dehydrating foods

caliroseJanuary 21, 2009

What are the methods for storing dehydrated foods to keep from spoilage? How long can a dehydrated food be kept?

Thanks in advance...

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1. Storage is best in a vacuum-sealed jar (using the jar sealer on a FoodSaver). Air, light and heat are things that degrade dehydrated foods - so avoid those damaging elements when possible.

- Jars are best because the food remains free-flowing. If you vacuum-seal in bags it will crush "crispy" dried foods, and those that still have a fair amount of moisture remaining will stick together in a bag.

- The colder you store dehydrated foods, 0F or colder, the longer the food will keep. You can use a method called DEHYDROFREEZING for this purpose. Fruits dried at home normally have about 80% of the moisture removed; vegetables, 90%. When dehydrofreezing, you remove only 70% of the moisture and you MUST store these foods in the freezer to inhibit microbial growth in foods with that much moisture remaining.

- These foods take up less space in the freezer then if they were left whole.

- They have better flavor and color than completely dehydrated.

- They reconstitute in about 1/2 the time it takes for traditionally dried foods.

2. Storage time. Depending on the "expert" you read... Recommended storage times for dried foods range from 4 months to one year. The quality is affected by heat, the higher the temperature the shorter the storage time. Most dried fruits can be stored for one year at 60°F, six months at 80°F. Vegetables have about half the shelf-life of fruits.

3. Hints for storage.

- I keep my dehydrated apple slices, which we use for snacking as well as cooking, stored in small "snack" size zip-lock bags, and store the bags of apples in a 1/2-gallon jar, vacuum-sealed shut. When we're ready to use from this jar, I exchange the canning lid for a Universal Lid that vacuums shut and can easily be opened and re-sealed, unlike the canning lid. This lid works with the FoodSaver and is one of the best things I've used with the FoodSaver. It comes in two sizes - 4-inch and 5-inch. You can use it on jars, cans, etc. Anything with a smooth rim. (Just Google - FoodSaver Universal Lids for more information.)

When you open dehydrated foods, the food reabsorbs moisture from the air. This way we can take a snack-size amount out without the rest of the apples being exposed to moisture.

- Some foods are nortorious for mold - like potatoes - when they aren't prepared properly. Slicing foods, like potatoes, with a cutting mandoline will assure the same thickness, unlike cutting with a paring knife. The same thickness will help it dry evenly. Place like-sized pieces on a tray. So those smaller end pieces of the potato, place all on one tray, and larger pieces on other trays - this will help assure they dry in approximately the same amount of time. When you load a tray with a variety of sizes, you risk over-dehydrating the smaller pieces, and under-dehydrating the larger ones - which will lead to mold. NEVER consume dehydrated foods with mold on it. DON'T pick out the few pieces that contain mold and eat the rest - the entire container of food has mold spores on it whether it shows mold or not.

- Store foods that tend to mold in smaller amounts. This way if one small bag develops some mold, you won't have to toss a large quantity.

- I dehydrate cooked, mashed, sweet potatoes (NO butter or milk added - just plain mashed sweet potatoes) on fruit roll-up sheets in a very thin layer until it is crispy dry. When completely dry and it has cooled to room temperature, I stick it in the blender to make a powdered form of it. I stick the powder in small jars or zip-lock bags and stick a "pillow pak" (moisture absorbing packet that you find in pills/supplements) in the jar/bag to absorb moisture that will cause the powder to clump. Store the sweet potato powder in the freezer or refrigerator (which is a dry environment) to prevent the powder from getting hard. I've also stored it in "snack" bags (which are stored in a jar with a pillow pak) in amounts that equal 1/2 c. sweet potatoes when reconstituted for easy serving sizes. Once again, this prevents the powder from rehydrating each time it's open.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 5:24PM
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Grainlady thank you so much for taking the time to explain this to me. And giving me advice on the vacuum seal jars, using a mandolin, and general info about using smaller bags and containers. I only have the above fridge freezer, so storing outside of the freezer is of importance.

Thank you also for the sweet potato powder recipe! Usually I buy one lone sweet potato at the grocery, bake it in the micro, cut it in half and serve DH and me. (He likes his with syrup) My uncle always used the oven, and let it cook until it was very well done, he said it was then the sweetest.

I am very thankful that you make yourself available to answer our questions.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 10:40AM
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I'm not sure how many sweet potatoes I bought at Wal-Mart recently when they were 33-cents a pound. Here's the entire recipe. -Grainlady

2 pounds sweet potatoes = 4 single servings

- Cook, drain & mash sweet potatoes. (Use any cooking method you'd like - steamed, boiled, baked...)

- Flavor the mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup, if you'd like, just do not add any butter or other fat. (I just leave them plain - add any sweetener later.)

- Spread on lined trays (use fruit leather sheets, or line the trays with plastic wrap). Place 1/2 c. mashed sweet potatoes on 1/2 the sheet (leave a bit of space), and 1/2 cup on the other half.

- Dry at 135°F.

- When crispy dry, toss 1/2 c. amount into the blender and mix into a powder. Store in small reclosable plastic bags (aka "snack" bags). This is equal to one serving.

- To rehydrate: Slowly add hot water until you reach the desired consistency. Add some butter, if desired. Marshmallows optional!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 2:45PM
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Thank you!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 4:32PM
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Grainlady - do you have some fool proof instructions for making a fruit roll up type of snack? I have tried several recipes and none come out quite right. Thank you.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 6:26PM
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budster -

Check the link below for information about making fruit leathers and fruit roll-ups. This is the information I use.

Here's a favorite recipe I make for our granddaughter. I also add fresh or frozen peaches to this recipe instead of all Mango.

You can also make fruit roll-ups from canned and frozen fruit, not just fresh.


4 cups mango purée (from about 4 large, unripe mangoes)
1 cup clover honey (I use 1/2 c. low-glycemic agave nectar)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Yield: about 2 dryer trays (14 inches in diameter); 8 fruit rolls.
1. Preheat electric dehydrator to 140°F. (If not using electric dehydrator, see "Notes" below.)

2. Wash and peel mangoes, chop roughly into chunks. Purée in blender until smooth. Pass purée through a food mill or sieve; discard any coarse fiber extracted in food mill. Add
honey and spices to the purée and mix thoroughly.

3. Lightly spray two fruit roll tray liners from an electric dehydrator with vegetable oil cooking
spray. Spread mango mixture evenly to 1/4-inch thickness on the trays.

4. Position fruit roll liners on dryer trays and place in dehydrator. Dry continuously for about 10 hours. Maintain dehydrator air temperature steadily at 140°F. (Monitor the dehydrator air temperature periodically with a thermometer.) Remove trays from dehydrator when purée is
dry, with no sticky areas (about 10 hours this will be highly dependent on the relative humidity of the drying room). Test for dryness by touching gently in several places near center of leather; no indentation should be evident.

5. Peel leather from trays while still warm. Leave the second tray on the dehydrator while you
peel the first leather, or re-warm leathers slightly in the dehydrator if they cool too much prior to peeling. Cut into quarters, lay on a piece of clean plastic food storage wrap about 1 to 2 inches longer at each end of the leather and roll together into fruit leather rolls. When cool, twist the ends of the plastic wrap tightly to close.

6. Store fruit rolls in freezer-quality zippered plastic bags or airtight plastic container for shortterm storage, up to about 1 month. Leathers should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place.

For longer storage up to 1 year, place tightly wrapped rolls in the freezer.

If not using an electric dehydrator
Electric dehydrators produce the most reliable results. If you want to use an oven instead,
follow the methods below. Your oven should be able to maintain a temperature as low as 140 to 145°F.

Use cookie sheets with edges (13" X 15" or 12" X 17" pans work well). Line with plastic wrap, being careful to smooth out the wrinkles, or spray with vegetable oil cooking spray. Do not use waxed paper or aluminum foil.

Fruit leathers can be poured into a single large sheet or into several smaller sizes along the cookie sheet. Avoid pouring purée too close to the edge of the cookie sheet. Set oven at the lowest setting, which should be 140 to 145°F. If your oven does not a setting this low, it may not be suitable for home drying of foods. Place the cookie sheets with purée on oven racks.

Leave the oven door open about 2 to 6 inches. Check oven temperature periodically with a thermometer to keep the air temperature at about 140°F. If the temperature gets too high, the oven may have to be temporarily turned off, and then turned on again.

Drying time will be longer for the large leather than smaller ones. Drying time may also be longer in a regular oven than in an electric dehydrator, depending on temperature control during drying. For a large leather, begin checking your leather at 8 to 10 hours, however.


Reduced sugars-
If you prefer less sweetness, the honey may be omitted for an unsweetened mango leather.

Color control-
If you would prefer a lighter color to your leather, add 1/4 teaspoon (750 milligrams) of ascorbic
acid to the mango purée (sweetened or unsweetened versions) with the spices.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2009 at 6:36AM
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Thank you I'll give your recipe a try.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2009 at 2:33PM
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I dry sweet potatoes in slices for treats for my dog. I recently bought about 30 pounds at Walmart for $.10 a pound. I just bagged them up in bags. She will have them gone before they turn bad. I did apple slices also when Meijer had apples for $.25 a pound. I usually just keep my sweet potatoes in a cool dark place as I use them or if I want to prepare some ahead of time, I take the peelings off and cut to size, roll them in brown sugar and package and freeze. Or sometimes for sweet potato casserole I put them through the food processor and measure and freeze until ready to use. Of course you are asking about dehydrating them.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 9:46AM
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Thanks, sounds good. So far we haven't had any low sales for apples, sweet potatoes or brisket which I am wanting to try for ground beef. I just don't have a separate freezer.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 2:09PM
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