dehydrate 101

Discussion in 'General Food and Foraging Discussion' started by tenntex, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. tenntex

    tenntex Active Member

    No, this isn't me instructing you how to do this, it's you answering some ignorant questions for me!

    1st How do you store your dehydrated food, and why do you do it that way? I've heard jars, vacuum bags, freezer... Some even dehydrate, vacuum seal, and then freeze. Isn't this redundant and expensive?

    2nd Is there any point to dehydrating frozen store-bought stuff? I recently dehydrated 3 bags of frozen corn, but am wondering why not store it in the freezer without dehydrating.

    3rd I've read most things need to come out of the dehydrator "leathery", and I know store-bought dehydrated food has this consistency, but I'm having a great deal of trouble over-drying tomatoes so that they are "crispy". Are they still usable? How do you know when it is dry enough without being too dry?

    Thank you!
  2. Moose33

    Moose33 Well-Known Member

    HI tenntex,
    I can't tell you what I do is the "right" way, I only know it works for me.
    1. For the stuff I use regularly, hash browns for example, I put them in a zip lock bag and on the shelf in my pantry. For stuff that I want to keep a bit longer, veggies, shrooms and the like, I put them in mason jars. I don't do anything special with them, vacuum sealing, O2 absorbers and the like. I do cycle through them so they never sit on the shelf over 12 to 18 months.
    2. I do dehydrate store bought frozen veggies. I use them in stews and soups during the winter. I do this because I can get three+ pounds of corn in a quart mason jar, I have limited freezer space and would rather have ice cream in it than frozen corn. :)
    3. I can't help you with this one. I don't eat tomatoes. They're slimy.

    Monday this week I dehydrated two pounds of small red beans. They're in a mason jar. I've never done beans before and these are a test. I want to see how much faster they rehydrate (if they rehydrate). I figure the day may come when cooking fuel might be limited and I don't want to have to cook beans for an hour if I can rehydrate them and heat them in five minutes. It's a pretty basic test but I've only been at this a couple of years.
    Take care,

  3. goshengirl

    goshengirl Supporting Member

    These are definitely not ignorant questions. :) Even though I do a fair amount of dehydrating now, I remember thinking the same questions about a year or so ago, even if I didn't ask them. And I am most definitely still learning - I don't think that ever stops!

    1) How do you store your dehydrated food?
    For me, I've gotten so that I store my stuff in mason jars. I use the vacuum seal attachment for jars, along with oxygen absorbers. Originally I used vacuum seal bags, but found that in storage the dehydrated foods often became too crumbly. I ended up with powder. Sometimes I want to end up with powder, or at least don't mind - but sometimes I really don't. I don't put stuff in the freezer. However, I think it depends on exactly what you're dehydrating - there are probably some items that are better stored that way, but I don't have that knowledge. (yet ;) )

    2) Is there any point in dehydrating store-bought frozen stuff.
    I think so. I need my freezer space! lol. And moreover, I don't want all my storage dependent on electricity. We had a lightning strike in our backyard a couple weeks ago -massive surge entered the house, power out, several electronics and appliances fried. We have two extra freezers - fortunately the one that was damaged was in the process of being emptied so it could be defrosted. But it could have easily been the other freezer, the one with the veggies in it. If that had happened, I would have lost all my stash. But by dehydrating frozen foods, I can keep my stash in a power outage. (Last week we had another storm with a lot of lightning, and had another strike on our property - not as close as the other one and no power issues, but close enough to remind me not to let my guard down.) If you find that dehydrated frozen stuff doesn't benefit you, then don't do it. All this stuff takes time, so definitely only spend the time doing whatever works for you - and that's not going to be the same for all of us.

    3) Most things need to come out of the dehydrator leathery - are your crispy tomatoes still usable?
    I honestly don't know the answer to that, as I dehydrate tomato sauce instead of tomatoes. If my sauce dehydrates too crispy, I can make that into tomato powder and store it that way. How do you use your tomatoes? I'd try using them and see if they work the way you use them. While there's a lot of learning you can get from other folks, there comes a time when you kind of back away from all that and work with things yourself and see if it works for you. Check out the thread 'What is everyone dehydrating today' and see Davarm's posts. He is a master of experimentation and sharing what he learns from his experiments. :)

    Good luck! :wave: (And let us know how it goes!)
  4. Emerald

    Emerald Well-Known Member

    I may be able to help just a bit with the tomato aspect.
    Most sun dried tomatoes are a bit leathery. to know if they are dry tho. I put just a few in a glass jar and close it tight and then watch for any type of liquid condensation on the jar.. with the warm tomatoes from the dehydrator if they are going to condense a bit of moisture it will as they cool in the jar.. if you see any moisture on your jar(inside) then they need to be dried longer.
    If you dry them and they are too dry.. then just powder them! I dry my left over tomato sauce/pizza sauce/spaghetti sauce till it is super crispy and then powder it for adding to soups and sprinkled with good parmigiana cheese over hot buttered popcorn.. Best snack ever!
    I call the plain stuff Tomato bullion powder.. but I am going to have to invest in some moisture packets.. because it does go rock hard if you open and close it too many times. Sure I can run it thru my spice grinder again but what a pain in the tookus.

    For storage I tend to use my mason jars and if I am not going to use it up in a few weeks I will use the attachment that came with my food saver to suck the air out and seal it.. keeps the flavor in better and keeps the moisture out. but I have taken to putting tomato powders in the small jelly jars to help with the hardening problem.
    At least with potatoes you can not over dry them( at least I don't think so).
  5. Moose33

    Moose33 Well-Known Member

    I should add my hash browns are the frozen kind from the grocery store. Once dehydrated, and rehydrated, if I hadn't done them myself I wouldn't know the difference. They come out great every time. With the diced frozen potatoes, they dehydrate well but sometimes I have a few that simply will not rehydrate. I probably toss a dozen little dices out of every bag. No big deal.
    Take care,
  6. tenntex

    tenntex Active Member

    Thanks for your answers! Very helpful!

    Emerald, cool test for dryness!

    Last night DW made taco soup using dehydrated frozen corn and "crispy" tomatoes. Both rehydrated well and the soup turned out very good. I feel better, now, after actually using them.

    DW is impressed with me learning how to preserve tomatoes. She had canned lots of tomatoes one year shortly after we were married, and hasn't canned any since. Dehydrating is MUCH easier. And she always worried that tomatoes were more susceptible to botulism.