Drying Without the Grid

Well, you’ve heard a lot from me lately on drying, my focus has been the solar dehydrator built with a reclaimed window. I’m busy building, I’ve got my lumber organized, and a couple of pieces cut. I’m working on the frame that will support the window and sun blocking shutter, so it’s just an easy rectangle, the size of my window. There’s still time to join in the building fun. :-) If you’re not interested in building something, there are certainly other ways to do it. Several commenters pointed out the dehydrating abilities of old cars, and stringing and hanging in a warm room can be an easy way to dry things too. I encourage you to think outside the box for your dehydrating needs, (even though I’m building a box,) so today’s guest post is some thoughts from M.O. on his dehydrating practices.

Calamity Jane

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Greetings from Centralia

Don’t call me Ishmael. Anthony will work fine. Not having the luxury of having a go to preplanned survival homestead/bunker in the ample and spacious Northwest I am forced to survive in place in the Northeast. For security reasons ( sorry ) I will call this location – Centralia. A nice rural/suburban location over 50 miles from the nearest capital city or coastline and any potential threat or target i.e. nuclear facilities, military bases, etc. As well, Centralia is over 1000 ft above sea level. When and if the seas rise, for whatever reason, I could be living on a small island nation. So here I am, a near 50 yr old military veteran, with a pre-teen son and lady friend ready to defend. Having been in the prepping mode for over 10 years I have amassed a substantial supply of all things which will come in handy when the curtain falls. Food, guns, ammo, water, medical supplies and miscellaneous items are ready – including a small (4 person) bunker on the property which would serve as the Alamo if need be.

The topic of today is food dehydration. To support the supply of canned and freeze dried foods, I have been dehydrating to build up and back up the larder with a variety of foods purchased (check out the discounted fruit or veggies at the market), hunted or home grown. For appliances I utilize an electric fan circulated hot air version with accessories and an
old-school heat only model. There are many versions on the market today. Electric versions can operate on a car battery using an inverter when the power is out. I also will use just the trays in the sun by placing them on a low end roof of my garage (touch your roof shingles on a hot  day)…..it’s slower but uses no energy. This method will work anywhere as long as there is heat and air circulation. In the winter months I have an apparatus suspended near the wood stove which lends to drying very quickly.
Also, I have found that my solar oven works very well at dehydrating. Food times and dryness vary on what specific item is being dehydrated, as well as the individual machines or methods used. An easy universal test
is that the item dried should break, not bend.

Some items are best blanched beforehand while others can be directly dehydrated without further preparation. There are many books, videos and websites specific to dehydrating with tips, recommendations and suggestions to make jerky, fruit leather, etc. Once dehydration is attained the food item is cooled for bit and then vacuum sealed. This can be done with or without oxygen absorbers. Based on how well the process goes, vacuum sealed dehydrated food will last more than most information suggests. It is a good idea to rotate and check your supplies with regularity. I have found, on rare occasions, dehydrated and sealed items growing fur. Some food items, when dehydrated, have sharp ends or pieces which may penetrate the vacuum seal. I recently tested six year old dehydrated vacuum sealed shrimp – and I live to tell the tale. Some items can be dehydrated and then run through a mill grinder before being vacuum sealed. I have a grinder attachment for a table-top mixer which works great. This is a good way to sneak in dehydrated food items into a meal for those with finicky palates, make corn meal from dried corn, or dried offerings of medicinal herbs and plants just to name a few.

M.O.

 

5 comments… add one
  • millenniumfly August 9, 2011, 12:37 pm

    So, how do you control the temperature? Or, do you not worry about it getting too hot to cook the food?

    Reply
  • Calamity Jane August 9, 2011, 5:58 pm

    millenium, which method are you asking about? With most of the ones mentioned above, sunlight means you can only partially control the temp, using shade or time of day. Electric dehydrators have some temp control built in usually. It might not be perfect in the cheaper models though.

    Reply
    • Anonymous August 9, 2011, 8:37 pm

      I was asking about the sunlight method. I know when I had a Excalibur dehydrator it seemed important that the temperature be fairly constant, though, I can’t remember what that was. Anyway, I was just curious how important a constant temp was. Thanks.

      Reply
      • Calamity Jane August 10, 2011, 11:56 am

        Well, constant temp makes it easier to time the drying, but as long as the food get’s to a low moisture state, I don’t think it matters if there’s variation in the rate it gets there.
        I was always told that too much sunlight will degrade the drying food, and that’s why solar dehydrators have a shade component, to block the light but still capture the heat. How much it degrades, or what exactly degrades, I’m not entirely sure. And I’m not sure if temp variation affects that.

        Reply
        • Anonymous August 10, 2011, 1:15 pm

          Ok, thank you for your responses.

          Reply

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