Thursday, April 05, 2012

Preserving food naturally - The new dehydrator part 1.

Whilst in the UK we purchased a nine-tray Excalibur Dehydrator. It is something we have considered buying for a while now. The discussion as to buy or not really focused on likely usage of the dehydrated fruit, vegetables and herbs we would produce. We currently freeze much of our excess for the garden or make soups, jams, chutneys, sauces and stews for use throughout the year. We also bottle many things such as peppers, beetroot and chillies. After chatting to several people who use dehydrators and reading articles about dehydrated food and raw food we decided that it would compliment our current efforts to grow the majority of our food, chemical free and as naturally as possible.

Dehydrated food has a long, long history and as a method of food preservation, has been proved to be an effective way to store excess for use throughout the year. Although there is an initial cost in drying the products, unlike a freezer, once stored, the food requires no further energy use. On the hole, enzymes are preserved much more efficiently than other methods of preserving. Vitamins, minerals and natural occurring sugars are also maintained with the exception of some vitamin C and A which can be lost if stored or dehydrated incorrectly.

So what are we going to do with it? Fortunately the dehydrator came with a free book that explains the basics and provides lots of ideas for use including making fruit leathers, dried fruit, vegetables and herbs, how to make cottage cheese with it, dehydrating raw foods to make a range of biscuits and crackers...and so on. We will definitely be making fruit leathers and plan to use them for walking trips as a snack. Throughout the year we get a glut of certain fruit and vegetables so we will be trying to dehydrate most things except brassicas and lettuce which apparently do not dehydrate well. Luis wants to create root vegetable crisps which sounds yummy and I might have a go at creating my own seaweed based crackers. Watch this space, more reports coming in the near future. If anyone out there uses a dehydrator, we would love to hear from you and hear about any tips you have learnt from experience or otherwise.

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