Dehydration with Clemson Food Safety and Nutrition Team

Rhonda Matthews is a member of Clemson's Food Safety and Nutrition Team, and she's based in Greenwood. She's sharing a new idea, but it used to be something people did a lot. The technique for preserving food is centuries old. Now since we've had that resurgence of grow your own, eat your own, we're seeing folks doing all kinds of food preservation. Freezing and canning are extremely popular, but we want to address dehydration best practives.

Dehydration is a really an easy, straightforward, and safe way to make the end and beginning of your garden just last and last.

Selecting a Dehydrator

There's a couple of different types of dehydrators out there. To select the one right for you, it depends on how much food you're interested in drying. An entry level dehydrator is probably going to have the fan at the top or perhaps at the bottom. And it will circulate the heat. The flowing air removes moisture, which prohibits microbes from growing. It makes our food safe to eat and last longer on the shelf.

An entry leve dehydrator will do a couple of pounds of food. If you want to do pounds and pounds of food, you want to move up to a larger model that will do several pounds of food at one time.

Now, the oldest version of drying food of all time is probably going to be just lay it out and let mother nature do her job-- a little breeze, a little sunshine. There's plenty of folks that still dry their apples outside on those screens, the way Grandma used to do. The dried apples are delicious.

Dried Apple Slices

Probably the most popular thing to dehydrate is beef jerky, but dehydrating fruit is simple and easy for anyone to do.

  1. Cut your apple slices to be uniform thickness. You don't have to cut our the middle or take off the peel. Adds more fiber to the dried slices.
  2. Let the apple sit in water. The water in the video had Fruit Fresh added. If you don't have Fruit Fresh, you can crush up Vitamin C tablets and place them in the water. The Vitamin C will treat the apples and prevent them from darkening. You can also use lemon juice
  3. Lay them out on the screen in a single layer.
  4. Slide your apple slices into the hydrator, give or take six or eight hours, you're going to have dried apples.
  5. Sprinkle on a little cinnamon for extra flavor.

Storage Tips

One of the common questions is how do you store your dehydrated food.

The important thing to remember is the moisture has been removed, so we want to prevent moisture from getting back to it and being reabsorbed during storage. We recommend a moisture vapor-proof container. Freezer bag, not sandwich bag. Freezer bag excludes will exclude the moisture in the ambient air.

We also recommend choosing the size that is appropriate for how much you're going to need for the recipe you intend to cook. If you've got a family of three or four, don't use a gallon bag. Use a smaller bag so that way, you can use one bag a time.

Store you deydrated products on a shelf or in a cool place in your home. At 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the fruits will last up to a year. Vegetables will last up to six months. If it's a little bit warmer than that in your house, about 80 degrees you get about half as much time.

Dehydration really might be better than the traditional canning since its easier and less effort to go into it.

If you have questions you can call your local Clemson Extension Agent and tell the person that answers, "I want to talk to the food safety and nutrition person." Most local extenions agents will be glad to offer you any kind of food preservation information.