This series is going to go over the ins and outs of dehydrating foods. We are going to look at the last 9 months of work, from dehydrating and reconstituting to mishaps and successes. As always on this blog, you will get the real story about dehydrating foods, not the glamorous jars and packages of foods. You’ll see our mistakes and failures but also the successes! Welcome to the first installment of my new favorite hobby: Dehydrating Foods.
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Dehydrating Foods Journey
I always shied away from dehydrating foods, though I’m not really sure why. It’s a pretty simple process, but I’ve always stuck with canning. I’ve owned an Excalibur dehydrator for over 10 years and used it a hand full of times, usually making small patches of yogurt. About six months ago, I ordered dehydrated peppers from Azure Standard. It was a game changer! No longer having to go out and buy peppers for taco night? Having an item on hand that doesn’t take up space in my freezer? Sign Me Up!
Last year, I had quarts of peppers coming in every day from the garden. Most of them rotted before we could use them. Then I realized that I could roast them, grind them and turn them into a seasoning powder. But I used my oven instead of my dehydrator…Why? Because I didn’t feel like getting my dehydrator out. Let’s not talk about a waste of electricity. But this year? I have so many plans for that dehydrator.
Dehydrating Foods Save Money On Pantry Staples
Onions are a staple in my pantry. I freaking love onions. Onion powder, chopped onions, diced onions, you name it. There’s usually onion in 75% of my dishes. Because I buy big bags of them, they tend to go bad before I can use all of them. If I buy smaller bags or single onions, it’s never enough. Plus, I don’t want or need an entire onion in some dishes. So what did I do? Freeze the other half of the onion, or fed it to the chickens. While it’s not necessarily wasted, I usually forget about the other half of the onion in the freezer and spend the money at the store for more.
Another pantry staple is celery. In the depths of winter, we eat a ton of soup. But celery doesn’t can or freeze well. Usually it turns to mush in either of those two preservation methods. And buying an entire bunch of celery isn’t economic when you need a cup of chopped celery.
Dehydrating Foods Reduces Waste
One of the things I hate the most in the entire world is wasting food. It drives me insane to dump food in the trash because it rotted, gets freezer burn, or we were just too lazy to do something with it. I go back to onions and celery. We don’t eat either of those raw. One for obvious reasons. But there is still a far amount of food waste when you lose food in the freezer. Dehydrating these foods helps make sure that waste is minimized.
How many times have you bought limes only to have them rot before you get a chance to use them? Or thought for sure you would use that entire batch of potatoes for mashed potatoes? Throwing them in the dehydrator is a great way to reduce food waste.
Dehydrating Foods Help Clear Out The Freezer
For the last two years, we have purchased a half or whole cow from a local farm. The first year, a half cow lasted us a little over 8 months. This year, we purchased a whole cow. Let me tell you, we struggled to find enough freezer space and end up buying another freezer. I talk more in depth about buying meat in bulk in this post.
But dehydrating food helps to clear out the freezers from that bulk purchase of frozen corn, or random bag of onions that you forgot about. I don’t know about your freezers, but in our house, they become a jumbled mess of food. We try to keep our freezers “separated” by animal, but the reality is that doesn’t always work. Especially when veggies aren’t animals and most creamer is not actually dairy.
Should You Learn How To Dehydrate Food?
In short, yes. Dehydrators are relatively cheap, when compared to canning setups and the DIY options for building your own dehydrator are endless. I also think that having a well rounded approach to preserving your garden harvest is a must. Some things just aren’t going to freeze or can well like peas, celery, melons, zucchini, and summer squash.
Is Dehydrating Foods Sustainable?
Meh. Take this from someone who *gasp* reuses canning lids that are in good shape. Dehydrating foods really isn’t sustainable DEPENDING on how you do it. It usually requires electricity and sometimes requires a steady influx of mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. But canning sometimes requires electricity (you can can on a wood burning stove if you can get it hot enough or a propane camp stove), and after the initial purchase of jars, doesn’t REQUIRE additional purchase unless there is damage or a lot of use.
I don’t know that there is a truly sustainable food preservation method, except maybe fermentation, that ALL food can go through. So I think the question should be what food method is the most sustainable, but whatever.
What Do You Need To Get Started?
Pretty simple list here:
Dehydrator- with trays I like my Excalibur but I would recommend one with a door that actually shuts.
Oxygen Absorbers– This one is based on the size of the bags or jars you are using. So again, I would get a multi pack if you can.
Mason Jars– This is what I use. I’m not a fan of the mylar bags only because I’m set up for jars. I’ve got 8 storage units built in the basement that are the perfect height for jars. Plus I have a bunch of jars and I don’t want to spend more money.
Silicone Mats– These are the mats I use for things that are a little gooey or rollie (like peas). They are great!
Funnels– If you’re a canner, you have funnels. If not the link provided are the ones I have.
Dehydrating Foods Is Easy
This is literally the most set it and forget it way of preserving food. While not technically forget it, it allows you to not be chained to your stove, in a hot kitchen for hours. Over the years, I have spent hours and hours in my kitchen, every summer and fall, canning hundreds of jars of food. Please don’t misunderstand, I absolutely LOVE it. Especially in the winter when I have quarts and quarts of soup at the ready. Or on days when I come from a 24 hour shift and hit the ground running for another 12 hours on the farm, having beef stew on standby is amazing.
I will always be a canner. But now? Now, I’m a food preserver. I can, freeze, and dehydrate.
Reaching into my cabinet for a colorful jar of dehydrated mixed veggies, adding it to a soup, and serve? Yes, please.
Seeing more food in my basement, knowing that no matter if the entire world crumbles, or just my own, we have food.
Knowing that I am teaching my children the value of nurturing a garden, harvesting the bounty, and not wasting food? Invaluable.