Harvest season is approaching and it fills you with worry over how you’re going to store and preserve such a large yield. Well, I’ve already explained the basics of canning certain fruits and vegetables in the form of sauces, pickles, and jams, and there’s freezing as well but both these practices require you to carry them out at extreme temperatures. Also, with canning, it’s a hit or miss situation so you may end up having to store all your bottles in the fridge rather than in the cellar.
Luckily, there’s a third, sure-fire method that doesn’t require as much effort, and you don’t need to end up refrigerating the final product either. Drying is a useful practice that has been carried out over centuries to help preserve food and you can try it too.
There are numerous advantages of drying your home-grown produce; dried produce will weigh less, can be stored anywhere and they are able to conserve their nutrients better than if they were frozen or dried. Now we’re not saying to dry everything, because that’s not possible. While it is possible to dry most fruits and berries, as well as common vegetables, it won’t always be productive to your cooking.
How To Do It
You can go about the drying process in two ways; you can either dry your produce indoors or outdoors. Whichever process you choose, there are some requirements that have to be met. It’s crucial that you dry at the right temperature that bacteria is inhibited but nutrients are also preserved.
Warm temperatures and adequately humid atmospheric conditions both contribute to quick drying. Additionally, air circulation can also speed up the process to give you quicker results. Ideally, temperatures between 130 to 140oF are able to dry fruits and vegetables quickly without tarnishing their nutritional value.
Air circulation is also crucial; it’s necessary that you leave enough space between your produce to facilitate drying. Moreover, make sure to cut fruits and vegetables into thin pieces so that air circulation can take place between the produce. It’s also a must that you never stack your produce just to dry more amounts at a single time.
You’ll be using the heart of the sun by drying with this method and your setup shouldn’t require many things except some basic equipment. You can place your drying tray on top of blocks, and keep a tarp sheet beneath the blocks so that dust stays away.
Use a cookie sheet so that the produce doesn’t react with the tray, and place a towel on top so that heat can reach inside while keeping predators such as animals and birds away. Remember to treat your produce by leaving it in the freezer for 48 hours before drying because this destroys all present bacteria.
This is basically using your oven or a food dehydrator to dry your produce. These make the job of drying produce pretty easy; all you need to do is pop in the fruits or vegetables, set the temperature, and voila! If you don’t already have one and don’t want to make the extra effort of drying outdoors, make sure to select a dehydrator that is vented to permit air circulation, and has a good thermostat which lets you set it to ideal temperatures. If you want to reduce the cost of utilities, then opt for a dehydrator that’s insulated so it’ll take up less electricity.
These are the ways that you can dry your homegrown produce at home and use it for months to come. Remember to store your dried food in airtight containers before placing them in the cabinet, and you’re good to go. Happy Farming!