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Drying Food

Drying Food

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Published by: cisaacks on Nov 20, 2009
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Cooperative Extension Service
College of Agriculture andHome Economics
Drying Foods
Guide E-322
Martha ArchuletaExtension Food and Nutrition Specialist
This publication is scheduled to be updated and reissued 9/04.
Drying or dehydration, the oldest method of foodpreservation, is particularly successful in the hot, dryclimates found in much of New Mexico. Quite sim-ply, drying reduces moisture necessary for bacterialgrowth that eventually causes deterioration.Successful dehydration depends upon a slow steadyheat supply to assure that food is dried from the insideto the outside. Drying is also an inexact art. Size of pieces, relative moisture, and the method selected allaffect the time required to dehydrate a food adequately.
Foods may be sun dried with or without a solar de-hydrator, in a gas or electric oven, or with a portableelectric dehydrator. Dehydrators with thermostats pro-vide better control over poor weather conditions andfood quality than sun drying.An effective solar dehydrator is the shelf above theback seat of a car. Clotheslines are another populardrying rack for ears of corn. Colorful red chile ristrashung from vigas are practical as well as decorative.
Sun drying.
Prepared foods are placed on dryingtrays. Stainless steel screening and thin wood lath aregood materials for home-constructed drying trays. Asaluminum screening reacts with acids in the fruit, it isless desirable. Do not use galvanized, copper, fiber-glass, or vinyl screening.Trays measuring about 14"
1" are an easysize to handle. If trays are to be used in an oven, theyshould be 1-1/2" smaller in length and width thanoven shelves to allow air circulation.Place trays of food away from dusty roads andyards. Elevate them at least 1" above the table withspools or bricks to allow good air circulation belowthe food.Cover the food with a muslin or cheesecloth tent toprotect it from insects. Dry fruits in direct sunlight;move trays periodically to assure direct sun exposure.Place vegetables in the shade to prevent excessivecolor loss.If weather turns rainy, you will have to completethe drying process using another method.To destroy insects or their eggs that may be on sun-dried foods and to remove additional moisture inthicker pieces, heat foods in a 150
oven for 30 min.
Oven drying.
Either build trays as described forsun drying or convert oven racks to drying racks bystretching muslin or cheesecloth across the oven rack.Secure with toothpicks or long sewn stitches. Alternatetrays in the oven periodically to assure even drying.Set oven control at its lowest setting, but not below140–150
. If using an electric oven, wedge a potholderbetween oven and door to allow a 1" opening. Mois-ture from the drying food will vent through this open-ing. Close the door on a gas oven, as vent will permitmoisture to escape.
There are two types of dehydrators:solar and electric. For each type of dehydrator, pre-pare food and place on racks. If using a solar dehy-drator, adjust the position of the food throughout day-light hours to keep in direct sunlight.Follow manufacturer’s instructions for the electricdehydrators. When purchasing an electric dehydrator,select one that has a thermostat to regulate temperatureand a fan to circulate air.
General Directions for Preparing Foods forDrying.
Refer to the tables at the end of this guide forinstructions for specific foods.
Choose tender vegetables. Wash, re-move any damaged areas, and cut into even pieces.Blanch, then chill as though preparing for the freezer.
: Do not blanch mushrooms, onions, or sweetpeppers.To blanch in boiling water, use one pound of foodfor each gallon of boiling water. Immerse vegetableinto the boiling water using a wire basket or meshbag, cover kettle, and boil the recommended time (seetable). Blanching water may be reused until it be-comes cloudy. Drain vegetables thoroughly.To steam blanch, place 1" of water in kettle andbring to a rolling boil. Suspend thin layer of vegetablesin basket or loose cheesecloth bag. Cover and steamblanch required amount of time (see table).
To find more resources for your business, home, or family, visit the College of Agriculture and Home Economics on the World Wide Web at http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu 
Guide E-322 Page 2
Choose firm, mature fruit. Wash, peel if de-sired, remove any damaged areas, and cut into even-sized pieces or slices. Some fruits require little or nopretreatment. However, pretreat apples, apricots, ba-nanas, cherries, peaches, and pears by one of the fol-lowing methods to reduce vitamin and flavor loss,browning, and deterioration during storage.Immerse fruit in a solution of one of the followingto a gallon of water: 1 tbsp of sodium bisulfite or 2tbsp of sodium sulfite or 4 tbsp of sodiummetabisulfite. These pretreatments mixtures are avail-able from some grocery stores, pharmacies, and wine-making shops. Soak fruit pieces for 5 min. and fruithalves for 15 min.
: Approximately 5% of asthmatics are sensi-tive to sulfites. Use one of the following pretreatmentsif sulfites present a potential health problem:Dip fruit in a commercial ascorbic acid/water mix-ture from the grocery store. Follow manufacturer’sinstructions when preparing and using the solution.Steam blanch fruit for 5–6 min.; water blanch fruitfor 4–5 min. (see information on water and steamblanching above).Dip prepared fruit in a saline solution composed of 2–4 tbsp of salt and l gallon of water for 10–15 min.
Choose lean cuts of beef or venison. Freezeand remove all visible fat.
Drying time varies widely because of the methodselected and the size and amount of moisture in foodpieces. Sun drying requires the most time; an electricdehydrator requires the least. Vegetables take from 4to 12 hours to dry; fruits take 6–20 hours. Meats re-quire about 12 hours. Making raisins from grapes mayrequire days/weeks when dried outside.When testing foods for dryness, remove a piecefrom the center of the drying tray and allow it to cometo room temperature. Fruits and meat jerky should beleathery and pliable; vegetables should be brittle.
Food should be conditioned for a week before be-ing packaged for long-term storage. To conditionfood, place it in a container such as a cloth sack or aclear, covered container and allowing any remainingmoisture to redistribute itself through the fruit.If using a clear, covered container, watch for mois-ture beads. If they form, continue drying food. If usingthe cloth bag, hang it in a convenient location andshake the bag daily to redistribute food and moisture.
Place dried food in freezer-weight plastic storagebags, press out air, and then put in containers with atight-fitting lid. Store in a cool, dark, dry area.Dried foods store well at room temperature for amonth. Refrigerate foods if they will be used withinthree months; freeze foods for storage periods be-tween three months and one year. Foods should beused within one year.
Dried meat, commonly called jerky, is normallynot rehydrated and is eaten in the dried state. Driedvegetables used in soups rehydrate during the cookingprocess.Rehydrate vegetables by soaking them in 1-1/2–2cups of water for each cup of dried vegetable. If nec-essary, add more water during the soaking process.Heat and eat.Cover dried fruit with boiling water and let standfor 5 min. Drain. Dried fruit may also be steamed for3–5 min. until plump. Fruits may be eaten immedi-ately or used in a recipe.
Fruit leathers, also called fruit roll ups, can bemade from almost all fruits or combinations of fruits.However, peaches, apricots, cherries, and nectarinesare ideal. Pears and apples, sufficiently softened, alsowork well.Wash well, peel (if desired), cut into pieces, andpuree fruit in a blender. Sweeten to taste with sugar orhoney. Spread evenly, no more than 1/4" deep, on acookie sheet. The cookie sheet should either be lightlysprayed with a vegetable shortening or covered withplastic paper.If using plastic paper, tape edges down to preventthem from folding into the puree. Dry fruit leather un-til it is slightly tacky to the touch.When dried, lift leather (including plastic paper if used), and roll or cut into small sections and roll.Storage recommendations are the same as those de-scribed previously.
Dried foods retain their protein, mineral and vi-tamin A content fairly well if soaking water is alsoconsumed. Because they are concentrated into a small
Guide E-322 Page 3
mass, dried foods can also be high in calories. It’s im-portant to brush teeth after eating dried fruit becausethey stick to the teeth.
Home-prepared jerky was recently identified as thecause of a foodborne illness outbreak in the West. Thesmall electric dehydrator that was used hadn’t reacheda high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacte-ria.E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria can grow in the intestinesof animals and contaminate meat during handling. Tokill these bacteria, jerky must be heated to 160
Fwhile it is still moist. Because most home dehydratorsaren’t designed to reach this temperature, the jerkymust be heated in another way to guarantee safety.This can be done by precooking.Precooking in marinade shortens the drying timeand makes a more tender jerky. Although the colorand texture will be different from conventional jerky,precooked jerky is still tasty.
Note: Research is needed to identify other safe jerky-making procedures. To date, there is no safeprocedure for the dry cure method.To precook jerky
1.Freeze meat before preparing so that it will beeasier to slice.2.Cut partially thawed meat into long slices thatare no more than 1/4 inch thick. For tender jerky, cut at a right angle to long muscles(“across the grain”). Remove all the fat possibleto prevent off-flavors.3.Prepare 1-2 cups of marinade of your choice ina large sauce pan.4.Bring the marinade to a full rolling boil overmedium heat. Add a few meat strips, makingsure that they are covered by marinade. Re-heatto a full boil.5.Remove the pan from the range. Using tongs,immediately remove meat from the hot mari-nade to prevent over-cooking.Here is a simple marinade recipe:1teaspoon garlic salt2 cups soy sauce1 teaspoon coarse black pepperRepeat steps 4 and 5 until all meat has been pre-cooked. Add more marinade if needed.6.Place precooked strips in single non-overlap-ping layers on drying racks.7.Dry in a dehydrator or oven. Test for donenessby letting a piece cool. When cool, it shouldcrack but not break when bent. There should notbe any moist or underdone spots.8.Refrigerate the jerky overnight in a plasticfreezer bag. Then check again for doneness. If necessary, dry further.
Keep jerky in the refrigerator or freeze for long-term storage.Caution:
Soaking the meat strips in marinadeovernight is not advised. Bacteria will be spread in thekitchen when the marinated strips are drained beforeprecooking. Putting unmarinated strips directly intoboiling marinade minimizes a cooked flavor andmaintains safety.
Making Safe Jerky
” Prepared by Carolyn Raab, Extension Foodsand Nutrition Specialist, Oregon State University. Reviewed by MargyWoodburn, Professor Emeritus, Nutrition and Food Management,October, 1997. Approved for use in New Mexico by Martha Archuleta, Food and  Nutrition Specialist.

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