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Dehydrating Vegetables – pre-treatming and preparing them

Elvis Elvis

Dehydrating vegetables has also been around for a long time. People also dried vegetables to save money a space even back then. Drying vegetables is a very inexpensive way to preserve them and can be done with the equipment you have at home. No need to buy anything if you don’t want to.

There are several things you need to do when dehydrating vegetables. Number one is that you will need to work fast, especially during the preparation time. As a general rule you should have your vegetables out of the ground and into your drying tray within two hours. Number two is that all vegetables will need to be pre-treated.

Note:

Only harvest what you can dry right away. Don’t pick 10 pounds if you can only dry 4 pounds to start with. Plan on 4-6 pounds per drying batch.

Preparation:

Sort your vegetables first to remove any with bad spots, decay or bruises. After they are sorted wash them gently, make sure you don’t bruise them, sort them again in case you missed some, especially when they were really dirty. After washing and sorting again, do your cutting, snapping or shelling. Most vegetables will need to sliced, trimmed, cored, etc. but you want to make sure all the pieces are the same size so they dry equally.

Pre-treatment:

You will need to pre-treat before dehydrating vegetables and there are several methods to accomplish this. The reason why is because the enzymes in the veggies are responsible for the flavor and color of the vegetable when it is ripening. You need to slow that down to prevent decay. There are only a couple of vegetables that do not need pre-treatment, mushrooms, onions and okra.

The method of choice for pre-treating vegetables is blanching. Two ways you can do this. Steam blanching or Water blanching. Blanching helps slow down the enzymes and preserves color, vitamin content and speeds up the drying time by relaxing the tissues.

Dehydrating Vegetables   pre treatming and preparing them

You do steam blanching by getting a kettle or pot with a tight lid. Put a colander or a steam basket in it. A deep kettle with a colander works best for big loads. Put 2 inches of water in or enough that the water is not touching the bottom of the steaming basket when boiling. You want the steam circulating around it, not the water boiling it. Put no more than 2 ½ inches of vegetables in your basket, after the water is boiling, and steam them until the vegetables are heated all the way through and wilted. Test them by taking some out of the middle and seeing if they are soft but not cooked. When they are done take them out and drain them on a paper towel or clean cloth.

Dehydrating Vegetables   pre treatming and preparing them

Water steaming will take out more of the nutrients and flavor than steam blanching but is quicker. Use the same kettle or pot and steam basket only fill the pot or kettle with water and get it to a boil. Put you vegetables in the basket and put it in the boiling water, make sure you don’t splash yourself. Test the same way to see if they are done, pull some out of the middle and check them. As soon as they are done take them out and dip them in ice water to cool. Drain them on paper towels or clean cloth.

Drying

Sun drying:

Sun drying vegetables can only be done in certain conditions. You will need at a minimum 90º and low humidity for no less than 3 days. If you can not depend on that then look at drying them inside. To dry them put your vegetables on wooden trays, not metal, put them in direct sunlight and keep them up off of the ground so air can circulate around the veggies. Cover them with netting or cheesecloth to protect from insects, don’t let the covering touch the food. Stir them every so often to get even drying.

Oven drying:

Dehydrating vegetables in the oven is faster than sun drying but a lot more expensive. It is also done in smaller loads so it is also more time intensive.

You will need to maintain a temperature of 140ºF or 60ºC. In an electric oven disconnect the top burner so you don’t burn your food. You can maintain the temperature by opening the door and using a fan. You will need the fan anyway for air circulation. Get the oven to that maintained temperature before putting in your food.

Put the food on trays that are 1 ½ inches smaller than the oven cavity itself, width and depth. You will need minimum of 3 inches clearance on top. Use a thermometer to check the temperature every ½ hour and adjust door opening accordingly. It will take less heat to maintain that temperature as the food dries.

Stir the vegetables every so often and rotate the trays every 1-2 hours from top to bottom. Food near the edge will scorch easily. When drying is almost done, open the door all the way and turn off the oven.

Note:

Drying times vary depending on the vegetable. Each article pertaining to a certain vegetable will contain the approximate drying times.

Food Dehydrator drying:

A much simpler method to use. Dehydrator’s are pretty much a “set it and forget it” method. Although you will need to check it and rotate the food every so often it is not near as time intensive as oven drying.
Simply prepare your food and put it in the trays, not touching each other. Preheat the dehydrator to 160º, put in your trays, check every ½ -1 hour and rotate the food. As the food dries lower the heat to 130º-140ºF until finished.

Dryness:

Foods that are warm are more pliable and moist to the touch. Wait until the food is cooled before testing the dryness. Vegetables should be hard and brittle when dry. Each article will tell you what to check for in each individual vegetable.

Conditioning:

Conditioning is putting your dried foods in a glass or plastic bowl, covering and letting it stand for a week. You will have some pieces that are drier than others and you need to even out the moisture content between pieces. Stir the food every day for a week and check for condensation. If you see moisture on the inside of the container then the food is not dry enough. Dry them again.

Pasteurizing:

Pasteurizing is mainly for the sun dried vegetables. You may have gotten insects in the food while it was drying and you need to get rid of them. Pasteurize by putting the dried food on a tray, put it in a pre-heated oven at 175º for 15 min. or 160º for 30 min. Take them out and cool them. You can also pasteurize by putting the food in the freezer at 0º for 48 hrs.

Packaging:

After the food is cooled place in an airtight container. Store only small quantities that you can use within a week after opening. Glass jars, cans with tight lids and vacuum sealed bags work well for this.

Storage:

Store in a dark, cool, dry place. Check for moisture every so often. If you see moisture on the inside of the container take the food and reheat it at 150ºF for 15 min. and repackage and reseal. If you see any spoilage then toss the food out.