Fruits and vegetables are tastiest—and cheapest—when they're in season. Learn how to dry produce with a food dehydrator, and you'll be able to stock up for year-round savings and enjoy that taste of summer in the depth of winter. Drying fruits and veggies is an easy process with a dehydrator, but drying time takes from eight to 12 hours.
What You Need
- Start with fresh fruits and vegetables of the very best quality. Overripe, bruised, and otherwise deteriorated produce will not yield good results when dehydrated.
- Clean, hull, and slice all fruits and vegetables, taking care to maintain consistency in the thickness of the slices. This ensures that everything dries at an even rate.
- Treat apples, pears, and other fruits prone to oxidation with citrus juice or ascorbic acid, if desired. This helps to retain the color of the fruit before, during, and after the drying process.
- Blanche broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots, corn, peas, and potatoes to speed drying time and to help maintain color. Three to five minutes in boiling water should be adequate.
- Add salt, sugar or spices to flavor, as desired.
- Load your fruit and vegetable slices onto the dehydrator trays; be careful not to overlap them because it will slow the drying time.
- Turn your dehydrator on immediately after loading to start the dehydration process. Check the owner's manual for recommended drying times but expect the process to take between eight and 12 hours on average.
- Check your fruits and vegetables frequently for dryness as you reach the end of the drying time. To do so, simply remove a slice from the dehydrator, allow it to cool, and then feel it with your fingers. If the slice feels dry to the touch, it should be adequately dried. To further evaluate the dryness of fruit, cut several fruit slices in half and check the cut edges for moisture beads. If any are present, the fruit is not yet dry enough and needs to be returned to the dehydrator.
- Allow your fruit and vegetable slices to cool for 30 to 60 minutes or until completely cool to the touch before packing.
- Place dried fruits in loosely packed jars and shake once a day for seven to 10 days to make sure the remaining moisture is evenly distributed among the dried pieces. If condensation appears on the jar, the fruit needs to be returned to the dehydrator for further drying. (Only fruits need this extra step.)
- Place all dried foods in air-tight containers or freezer bags and store in a cool, dry, and dark place until you are ready to use them.
- Process fruits and vegetables as soon after harvest as possible.
- Do not add fresh produce to a partially dried load.
- Drying times vary based on the thickness of the slices, the amount of water in the food, temperature, humidity, and altitude. Start a journal to track and record your own drying times for various foods so you'll have that information handy for the next time.
- When stored properly, dehydrated foods are usually good for a year.
- You can buy ascorbic acid at grocery and drugstores, and it is available in powder and tablet form.