goodness stays due to the low-heat air temperature. When re-hydrating vegetables in soups, the soup will still contain any leached nutrients.
If you can get your hands on a dehydrating cookbook, they are filled with ideas you probably never thought of. The nice thing about these books is that they really can’t get out of date. Dried apricots twenty years ago are pretty much still the same thing today.
So the next time you have food to preserve, dry it! I think you’ll like the extra space on your pantry shelf as well as the lower power bill!