How To Safely Dehydrate Your Food In A Dehydrator
Food Dehydrating at home has become very popular in recent years thanks to the surge in popularity of Raw Foods and the many positive, health benefits associated with eating food in it’s natural, uncooked, state.
Dehydrating is a great way to get more variety and longevity out of your organic, raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans, grains and seeds.
Dehydrating food dramatically changes the texture of many raw foods, turning them into deliciously chewy, or crispy treats eg. think dried apples, fruit leathers, tofu jerky, raw cookies, kale and sweet potato chips.
The Health Benefits Of Eating Naturally Dehydrated Food
Eating organic raw foods that have been dehydrated is considered practically as healthy as eating raw foods in their natural state as along with retaining most of the important nutrients, the food remains in an alkaline state and our bodies thrive when they are slightly more alkaline than acidic see my article on Why Green is Good.
Food dehydrating is one of the healthiest ways of preserving food if done correctly, as it limits the amount of molds, yeasts and bacteria’s that can thrive on food that has a considerable water content.
How Dehydrating Food Works
Dehydrating food is technically just removing the moisture out of raw foods, by drying them at a very low temperature, over a long period of time, so it retains the majority of its nutrients. When you cook food on high temperatures you are boiling, roasting and frying away a great portion of the important vitamins, enzymes and minerals that the food contains .
Food Dehydrators are great for drying activated nuts, making crisp and crunchy, healthy vegetables chips, raw cookies, breads, cereals, dried fruit and vegetables, fruit leathers, tofu jerky and much more.
Dehydrating is fantastic for those who choose to buy, or grow only organic produce, as organic fruit and vegetables once picked have a short shelf life and there is nothing worse than having to throw out expensive organic produce, so if you don’t think you will use up your supply of fresh organic fruit and veg before they start to go off, then you can simply dehydrate them and they will last for months.
How To Safely Dehydrate Your Food In A Dehydrator
I have done some research and included below, some important links to some very reputable university pages on preparing food safely when dehydrating, please read before beginning to experiment with food dehydrating.
While Raw Food experts believe that the following advice of blanching or steaming destroys some of the vital nutrients in the food, I er on the side of caution and believe that a few lost nutrients is far better than a severe case of food poisoning!
It comes down to common sense.
When making my favourite, Marinated Kale Chips, I simply thoroughly wash and dry the Kale before marinating and dehydrating. This is because these chips only take a couple hours to dehydrate and do not last longer than half an hour out of the dehydrator, as they are just so delicious, therefore there is not much chance for bacteria to take hold, or enzymes to create havoc. That being said if you didn’t eat them right away and you were to store them, then it would be advisable to blanch or steam blanch the kale first before dehydrating.
Food Dehydrating Tips and How to Safely dry and store Dehydrated Food
- Dehydrating food needs to be done correctly, by practicing good food hygiene, otherwise the food can spoil and become contaminated with Salmonella and other nasty bugs that can cause serious food poisoning.
- Never use fresh fruit and vegetables that are starting to go moldy and I recommend to always use organic fruit and vegetables when dehydrating.
- When drying activated nuts and seeds in your food Dehydrator, it is important to make sure they are completely dry, as if not, they can go moldy and rancid when stored. The nuts and seeds should have a definite crunch when you bite into them and this is how you know that they are dried out properly. It is also best to keep nuts stored in the fridge in an airtight glass jar.
- As with nuts is better to dry food for longer, than not long enough, as moisture is a friend to mold and bacteria. In actual fact you really can’t over dry your food in a food dehydrator as the heat isn’t high enough to burn food.
- When buying a Food Dehydrator you want to make sure that your machine is free of harmful, toxic plastics that contain Bisophenal A (BPA), Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) and Teflon. To date the only machine that I have researched and used and therefore can recommend is the Sedona, as it is completely free of BPA and PVC and you can opt for Teflon Free Drying Sheets. I can’t comment on other brands, but whichever brand you choose, be sure to know what materials all the parts are made out of.
- It is very important to properly dry out the food and then to let it cool to room temperature before storing it in an airtight container, in a nicer dry place.
- Check your food after 4-10 days that there is no moisture beads on the inside of the container, as if their is food has not been dried properly and could start to spoil and grow mold.
- Once you have stored your food, be sure to label and date it, this way you know how long the food has been sitting on the shelf and when it should be consumed by.
- According to Colorado State University studies on Home Food Dehydrating it is wise to blanch, or soak fruit and vegetables in a citric acid solution to inhibit enzyme changes and lower the chances of Salmonella and other common food poisoning bugs. With vegetables if you want to remain 100% organic and natural, blanching in boiling water for the recommended time on this chart would be the way to go.
- Colorado State University offer a few suggestions for preparing fruit for dehydrating -one option they offer is to pre-treat your fruit with an all natural lemon juice treatment, which would be our recommendation. “For the lemon juice solution, mix equal parts of lemon juice and cold water (i.e., 1 cup lemon juice and 1 cup water). Cut the peeled fruit directly into the citric acid or lemon juice solution. Allow to soak 10 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon, drain well and dehydrate. “
- To make Fruit Leathers and Jerky safely read this food prep and safety sheet by Colorado State University. They recommend steaming the fruit being used to make your leathers to kill off unwanted bacteria.
This fact sheet by Colorado State University on Food Dehydrating offers a great deal of advice and detail on the practice of dehydrating food and storing dehydrated food safely.
Here is another fact sheet on Food Dehydrating by the University of Missouri which also contains a lot of helpful tips.
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