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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dehydrate Foods for Long Term Storage

Bulking up on food for long term food storage is always a good idea in the case a long term disaster were to occur.  However, those who are preparing for long term disasters know that purchasing long term food sources such as freeze dried foods have the advantage of lasting for 10 years, but it can be costly.  There is another method that is both cost effective, and more nutritious.
For centuries, dehydrating food has been seen as a survival necessity.  Many believe this preservation method is the safest, most affordable and best way to preserve flavors of foods.  The dehydration process removes moisture from the food so that bacteria, yeast and mold cannot grow.  The added benefit is the dehydration process minimally effects the nutritional content of food.  In fact, when using an in-home dehydration unit, 3%-5% of the nutritional content is lost compared to the canning method which losses 60%-80% of the nutritional content.  Additionally, vitamins A and C, carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, magnesium, selenium and sodium are not altered or lost in the drying process.  Therefore, the end result is nutrient packed food that can be stored long term.

How Can a Person Use a Dehydrator

There are multiple ways that one can use a dehydrator.  They can dry vegetables, fruits, make jerky, make fruit or vegetable leather, dry herbs, make spices, dry noodles, and even make crafts such as dough ornaments.
Dehydrating vegetables and fruits  to use for long term storage is a great way of including needed nutrition into diets with minimal investment.  When dehydrating food, one should use fresh produce or meat.  Typically, when overly ripe fruits and vegetables are dehydrated, the texture is not as crisp.  For example, if one were to dehydrate over ripe bananas, the end result would be a chewy banana chip as opposed to a crispy banana chip.  If a person were to use the ripe fruits or vegetables, they could puree the produce and make fruit or vegetable leather to use later.

How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last

In most cases, dehydrated food can be stored for up to a year.  Once dehydrated, the food does not take up a lot of space, and can be stored in a more organized fashion.
  • Fruits and vegetables can last for up to 1 year, if properly stored.
  • Dried meats should be consumed within 2-3 months.  However, it is suggested that if dried meats have not been consumed after 1 month, they should be stored in the refrigerator to prolong the freshness.
  • Herbs can last for years.
  • Noodles should be eaten within 1 year in order to enjoy the freshness.
If a person wanted to rehydrate the food to use in cooking, add boiling water and cover with a lid for 20-30 minutes to expidite the process. It is recommended to add salt after the re-hydration process has been completed.

Storing Dry Foods

Once food has been dehydrated, it should be stored in an area not exposed to a lot of light, such as a pantry.  It is recommended that any food that contains vitamin A not be exposed to light.  According to James Talmage Stevens’ book, Making the Best of Basics, Stevens recommends these general storage suggestions:
  • Freezer-weight, zip-lock bags are excellent for packaging dried foods.  Force excess air from bags as they are sealed.
  • Procure heavy-duty, food-grade, storage-quality, sealable plastic bags from local commercial packaging wholesalers.
  • Store dried food products in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight.  Use a Kraft paper bag inside larger plastic bags to shield dried foods from sunlight.  Paper used outside the plastic bags provides a nesting place for bugs or spiders.
  • Store only one kind of food in each individual package to avoid mixing flavors and possible cross-contamination should molds or spoilage occur.
  • Another method for storing dried products is to place dried food in a food-quality, plastic bag, then put i tin an airtight glass or metal container.
  • Discard moldy food.  Don’t take chances on botulism or a debilitating sickness over a few pennies or dollars.  Don’t feed mold foods to pets, either!
  • The problem of a few bugs in dried foods may be solved by spreading the infested dried food on a cookie pan, placing in tn a 300 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  Bugs and eggs die, and the food is edible again. (Protein content is higher too).
In planning for a long term disaster, people are always trying to find foods they can look forward to that will give them optimum nutrition.  Having the necessary vitamins and nutrition will give a person mental clarity, and strength to carry on during a disaster.  After all, surviving and being healthy is what matters.

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