June 10, 2020
The past few weeks I have covered canning and freezing foods. An additional method of preserving food is dehydration. Dehydration of food is one of the oldest and simplest methods of food preservation. During the dehydration process, moisture is removed from the food. Removing the moisture prevents bacteria, yeast and molds from growing preventing the food from spoiling. Maintaining cleanliness throughout the process and using food-grade containers and equipment also ensures a safe food product.
There are a few ways you can dry foods. You could use a food dehydrator, an oven or the sun with the right combination of warm temperatures, low humidity and air current. The ideal temperature for drying foods is 140 degrees. Using a higher temperature will cook the food which maintains moisture, creating a greater likelihood of mold to develop. The lower the humidity, the faster the food will dry. By increasing the speed of the air current, the moist air is moved away from the food.
Using a food dehydrator will be the quickest method for drying foods because of its design maintaining a constant temperature and air flow. The oven will take longer and not all ovens have a 140-degree temperature setting. Propping the oven door 2-6 inches open and setting a fan near the door will improve air circulation. Solar- and sun-drying will take the longest. Since fruits have high sugar and acid content, they can be safely dehydrated using the solar- and sun-drying methods. Vegetables and meats are not recommended for outdoor drying. Solar- and sun-dried fruits require a pasteurization treatment after they have been dried to kill insects and their eggs.
Specific directions and additional information for drying fruits can be found in the MSU Extension MontGuide available at https://store.msuextension.org/publications/HomeHealthandFamily/MT200909HR.pdf. For vegetables, access the information at https://store.msuextension.org/publications/HomeHealthandFamily/MT200907HR.pdf. Contact our office if you would like printed copies.
To learn more, contact Janell at the Chouteau County Extension Office at 622-3036, email@example.com or in the green building next to the Chouteau County Courthouse at 1308 Franklin St in Fort Benton.
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