Home Dehydration and Shelf Life

Discussion in 'General Food and Foraging Discussion' started by SonOfLiberty, Apr 28, 2009.

  1. SonOfLiberty

    SonOfLiberty Guest


    New here, first post, greetings from the heartland of Ohio!

    I’m looking for information on techniques, preparation and shelf life for long term food storage at a constant temperature.

    I have an Excalibur food dehydrator with temp control and 8 shelves, and can really crank out food in a pinch from it. We use it currently for our camping/Scouting trips and it works a treat. However I’m aware that preparing food for use within a few months is somewhat different than preparing it for multi-year storage.

    My plan right now, and please tell me if I’m falling flat on my face, is as follows.

    I want to incrementally create a pantry of dehydrated food for at least 1 years food for each member of my family (4 of us). I will be utilizing the FIFO rule for rotation of course.

    The basic plan for dehydration is to plan a menu for each meal, in hopes of achieving 2000-2300 calories per day per person. I’ll dry items until they are extremely dry, but not burnt. I will then break the dried fruit/vege/meat/sauce into individual sized portions. I will buy one of those vacuum sealer bag machines and bag then vacuum-seal the food in question. When I have all of the foods for a given set of meals bagged, I will create a “meal pack” of everything for that meal. So for example, I’d end up with a ¼ serving of meat (as fat free as I can find), a 1 cup serving of some kind of sauce/pasta, a 1 cup serving of fruits/veges. I’d place all of these in a regular zip seal bag and label them for what food they are and what date they were made, and store them in the basement, off of the floor and walls, in a dark container. I’ll be preparing these in batch bulk of course for 4 people, not just making one full meal at a time for one person which would be a time waster.

    So, is this a good procedure, and what kind of shelf life are we talking about here? I know grains and vegetables last forever if properly stored (well, close enough to forever, given FIFO). Meat has always been a question for me, I’m not planning on jerking the meat, as the salt levels in that are prohibitive. Simply frying, seasoning, maybe adding some bread while frying (helps reconstitution) and drying until crispy/very dry, then doing all of the aforementioned.
  2. SonOfLiberty

    SonOfLiberty Guest

    Some self education since I posted.

    Vacuum bags seem to be prone to deterioration or oxygen leakage over time, is this right?

    Mylar bags sealed with heat after putting in the product and desiccant/silicone gel pack works best, correct?

    Long term storage would make use of whole grains (shelled only), a grinder, as well as dried beans etc. for bulk. If I'm not mistaken, most of that kind of thing has an indefinite shelf life if kept dry, minimum oxygen and out of the light?

    Don't forget to include spices, salt, sugar source and baking powder/dehydrated eggs. Check.

    I do still wonder about the shelf life of dehydrated lean meat, unseasoned, if kept in an oxygen tight mylar bag? Any experience on this anybody? Or wouldn't it matter in a 2 year rotation plan?

  3. MaryV

    MaryV Well-Known Member

    it isnt safe to dry meat in a dehydrator unless you are making jerkey.
    i dry spaghetti sauce but only if it has no meat in it.
    what i have done with my excalibur is i have dried veggies and fruits, and put them in mason jars and sealed with my vacuumsealer. I also have put them in vacuumsealer bags. I have put dried fruit in mylar bags. I am still experimenting, but I like the mason jars for the veggies, I keep a jar of each veggie in my cupboard which I use for daily use, taking some out, resealing the jar, so the vacuumsealed bags are for longer storage, the mason jars more for daily use. I have dried tomatoes that I then ground up in the blender and put 2 tbsp each in a small foodsaver baggie, individual serving size, since the tomato powder is very concentrated it doenst take much to flavor a soup. that way I am not opening a jar constantly.
    again I will say, I have asked over and over and gotten the same answer from all the food experts, do not dehydrate meat or fish and expect it to stay safe for any length of time, only jerkey is considered safe.
  4. MaryV

    MaryV Well-Known Member

    I love mylar bags. I am using them for more long term storage. you can cut them down makign small bags of any size, sealing the edges with an iron. I label each bag with date and food. I am using mylar for powdered milk, oatmeal, and dried fruit, using oxygen absorbers.
  5. SurvivalNut

    SurvivalNut Retired Army

    First of all, you are proactive and thinking ahead. My compliments! I am not an expert, but I just want to throw in my opinion as it applies to me. I like feedback too. I am not perfect, just ask anybody.

    It seems like a lot of work. Also a single focus.
    All your eggs may be in one basket (rodent proof? flood proof in the basement? All one type of container/process?)
    Prepacked meals are quick, but….boring? Would you tire of them? Maybe only do a 30 day supply of prepacked items.
    I am practicing dehydrating but also putting direct effort into the supply pipeline of the dehydrator i.e. apple trees, nuts, gardening, grapes, etc.

    I can my dry goods in #10 can and rotate those into my pantry. Up to 30-year shelf life.
    I keep three months store bought goods in my pantry.

    Basically I have:
    72 hour kits
    Min 2 weeks goods in the freezer (bread, cheese, meats, yeast, jellies etc)
    3 months in the pantry
    Home canned fruit and veggies
    1 yr in #10 cans
    Fruit trees, nut trees, grapes vines, berries
    Vegetable Garden

    Breaking into the food storage is not a big deal because we rotate and use it constantly.

    From day one of an event, I would begin planning on replenishing and rebuilding the storage. My kids and relatives have fruit trees planted at their homes and I have planted Oak (acorn bearing) and fruit and nut trees at out of the way properties and lands around the area to prepare some “go to” areas. I visit them periodically to maintain them. In the meantime the wildlife is happy with them.

    I am just not secure unless I have a backup of a backup that is backed up
  6. SonOfLiberty

    SonOfLiberty Guest

    I'll check out meat again in dehydrators. I could have sworn that it was possible to dry deli meat (as an example) since it already had a decent sodium content. I'm probably wrong though, or thinking of short term instead of long term. In any event, canned meat isn't a bad fallback. Even the local Krogers carries canned meat that's good for 2 years (just bought some last night, expiration date of 02/11). FIFO would keep that fresh. :)

    The tomatoes are fun to dehydrate, especially Roma. That's a good idea on grinding them up to powder. Economical on space as well.

    Good system you have. That's something I'm working out now, the long/medium/short term logistics.

    Any suggestions on what precisely to search for, regarding local suppliers of bulk, such as beans and grains? We talking CostCo/Wally World here, or...?
  7. doc66

    doc66 Well-Known Member

    I have a buddy who makes "meat nuggets" in his dehydrator, basically cooked ground beef and sausage that he dehydrates and then uses for camping and storage. The shelf life is not measured in tens of years, but it does last over a year. The problem is the high fat content in the meat which eventually makes it rancid. The process involves lots of paper bags as well to help draw as much of the fat out as you can after cooking and before drying.
  8. SonOfLiberty

    SonOfLiberty Guest

    I may have to stick with canned meat in reserves for a year or two until we can get some animal husbandry going. I can make jerky for the kids, but the sodium content in jerky is absolutely through the roof, and the problem there is you can't eliminate it since the salt itself is what helps preserve it. Agh. :)

    My biggest concerns on a lot of this is that I live in a subdivision. It's going to be hard to move to things like raising animals in a long term situation. My hope is that any kind of long term turns out to be at most a year or two thing.

    We do have some family land, apx 40 acres, being willed/given to us outside of Marysville (or rather, on the outskirts) that we can move to if it looks like we're going to be living in permanent societal squalor, but who knows what may come if that time arrives? I really am not fond of thinking this way, but given how everything seems to be rushing headlong into some kind of deliberate attempt to collapse the nation, well, better safe than sorry.

    Doc, can you recommend any good local sources for bulk grains/beans? And are mylar bags mail-order only, or can you buy them somewhere in central Ohio?
  9. doc66

    doc66 Well-Known Member

    I've been looking for bulk grains locally myself, so far the Amish-oriented stores are the best way to go. Lehemans and stores like that. I look for the smaller, local ones myself, sometimes they have better prices. If you go to Lehemans, be ready to spend the day if you haven't been there already.

    I get all my mylar on line at https://www.usaemergencysupply.com/. They are a GREAT company. I have only good things to say abou them. They sent me replacement O2 absorbers for FREE when they found out the ones they had been selling didn't work as advertised. When a company treats me right, I spread the news! I've never bothered to look for mylar locally because of the great service I get from them.
  10. Herbalpagan

    Herbalpagan Well-Known Member

    I would get a variety of Food Preservation books, including one specifically on dried foods. I believe that you can dry some meats. My Food Saver works very well and I have never (in 5 years) had any leakage.
  11. Lucy

    Lucy Well-Known Member

    You can only safely dehydrate properly salted and prepared jerky. No other meats since they sit in the danger zone for too long before they dry. They will grow too much bacteria before they dry. The salt helps remove water, so they dry faster. It is called water activity.
    ( I teach food preservation methods and safety. ) You can get a free online booklet here on drying fruits and veggies.
  12. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

    Lucy, nice booklet, thanks for the info. Sailaway
  13. survivalprepdotnet

    survivalprepdotnet Prepping fanatic

    What do you mean by "sitting in the danger zone for too long before they dry"? Immediately after cooking my meats (primarily chicken), I dice them and put them in the dehydrator and then the meat is totally dry 12-16 hours later. The meat isn't sitting out, so there's no chance for bacteria to grow. Here are videos of my preparation process:

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkvMScLWtZ4"]YouTube- Dehydrating chicken for long-term food storage[/ame]

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W19vibwGSo8"]YouTube- Dehydrating chicken for long-term food storage, part 2[/ame]

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGWSYooCHzo"]YouTube- Dehydrating chicken for long-term food storage -- part 3[/ame]

    Here's the chicken after dehydration...you can see the texture and varied size of pieces:


    Could you elaborate more on this "danger zone"? I'm really not seeing how it would be an issue if meats are moved directly from the cooking stage to being dehydrated.
  14. Doomsayer

    Doomsayer Member

    i agree most jerky that you buy from a butcher or grocery store as a salt content.I make jerky from several different meats beef,chicken,turkey,and game meat. I don't add any salt to it just place in the oven at 150F for 24 hrs no spices or flavoring either. now i am not sure exactly how long it will last without being frozen just due to the fact that we love jerky and eat quickly but if placed in freezer it will be good to use 1yr later with no flavor lose from meat. store bought canned foods are good 2yrs beyond stated shelf life on the can
  15. KBur55

    KBur55 New Member

    dehydrating meat

    i was on u tub and many people cook up ground meat and cook chicken and put it in their dehydrator, if you use very lean meat and then cook till done the put in dehydrator till its very dry -like gravel, put in a oxygen absorber and then seal with a vacuum sealer there is no reason the meat should last. As long as you can keep the moisture out your good.
  16. gypsysue

    gypsysue The wanderer

    KBur55, after you do all that, do you keep it on a shelf or in the freezer? In a root cellar or other dark, cool place?
  17. gypsysue

    gypsysue The wanderer

    Does anyone know how "freeze dried" differs from "dehydrated"? I have #10 cans of freeze dried meats, purchased commercially. I wonder if that's a process that can be done at home?

    And does anyone know if milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and the like can be dried at home?
  18. jmtcbarby

    jmtcbarby New Member