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Home Dried Foods: Energy Efficient, Economical and Fun

By Marie Oser, Managing Editor ecomii.com
June 23, 2011
File under: Food Preservation, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Saving Money

dried-fruit-table.jpg

Drying is perhaps the oldest method in the world for preserving food. An easy and economical way to extend the life of your produce, dehydrated fruits and veggies make tasty treats with concentrated flavor and nutrients.

Dehydrated fruits and vegetables have a delicious, fresh taste and are naturally sweet because when moisture is removed from fresh fruit, the natural sugar is more concentrated.

Naturally dried food is fresher and more wholesome than commercial brands, which more often than not contain sulfates and other additives.

Equally important, dried fruits and veggies purchased at the store are very expensive and dehydrating at home is extremely cost-effective.

Dried fruits and veggies have a long shelf life because the moisture content is so low that organisms, which are the cause of spoilage cannot grow. Dehydrated food requires far less storage space than canned goods and saves energy when compared to freezing.

While oven drying can be an acceptable drying method, it is not very energy efficient and the result often lacks an abundance of flavor. Dehydrating in an oven also means that you will have to prop the door open to promote air circulation during the drying process.

Electric food dehydrators are appliances that dry fruits and vegetables right on your kitchen counter. These units have a relatively small footprint, an electric element for heating, a fan and vents for air circulation.

Food dehydrating machines are designed to dry foods quickly and efficiently.

tribest-sedona-dehydrator.jpg

I have the Sedona Food Dehydrator, which has 9 shelves, 2 fans and the option of using only the upper or lower half of the machine, further controlling energy usage.

Fully digital food dehydrators like this one are energy efficient and feature accurate temperature controls and constantly circulating heated air to ensure even distribution of heat in the drying chamber.

It’s best to cut the fruit as uniformly as possible into 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick slices and to leave a space between each piece for optimal exposure to the circulating heated air.  Thicker slices will take longer to dehydrate.

Mold and other organisms that cause spoilage can grow on partially dried food; therefore the drying process must not be interrupted. Once you begin drying it is important to continue until completion, without allowing the food to cool down and resume drying again later.

To determine if fruit has been dried enough, remove one piece of fruit from the dehydrator near the end of the drying period and let it cool to room temperature. The fruit should be pliable and a bit leathery, without any pockets of moisture.

When you dehydrate food in your own kitchen you don’t have to add adding anything at all, however these citrus-based marinades impart flavor, retard oxidation and vitamin depletion and preserve the color.

Marie’s Marinades for Drying Fruit
6 pears, apples, peaches or nectarines
1 cup orange juice
3 Tablespoons Organic Blue Agave
1 Tablespoon limejuice

Combine marinade ingredients and set aside. Wash, peel, pit or core fruit and place thinly sliced fruit in a shallow non-reactive container. Marinate fruit for 15 minutes or so and drain in a colander

6 to 8 bananas, ripe but still firm
1 cup unfiltered apple juice
3 Tablespoons orange juice
3 Tablespoons Organic Blue Agave

Combine marinade ingredients and set aside. Peel and slice bananas about ¼ inch thick and place in a shallow non-reactive container. Marinate fruit for 15 minutes or so and drain in a colander.

Marie Oser is a best-selling author, writer/producer and host of VegTV, Follow Marie on Twitter

 
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