Food dehydration is the process of removing moisture from food using warm air for evaporation. Some items, especially herbs, can be sun-dried with great success. Or you can purchase a home food dehydrator with controlled ventilation. The result is delicious dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and meats that you can store and eat later.
You can, for example, make raisins from grapes and prunes from plums. Other fruits that dry well is apples, apricots, bananas, dates, figs, papaya, pears, and pineapple.
Vegetables that dehydrate well include bell peppers, green beans, onions, peas, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and many others. Herbs such as basil, dill, mint, parsley, and so on are easily dried for long-term storage. Beef is often dehydrated to make beef jerky.
If you purchase a food dehydrator, it will come with complete instructions on how to dehydrate foods at home. You also should be able to find many good books on home dehydrating by asking at your local bookstore. Realize, however, that dehydrating your own three-month supply of food is not easily done. Unlike buying commercially dehydrated products, where all the work has been done for you, home dehydrating is very time-consuming.
Reconstituting Guidelines for Dehydrated Foods
When food is dehydrated, the water is evaporated out and the cell walls collapse. Some products, such as tomatoes, cannot be reconstituted to the texture that they were before. However, they can be used in soups, sauces, or seasonings. It’s very easy to reconstitute food. A good rule of thumb for reconstituting fruits, vegetables, and meats is to add about three times the amount of boiling water to the dry product and let it sit for at least twenty minutes. If you use cold water, the product must sit in the refrigerator for about four hours or overnight. If you have added too much water, you can drain it and use it in cooking. If it looks like you used too little water, then simply add more. If using commercially packaged items, follow package directions when they’re listed.
To speed up the reconstitution process, add the dried products directly to soup and cook as usual.
Home Canning Foods
Part of living providently is to “put up,” or can, any excess fruits, vegetables, and meats from your garden and farm. Most people stock up on food during harvest in the fall and early winter. You will find that families, in general, are better prepared in the late fall or early winter than in the spring and summer. It is a natural thing to stock up with food as winter approaches, then to delete it through the winter and spring.
Home canning is an art, but you can easily acquire this skill if you are willing to learn and have the right equipment. I suggest you get one of the many great books written on home canning and try it yourself. Fruits and tomatoes are probably the easiest to put up so I recommend you begin with those. Salsas, mixed vegetables, stews, soup, and meats are a little trickier. Get recipes that have been tested by a university extension service and are fairly recent. Be careful with recipes that have been handed down with directions changed in some way. You don’t want to risk a bacterial infection from eating improperly processed or inadequately sealed canned food.
Vegetables that can be “put up” or canned at home include beets, carrots, corn, green beans, onions, peas, potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and turnips. You can also can whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, salsa, pickles, and relishes.
All fish and meats can be canned at home. Beef, chicken, deer, elk, grouse, pheasant, rabbit, salmon, tuna, and many others are often canned. Families that catch their own fish often home-can part of what they catch for future use. Families that include hunters typically obtain meat in the fall and winter months, when the wild game season is on and can what they don’t eat fresh. Lots of families raise cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals, and slaughter them during the cooler months. You can store these hunted or home-grown sources of protein for the long term by canning,
freezing, or dehydrating them. Fruits that are commonly canned at home include apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, and pears. People who home-can frequently put up items such as applesauce, grape and other fruit juices or nectars, and jams and jellies. For convenience, keep all your canning equipment together and store it where you can easily find what you need when you need it. I had a special shelf built above my food storage shelves in my utility room where I now keep all my canning equipment—
in fresh plastic garbage bags so it stays clean from one canning season to another.