Thursday, November 29, 2007

Recipes - Tangy Stewed Fruit

2 to 3 cups dried fruit such as apples, apricots, cherries, figs,
nectarines, peaches, pears, pineapple, cranberries, or prunes
21/2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon lemon juice1/2 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons sugar1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1/4 cup honey

1. Pour boiling water over dried fruit in a medium saucepan. Let stand to soften 5 to 15 minutes.
2. Add orange and lemon juices. Bring to a boil.
3. Simmer 20 minutes.
4. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, and honey. Mix well.
5. Serve hot or cold.

Recipes -Dried Fruit Rice Pudding

1/4 cup uncooked rice1/2 cup sugar
4 cups milk1/4 teaspoon ground ginger1/4 teaspoon salt3/4 cup dried fruit, cut into small pieces (not dried bananas)

1. Combine all ingredients in a large casserole.

2. Bake, uncovered, in a 300°F oven for 21/2 hours, or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally. Occasional stirring is especially important during the first hour of baking.

3. Cool. Serve cold.

Recipes - Dried Berry Cobbler

2 cups dried blueberries, cranberries, gooseberries, or other berry
2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons tapioca
1 to 11/2 cups sugar, depending on tartness of berries

1. Pour boiling water over the berries and let them soak for 3 to 4 hours.

2. Place soaked berries and liquid in a shallow baking dish.

3. Combine sugar and tapioca; sprinkle over the berries.

4. Cover the berries with batter (see below), and bake 30 minutes at 400°F.

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
11/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1. Cream together butter and sugar. Add beaten egg.
2. Thoroughly mix flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture one-half cup at a time, alternately with the milk.

Recipes - Tangy Golden Fruit Snack

Makes about 36 balls
1/2cup dried apricots1/2cup dried apples1/2cup dried peaches1/2cup finely grated dried coconut1/4cup finely chopped nuts
1 teaspoon finely grated citrus fruit peel (orange, lemon, lime)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1/4 cup honey (you may want to add 1 more tablespoon of
honey if you are using a tart juice such as lemon juice)
1/4 cup citrus juice
Powdered sugar, if desired

1. With a food processor or grinder, grind apricots, apples, and peaches into bits about half the size of a raisin or about 1/8 inchin diameter. Place in a medium bowl.

2. Stir in coconut, nuts, citrus peel, and cinnamon.

3. Slightly warm honey and citrus juices. Stir to mix well.

4. Slowly pour the honey mixture over the fruit mixture, stirring until the mixture sticks together evenly.

5. Form into balls 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter (about 1 rounded tea spoon) and place on drying racks.

6. Dry in food dryer until no longer sticky to the touch (2-3 hours).

7. If desired, roll balls in powdered sugar.

Recipes - Dried Vegetable Quick Bread

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup honey
3 beaten eggs
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla or other flavor extract
2 cups finely chopped, rehydrated vegetables (about 11/2 cups dried)
(optional) 1/2 cup raisins or other chopped dried fruit

1. Using equal amounts of dried vegetables and water, cover the vegetables with cool water. Soak for 15 to 60 minutes, until soft. Drain and set aside.

2. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, mix the honey, eggs, oil, vanilla flavoring, and 2 cups of the rehydrated vegetables.

4. Pour the honey mixture into the flour mixture. Mix well until the flour is completely moistened.

5. Add raisins or dried fruit, if desired.

6. Pour into two greased and floured 7- by 3-inch loaf pans.

7. Bake at 350°F for about 50 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, the loaves are done.

Recipes - Vegetable Soup

Serves 6
4 cups water
3/4to 1 cup dried vegetables
(green beans, corn, peas, tomatoes, onions, etc.)
2 packages bouillon granules or cubes
Seasonings to taste (herbs, soy sauce, or curry)
Variation: Add 1/2 cup rice, noodles, lentils,or barley with the other ingredients.

1. Bring water to a boil. Add dried vegetables, bouillon,and seasonings.

2. Simmer about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender, though chewy. (Freshly dried vegetables will not take as long to reconstitute as those that have been stored for a long time.)

3. Remember to refrigerate leftovers.

Enjoying Dried Foods

You can eat dried fruits plain or mix them with nuts and seeds for a healthy mixed snack. Use chopped dried fruit or whole dried berries or cranberries instead of raisins or nuts in cakes, quick breads, and cookies. Dried vegetables make excellent additions to homemade soups and stews. Generally you should soak root crops such as beets, carrots, and potatoes before adding them to a soup, stew, or casserole. Most other dried vegetables can be added directly. (You may need to increase cooking time and add extra liquid to be sure the vegetables are tender.) Dried leafy vegetables can be powdered in a blender or food processor then stirred into soups or purées.

To prepare a dried soup mixture, cut fresh vegetables into small pieces then dry them according to the directions for each vegetable. After drying, combine and store them. Cabbage, carrots, celery, corn, onions, and peas make tasty combinations. Rice, dry beans, split peas, and meat stock are usually added at the time of cooking

Plumping and Rehydrating Fruits and Vegetables Fruits.

To plump or soften dried fruit to make it more chewable, cover it with boiling water, let it stand for 5 minutes, and drain. Vegetables. When you soak or rehydrate dried vegetables, they should plump to nearly the same size they were when fresh. Start with 11/2 to 2 cups cold water for each cup of dried vegetable. Keep the vegetables covered with water during soaking by adding more water, if necessary. Rehydrating root vegetables takes about 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the pieces. If you are adding dried vegetables to a soup or stew, don’t worry about rehydrating them; just toss them in.

Fruit Leather from Canned Fruit

1. Thoroughly drain home-canned or commercially canned fruit or use baby food fruit without tapioca.
2. Follow steps 3 and 5-9 for uncooked fruit leather. Since canned fruits have been heat processed to stop enzymatic action, you don’t need to add ascorbic acid.

Drying and Storing Fruit Leathers

Place prepared trays in the dehydrator. Dry until the leather is sticky, generally 6 to 8 hours at 140°F. Properly dried fruit leather will be translucent and slightly tacky to the touch but will still peel away from the plastic wrap.

Lift an edge of the leather, which should stick tightly to the surface, and peel it back slightly. If the leather peels away readily, it is dry. If the leather has cooled, it may need to be warmed slightly for a few minutes to help it peel away. If the fruit leather cracks or chips, it has dried too long, but it is still edible. Remove the remainder of the plastic wrap. If part of the leather is still sticky, you can dry it more without the plastic wrap.

After drying the fruit leather, leave it whole or cut it into pieces. The fruit leather can be rolled and wrapped in plastic wrap or stored flat in sheets with plastic wrap separating each sheet. Place the wrapped pieces in an air-tight container in a cool, dark, dry place. You can also store fruit leather in the refrigerator or freezer.

Cooked Fruit Leathers

Cooked Fruit Leathers (Double-Boiler Method)

1. Select, wash, and prepare fruit as described for uncooked fruit leather.

2. Cut the fruit into slices or chunks and place them in the top of a double boiler.

3. Add water to the bottom of the double boiler. Cover the double boiler and steam the fruit for 15 minutes or until fruit is soft. (If a double boiler is not available, you can place a small pan containing the fruit in a larger pan that is partially filled with boiling water.)

4. Follow steps 4-9 for uncooked fruit leather.

Cooked Fruit Leathers (Microwave Method)

1. Select, wash, and prepare fruit as described for uncooked fruit leather.

2. Cut the fruit into slices or chunks and place them in a microwavesafe bowl.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a microwave lid.

4. Microwave on high for 4 minutes, stir, and rotate the bowl. Continue stirring and rotating the bowl every 4 minutes until fruit is soft.

5. Follow steps 4-9 for uncooked fruit leather.

Making Fruit Leathers

Fruit leathers are a wonderful way to use small quantities of fruit or extra-ripe fruit. Fruit leathers, also known as fruit paper and fruit taffies, are chewy fruit roll-ups made from either cooked or uncooked fruit purée.

Fruit leathers allow for individual creativity through combinations of different fruits. Generally you can use any kind of fruit, including apples, bananas, berries, grapes, mangos, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, and even tomatoes. Citrus fruits alone are generally not recommended. Fruit leathers are an excellent use for slightly overripe or bruised fruit that would otherwise be discarded.

Uncooked Fruit Leathers

1. Select ripe or overripe fruit or fruit combinations.

2. Wash fruit and cut away blemishes. Remove stones or pits. Remove larger seeds from berries, grapes, and tomatoes if you wish. Peel all tough-skinned fruits; peel others if you wish.

3. Cut fruit into chunks and place them in a food chopper, blender, or food processor.

4. Add 1 tablespoon lemon or other citrus juice per quart of yellow or light-colored fruit, if desired, for keeping fruit color.

5. Chop, grind, or blend the fruit into a thick purée. If the fruit has little juice, add several spoonfuls of water or fruit juice to obtain a uniform purée. (If uncooked fruit purée is too juicy, it can be cooked to remove excess liquid.)

6. (Optional) Add sugar, honey, or corn syrup to taste. (Generally no additional sweetener is needed, particularly with ripe fruit, because fruit tastes sweeter after being dried.)

7. (Optional) Add spices (for example, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves,allspice) to taste. Start with 1/2 teaspoon dried spice per quart ofpuréed fruit; spice flavors intensify during drying.

8. Use a drying tray designed for fruit leather or line a portion of a drying tray with lightly oiled heavy plastic wrap. Do not completely cover the tray with plastic wrap or the air will be unable to circulate to other trays. Pour a small amount of purée onto the lining wrap. Make sure the tray has an edge to prevent spillage. Tilt the tray until the purée spreads no more than 1/4 inch thick almost to the edge of the plastic wrap. (Two cups of purée will cover a 12- by 17inch drying tray.)

9. (Optional) Sprinkle the purée with chopped nuts, seeds, or grated coconut.


The length of time you can store dried food depends on
The type of food
Factors related to the drying process (pretreatment and final level of moisture in the dried food)
Packaging of the dried food

The storage area

An ideal storage area for dried food is cool, dark, and dry. The cooler the storage area, the longer the shelf life. Dark areas are ideal because light fades fruit and vegetables and decreases their vitamin A and C contents. The storage area need not be fancy; a ark, unheated closet or drawer works fine. Metal containers have the advantage of keeping their contents in darkness. Glass or plastic containers can be covered with a cardboard box, a barrel, or black plastic to keep light out.

Many people store dried foods in the refrigerator or freezer, which keeps quality high.

During storage at room temperature, the most common type of spoilage is mold growth. Molds can grow in foods that are not completely dry and in foods that absorb water when they are packaged or stored in moist conditions. (Remember: don’t consume moldy foods. Some toxic molds can grow at room temperature.) Dried food will probably not absorb enough water to allow bacterial or yeast spoilage. One typical change that occurs during storage is “Maillard browning,” which involves complex chemical reactions between the food’s sugars and proteins. Other chemical changes that may take place during storage include loss of vitamin C or other nutrients, general discoloration, changes in food structure leading to an inability of the dried food to fully rehydrate, and toughness in the rehydrated cooked product.

Choosing Containers

The ideal container for a dried food is:
  • Clean and sanitary
  • Nontoxic
  • Lightweight
  • Easily disposable or recyclable
  • Moisture resistant
  • Airtight
  • Protective against light
  • Easily opened and closed
  • Impermeable to gases and odors
  • durable
  • Low-cost
Unfortunately no single food container has all these characteristics. Make your choice based on the type of dried food, your intended storage conditions, and storage time. Three materials—glass, plastics, and metal (never galvanized steel)—are used for packaging most dried foods. Even open-and-close plastic bags are suitable. One good method of storing dried food is to place sealed plastic bags inside a larger glass or metal container with a tight-fitting lid. This twostep packaging has the advantages of being relatively easy, allowing more food to be stored in one container, and protecting against insects and other pests. Although you could store more than one type of dried food inside the larger glass or metal container, do not combine foods with strong odors such as onions, cabbage, or broccoli because other dried foods may absorb their odors.


Good packaging and storage techniques are crucial. Packaging protects your dried food from oxygen, moisture (gain or loss), light, microorganisms, and pests. After you have checked foods and found them to be thoroughly dry and cool, pack them immediately for storage.

Conditioning Fruits

Some pieces of fruit will be more moist than others after drying so it is a good idea to condition fruits before long-term storage. Conditioning distributes moisture evenly in the fruit. It reduces the chance of spoilage, particularly from mold.

To condition, loosely pack cooled, dried fruit in plastic or glass containers to about two-thirds full. Cover the containers tightly. Shake them daily for about 2 to 4 days. The excess moisture in some pieces will be absorbed by the drier pieces. If you notice water forming on the container lid, place the fruit back in the dehydrator. Because vegetables dry to a nearly waterless state, conditioning vegetables is not necessary.

Drying for Top Nutrition

  • Don’t overblanch.
  • Dry foods as quickly as possible without raising the temperature above 150°F initially or above 140°F for the remaining drying time. Dry herbs, coconut, and mushrooms at lower temperatures.
  • Do not overload the dryer.
  • Keep the food on the drying trays well spaced with no overlapping.
  • Keep good air circulation to quickly move moisture away from the drying food.
  • If possible, dry when the relative humidity is low.
  • Check to be sure foods are sufficiently dry.
  • Condition dried fruits.
  • Store dried foods in packages that do not admit moisture or oxygen.
  • Store dried foods in a cool, dark, dry place.
  • Store in amounts that can be used easily at one time.

Drying in a Dehydrator

Distribute the food on trays in a single layer. Different foods can be dried at the same time, but try to choose foods that will dry in about the same amount of time. (Dry similarly sized pieces together.) Onions, peppers, and other strong foods tend to flavor other foods, so dry them separately.

Moisture must be removed from the food as quickly as possible at a temperature that does not seriously impair the flavor, texture, or color of the food. If the temperature is too low at the beginning, the food may spoil before it dries. If the temperature is too high, the surface may harden so that the interior dries much more slowly. Start the dryer at 140° to 150°F, with the exceptions noted in the drying guidelines After 2 to 3 three hours, lower the dryer temperature to 130°F to 140°F. Adequate air flow can reduce drying times.

Monitor the drying process.

If necessary, rotate the trays to ensure even drying. You may need to stir grated, shredded, or finely cut foods.

Drying Time

Many factors affect drying time, including type of food, size and moisture content of the food pieces, pretreatment method, dryer type, dryer temperature, relative humidity of the air, and amount of air movement in the dryer and in the surroundings. With so many factors at work, it’s impossible to give precise drying times.

Generally, you can figure on drying times of 6 to 36 hours for fruit and 3 to 16 hours for vegetables, which take less time due to their lower sugar contents. Check the instructions that come with your dehydrator, and read the general guidelines for drying times for various foods In the end, you need to decide when food is dry.

Vegetables are sufficiently dry when they are brittle or leathery. Leathery vegetables will be pliable and spring back if folded. Brittle vegetables such as corn and peas will shatter when hit with a hammer. Fruits are sufficiently dry when they are pliable and leatherlike and have no pockets of moisture.

Herbs are sufficiently dry when brittle. Their leaves will shatter when rubbed together.

When you think the food is sufficiently dry, remove a piece and allow it to cool completely. Then check for dryness. When you are in doubt about the dryness of a food, continue to dry it. Foods dry more quickly toward the end of the drying period, so check them frequently, and avoid leaving them in the dryer after they are done. Leaving them in will reduce their quality.

Pretreating Vegetables

Blanching (heating in boiling water or steam) is the pretreatment method of choice for vegetables. Almost all vegetables should be blanched before drying to destroy the enzymes that make vegetables deteriorate. Blanching keeps vegetables from browning, becoming bitter, or developing off flavors. Blanching also cleans and softens vegetables and makes them easier to rehydrate later. Although you can use either boiling water or steam for blanching, vegetables lose more nutrients during boiling.

Steam Blanching.

Use a steamer or make a steamer out of a kettle with a tight-fitting lid. Place a colander, wire basket, or sieve inside the kettle. Make sure the food will be above the water level. Add 2 inches of water to the kettle and heat it to boiling. Place the container with the loosely packed food in the steamer, cover the kettle tightly, and continue boiling.

Water Blanching.

Fill a kettle with enough water to cover the food. Bring the water to a rolling boil and gradually stir in the food. Cover the kettle tightly and boil. You can reuse the water when blanching more of the same food, adding more water as necessary. If the water appears dirty, replace it with clean water.

Determining Blanching Times.

Blanching times vary with altitude (higher altitudes require longer blanching times), the type and texture of the vegetable, the amount of vegetable, and the thickness of the pieces. Generally, vegetables should feel and taste firm yet tender. They should not be fully cooked, but they should be heated all the way through. Test the food by cutting through a piece. If sufficiently blanched, it will appear cooked (translucent) nearly to the center.

The drying guidelines suggest blanching times, but you should test the food frequently to avoid over- or underblanching. Underblanching may cause deterioration in storage, poor rehydration, or bad color. Overblanching makes vegetables lose color, flavor, and nutrients and gives them poor texture after rehydration.

After Blanching.

Drain vegetables by pouring them irectly on the drying trays. If you plan to reuse the water, place a large pan under the trays. Wipe the bottom of the drying tray with a clean towel to remove excess water. Draining the vegetables on one tray and then transferring them to the drying tray results in unnecessary handling. Immediately transfer the blanched vegetables into the dehydrator so drying can begin while the vegetables are still warm.

Drying Canned Fruits and Frozen Vegetables

Using canned fruits is a quick way to prepare fruit for drying. Drain the syrup, rinse the fruit, and cut it into 1/2-inch slices, if desired, then dry as usual. Drying times will be longer than for fresh fruit because the canned fruit will contain absorbed syrup. Dried canned fruit resembles candied fruit and can be used in similar ways. Likewise, frozen vegetables can be thawed, drained, and dried.Blanching was taken care of before freezing.

Pretreating Fruits

Decomposition from enzyme action during storage is less a problem with fruits than it is with vegetables. Fruits have higher levels of sugar and acid, which counteract enzyme action. Although pretreating fruit is not necessary, you can use an ascorbic acid/citric acid dip, a salt solution dip, syrup blanching, a honey dip, or a sulfiting procedure. Certain fruits, such as apricots, pears, peaches, and some varieties of apples, tend to discolor with drying. Pretreating those fruits can decrease browning during processing and storage and lower losses of flavor and of vitamins A and C. If you use a pretreatment method that requires soaking fruits in a water solution, you will need to increase drying time because the fruit will absorb some water. Do not allow foods to soak more than 1 hour.

Ascorbic Acid/Citric Acid Dips. Ascorbic acid/citric acid dips are often used as a pretreatment for fruits. They prevent fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, and apricots from turning brown when cut and exposed to air. An ascorbic acid dip also increases the vitamin C content of the dried fruit. (Ascorbic acid is another name for vitamin C.) Use U.S.P. ascorbic acid or food-grade ascorbic acid, which are seasonally available among canning supplies in supermarkets. Vitamin C tablets can also be used.

To prepare an ascorbic acid solution, combine 1/2 teaspoon of ascorbic acid crystals, or three crushed, 500-milligram tablets of vitamin C, with 1 quart water. Stir until the ascorbic acid dissolves. Place the cut fruit in the ascorbic acid solution. Stir the fruit to ensure even coating. Leave the fruit in the ascorbic acid solution for about 5 minutes. Approximately 1 quart of solution will treat 8 cups of fruit. Pineapple juice or juice from citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, or rapefruit can also be used as a pretreatment. These juices contain a mixture of citric and ascorbic acids. However, citric acid is a weaker acid than ascorbic acid and is less effective as a pretreatment. You can also use a commercial pretreatment such as the anti-darken-ing powders often sold with food preservation supplies. Follow the label directions.

Salt Solution Dip.

Prepare a solution of 2 to 4 tablespoons of salt per gallon of water. Soak fruit for 2 to 5 minutes, and then drain it well.

Syrup Blanching.

Prepare fruit for drying. Prepare a sugar syrup made with 1 part sugar and 2 parts water. If desired, use less sugar. Bring the syrup solution to a boil. Add the fruit, simmer for 5 minutes, then drain the fruit. Place the fruit on drying trays and dry. This fruit product is like a candied fruit.

Honey Dip.

A honey treatment for fruit can effectively minimize browning and softening in light-colored fruit. Prepare a honey-water dip using 1 part honey to 4 parts water. Dip the fruit in the honey solution immediately after slicing, let it soak for about 5 minutes, and drain well. The dried fruit will have a slight honey taste.


Sulfur dioxide treatments, either sulfiting or sulfuring, are very effective for retarding oxidation and browning in fruit. Fruit flavor and storage life may also improve. Almost all commercially produced light-colored fruits, such as dried apples, pears, and apricots, are treated with sulfur compounds.

However some people have severe allergic responses to sulfur compounds. They should not eat or work with dried fruit pretreated with sulfur or sulfite compounds. Sulfuring, a complicated and potentially dangerous procedure, is no longer recommended. Sulfiting involves preparing a solution of water and a sulfiting agent and then soaking the cut fruit in the solution. In the United States six sulfur compounds (sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, and potassium metabisulfite) have been listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS). The most popular sulfiting agents for home drying are sodium bisulfite, sodium sulfite, and sodium metabisulfite. They should be either U.S.P. (food grade) or reagent grade (pure). They are available at most wine-making supply centers and some larger supermarkets.

Amount of sulfur to add per quart of water

Sodium bisulfite 1/2 to 1 teaspoon

Sodium sulfite 1 to 2 teaspoons

Sodium metabisulfite 1 to 3 teaspoons

The sulfiting process has two steps:

1. Prepare the sulfiting solution in a large glass container just before use. Place the cut fruit in the solution. Do not leave the fruit in the sulfiting solution too long or the fruit will be mushy. Use about 10 minutes for sliced fruit and 30 minutes for halved fruit. Do not exceed the recommended quantities of sulfites or soak times.

2. After sulfiting, remove the fruit and drain it well. Some people recommend a quick rinse in cold water before drying. Place sulfited fruit on drying trays and dry. Drying times for sulfited fruits are longer because the fruit absorbs some water during soaking.

Allergic Reactions to Sulfites

Some individuals, particularly those with asthmatic conditions, are highly sensitive to sulfites. During the drying process, most of the sulfites enter the air, leaving only a trace on the fruit. Nevertheless, this trace may cause severe allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Sensitive individuals should not eat food treated with sulfites or prepare soaking solutions with sulfites. If you use a sulfiting pretreatment when drying foods, be sure to say so on the label.

Pretreating Fruits and Vegetables

Although you can dry and store many foods without pretreatment, pretreatment generally improves quality, particularly for vegetables. Five major reasons for treating foods before drying are to

1. Preserve color and flavor

2. Minimize nutrient loss

3. Stop decomposition (enzyme action)

4. Ensure more even drying

5. Extend storage life

Pretreatment Methods for Fruits and Vegetables

  • Ascorbic acid/citric acid dips
  • Salt solution dip
  • Syrup blanching
  • Honey dip
  • Sulfiting


  • Steam blanching
  • Water blanching

Preparing Foods for Drying

For suggestions for specific fruits and vegetables, see the drying guidelines beginning on page


Gently wash all fruits in cold water just before drying to remove dirt, bacteria, and insects. Thoroughly wash fruits that have skins you will not peel off, such as cherries and prunes. Do not soak fruit because extended soaking can cause nutrient loss and waterlog the fruit, which increases drying times.

Remove fruit stems and peels. Peels may be left on some fruits, such as apples and peaches, but they may become bitter or discolor during drying. Core or pit the fruit and cut it into uniform halves, quarters, or slices. Trim away diseased or soft spots.


Wash vegetables in cold water just before drying. If vegetables are covered with soil, wash them under clean running water to prevent the dirt from resettling on the food. Do not allow vegetables to soak in water.

Most vegetables should be peeled and trimmed then cut, sliced, or shredded into uniform pieces. Although peeling some vegetables such as young zucchini and well-washed carrots is optional, unpeeled vegetables tend to be tougher when dried. Remove fibrous or woody portions and damaged areas. You can prepare pieces with a food slicer or food processor.

Selecting Foods for Drying


If you’re new to drying, start with the fruits you like best. Think also about how you will use your dried fruits. Peaches or pears in a tangy stewed fruit? Apples or apricots for lunch box snacks? Berries to toss into muffin or cake batters? Most fruits are easy to dry.

High-quality fruits make the best dried products. Choose firm, fully ripe fruit that is heavy for its size. Handle fruits gently and process them immediately because fruit ready for drying is very fragile. Use overripe or bruised fruits in other ways (for example, as fruit leathers).


Vegetables for drying should be fresh, tender, and just mature. Avoid immature vegetables because their color and flavor tend to be weak or poor. Also avoid excessively mature vegetables, which are inclined to be tough, woody, or fibrous. For the best quality and nutrition, dry vegetables as soon as possible after harvest.

Drying Methods

Dehydrator drying produces the best quality dried products, so it’s not surprising that it’s also the most popular drying method. Dehydrator drying also gives you greater flexibility than other methods because it does not depend on dry, sunny days or take over your oven. A variety of electric dehydrators are available for purchase. A dehydrator should have a heat source, a thermostat, and some method of air circulation. If you buy a dehydrator, follow the directions that come with it.

Buying a Dehydrator

Before you buy a new or used food dehydrator, check to see that it has all these features:

Instruction manual.

Thermostatically controlled temperature dial with settings between 130° and 150°F.

(If you plan to dry meat jerky in your dehydrator, the dehydrator must be capable of maintaining a temperature of 145°. Contact the extension educator in your county for instructions on how to safely prepare meat jerky.)

Fan or blower to distribute warm air evenly.

Shelves made of stainless steel or food-grade plastic. (Galvanized screening is not food-safe.)

Easy loading and unloading features.

Outside cabinets made of hard plastic, aluminum, or steel. The highest quality dehydrator has double-wall construction with insulating material sand wiched between the walls to reduce the amount of heat lost during use.

Enclosed heating element.

Appropriate number of trays for your use. Most food dryers come with 4 to 10 food trays.

Source of replacement parts.

Sun Drying

Sun drying works best when the temperature is in the 90s, the humidity is low, and air pollution levels are low. A major advantage to sun drying is its low cost. Drying trays, netting to protect against bugs, and food to dry are your only investments.

Sun drying makes you dependent on the weather, however. If it is sunny one day and cloudy the next, you will have to finish drying by another method. That’s because spoilage can occur while the drying food still has enough moisture for microbial growth. Also, you should bring the food inside on cool nights. Another disadvantage is time. What dries in 6 to 8 hours in an electric dehydrator may take 2 to 4 days in the sun.

Solar Drying

Solar drying is like sun drying, only better. The sun’s rays collect in a solar box so that, compared with sun drying, drying temperature is higher and drying time is shorter. The shorter drying time gives microorganisms less chance to cause spoilage.

If you do not want to buy or build a solar box, you can use the back window ledge of an automobile where the sun shines through. Crack the windows slightly to allow air flow so temperatures do not get too hot. Cover the trays with netting to keep bugs out.

Oven Drying

You can use your oven to dry small amounts of food at one time. You’ll have little or no investment in equipment and you won’t have to depend on the weather.

Although oven drying produces a safe, generally tasty product, don’t expect top quality. Oven-dried food is more brittle and usually darker and less flavorful than food dried in a dehydrator. Another disadvantage of oven drying is its energy cost. Oven drying takes two or three times longer than drying in a dehydrator.

Before drying in an oven, test the oven temperature with an oven thermometer for about 1 hour. Prop open the oven door as you would when actually drying fruit. The oven should maintain a temperature of 130° to 150°F.

If the oven cannot maintain a temperature in this range, you will not have high-quality dried food. If the oven is too hot, your food will begin to cook instead of dry. If it is too cool, your food may not dry fast enough and spoil instead.

Why Drying Foods

Drying foods yourself allows you to choose the best, tastiest varieties you can buy or pick fresh from the garden. Home drying also lets you enjoy dried fruits and vegetables the grocery stores don’t carry. Dried berries make wonderful additions to winter muffins. Dried tomatoes perk up a pot of baked beans. Backpackers let lightweight dried vegetable mixes simmer into tempting soups. And the foods you dry yourself cost a lot less than the ones you buy.

Microorganisms and enzymes that spoil food need water to be active. Drying works as a preservation method simply by depriving them of water. Unlike canning, in which you follow precise instructions for packaging and processing times to keep the food safe to eat, food drying is flexible. Decisions about food-piece sizes, food mixtures, pretreatments, and packaging are yours. Drying time is determined less by the clock than by simple tests you perform.

Almost any food-safe packaging will do for dried foods. And, unlike canned foods, packages can be opened and closed again and again. High-quality, moderately priced electric dehydrators are widely available. Easy to use and needing little care, they produce a consistently top-quality product. For these reasons, most people buy or borrow electric dehydrators rather than use their oven or the sun. Whatever drying method you choose, the principles in this guide will apply.