Dried fruit is superb! Try it plain, as fruit leather, or in ice cream, cobblers and pies. It’s hard to imagine a better tasting, more nutritious snack than dried fruit. Dried fruit is naturally sweet, has no preservatives, and is inexpensive.
Most fruits just need halving, coring or pitting, and slicing. Some fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches apricots and bananas tend to darken somewhat with drying, or storage beyond six to seven months.
To prevent this, fruit pieces may be dipped in solutions of lemon juice, pineapple juice, orange juice, sodium bisulfite, or ascorbic acid prior to dehydration. Dip the fruit in the solution for two minutes. Drain on paper towels and place in drying trays.
Most vegetables will need to be steamed or blanched before drying. This inactivates the enzyme which caused ripening and would continue to bring about changes in flavor and odor. Although untreated vegetables used within three to four months will have acceptable flavor, heat treated vegetables reconstitute much more quickly, making it desirable to treat even those to be used on next week’s camping trip.
Steaming is the better method of treating. Place a single layer of chopped or sliced vegetables in a colander or steam basket. Shredded vegetables can be 1/2 inch deep in the colander or basket. Set vegetables in a pot above a small amount of boiling water and cover. Water should not touch the vegetables. Begin timing immediately. Refer to table for length of steaming. When ready to remove, vegetables should be barely tender. Spread steamed vegetables on trays and dehydrate.
Blanching is faster than steaming, but many nutrients are lost in the blanching water. It is not recommended for chopped or shredded vegetables, which would easily overcook during blanching. To blanch sliced vegetables, drop the prepared vegetable into a large pot of boiling water. Do not add more than 1 cup food per quart of boiling water. Begin timing immediately. For timing, follow standard freezing directions. Timing is approximately one-third to one-half that of steaming, or until vegetables are barely tender.
A few vegetables, such as onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms can be dried and reconstituted successfully without heat treatment. In general, if vegetables must be steamed or blanched for freezing, they must be treated for drying.
Meats, poultry, and fish dry beautifully in dehydrators. The resulting products are lightweight and high in protein, making them an ideal food for outdoor enthusiasts. The dehydrator turns thin slices of beef, poultry, fish, or game meats into hearty mid-afternoon snacks or food to use much like salami on pizza or hash for main dishes. By taking advantage of fresh meat specials, these dried products can be obtained for a fraction of the cost of commercially prepared dried meats.
Cut meats across the grain into thin strips about 1-inch wide and 1/4-inch thick. Trim off all fat and connective tissues. For easier cutting, partially freeze by placing meats on the bottom of the freezer for about 30 minutes. Turn and freeze 15 minutes longer. To prepare fish, filet, then cut into 1-inch strips.