Date: March 1989 (Revised April 1995)
Source: NDSU Extension Nutrition Specialists
When you dry foods, moisture is removed to inhibit growth of microorganisms. Many fruits and vegetables can be preserved by drying--some are more suitable than others.
To dry food you must: prepare the food as for eating; dry; package and store it. You can dry some foods, like peppers and pimentos, without blanching or other pretreatment, but most foods need a pretreatment for best results.
To prepare food to dry: Select fresh, good quality fruits and vegetables. Trim away inedible and damaged portions. Cut into halves, strips, or slices that dry readily. Strips should be 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
When you blanch foods, you heat them enough to inactivate the natural enzymes. If you omit this step, or inadequately blanch vegetables, they will have poor flavor, texture and color. You can blanch in steam or in hot water. Water blanching is quicker, but may leach out some color and nutrients. You can pretreat most fruits by dipping them in antioxidant.
In drying food: Oven drying is not recommended because it is inefficient and can be costly; it takes 6 to 16 hours to dry food this way. For better and controlled drying, purchase a commercial home dehydrator. Follow manufacturer's instructions.
Cool a piece before testing for dryness. Dry most vegetables to the "brittle" stage. Fruits are dry when they are no longer sticky, but feel tough or leathery. In general, most people tend to overdry.
Package food as soon as it is cooled in moisture-proof, insect-proof containers. Glass jars, plastic containers, and tin cans with tight fitting lids are satisfactory containers for storing dried foods. Containers should be filled as full as possible without crushing.
Store in a dry, cool, and dark place. If dark storage is not available, wrap clear containers in paper or place in boxes. Check dried foods occasionally for safety. If you find moisture, reheat the food for 15 minutes, cool and reseal. All dried foods deteriorate to some extent during storage--losing vitamins, flavor, color, and aroma. Plan to use dried foods within 6 to 8 months.
If you have further questions, please contact your county office of the NDSU Extension Service.
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