Drying is the oldest method of preserving food. Compared with canning and freezing, drying foods is quite simple though it does take time and attention. I can and freeze most of my produce, but I do like to work with drying fruits for snacks, granola and sack lunches.
I recommend using a food dehydrator instead of solar or oven drying because it is not as difficult to control the temperature and humidity levels while drying your product.
Many kinds of fresh produce, herbs, meat and fish can be dried. Before taking on a huge task of drying I suggest trying something simple like one or two of my favorite items to dry: Cinnamon Apples and Chocolate Strawberry Chews. Since the instructions on how to dry foods is often dependent on the weather, the moisture content of the product, how thick it is sliced, etc. drying times vary. Check the dehydrator manual for the basic guideline for each item.
Herbs and spices can be dried on the plant stalk or stem in a dehydrator. The seeds and leaves easily strip off once they are dry. A constant temperature of no more that 105 degrees F is best for herbs and 110 degrees F for spices. Dry for 2-10 hours until brittle. Cool and store in a sealed container in a dark place.
Peel, core and slice apples thinly. I use a manual apple peeler when I do a lot of apples. Soak apple slices in orange juice until all of the apples have been sliced. Drain, but donít rinse the apple slices and spread out on dehydrator trays in a single layer. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon to taste. Dry at 135 degrees F 4-15 hours until pliable, not brittle. Cool before storing in a sealed container.
Use for snacks, chop and add to granola or simmer 1Ĺ c apple slices in 2 c water until tender for making pies, cakes or muffins.
Chocolate Strawberry Chews
Wash, stem and cut in half as many strawberries as you want. Dip the outside of the strawberry half in pre-sweetened cocoa (I like Ghiradelli) and place the cut side down on lightly oiled dehydrator trays. Dry at 135 degrees F 5-25 hours until leathery. They will darken slightly. Cool before storing in a sealed container.
Use for snacks or add to trail mix.
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