Our type of dehydrator

Years ago, still living in the city but determined to store more than a week’s food in the house, we started to learn about food preservation and storage. Our first idea was to buy a bunch of stuff and can it. Off we went to the food equipment store, where the very knowledgeable clerk found us fingering the outrageous price tag on a pressure cooker. Cleverly, she coaxed us to reveal the strategic goal — lot of food storage with minimal effort and maximum nutrient retention – and promptly steered us toward the dehydrators.

OMG, we have never looked back. The dehydrator turns some kinds of produce into a better, sweeter, more intensely delicious version of itself. Why? No idea. But I prefer beet soup from dehydrated beets over fresh ones because of the more intense flavour. Maybe drying does something to the natural sugars, I am not sure. I also prefer dried cherries and strawberries to fresh ones, especially fresh ones from the store. Store strawberries seem almost devoid of flavour, and need all the help they can get. Even locally grown cherries are sweetened by the drying process.

Dehydrated food can last ten years if it’s kept sealed, cool and in the dark. That’s better than freezing and almost as good as canning.

And dehydrating is dead easy: clean the food, (blanch sometimes), slice, dry, slide into glass jars and store in a cool, dark place. The first two years we owned the dehydrator, it ran almost constantly. If you don’t have time for all this, and you want a year’s worth of food, you can buy dried food in bulk. Just make sure you get your storage right.

We bought the biggest dehydrator in that store and it worked fabulously. It is just the right size for the amount of time we want to slice at one time. We could certainly have filled a larger one, but we would have been annoyed.

Some foods taste absolutely terrible after they’re dried and cannot be rehydrated back into acceptability. When you buy your dehydrator, get a book and believe their advice. Drying turns cauliflower and broccoli into awful muck. I suppose the answer is to eat it a lot in the summer and hope the nutrients stay with you all year

Why not can? Well, it’s a lot of work, it’s steamy and hot, there is much more nutritional loss, and it can be dangerous – food safety hazards and burning yourself — if you’re not diligent. Since I am not diligent and hate unnecessary work, no thanks.

I might eventually can meat, but probably not. There are other ways to preserve meat here in Canada: it seems only sensible to wait until winter before slaughtering animals too large to eat in a couple of meals – we could easily keep them frozen outside for six months of the year, and eat meal-sized animals, dairy and eggs when it’s hot out. If we lived in warmer climes, I might dry or cure meat…but I am trying to cut down on salt.

Why not just freeze everything? Well, we do freeze a lot right now but freezers take a lot of electricity and our plan is definitely to do without them eventually. Besides, almost everyone who has owned a freezer has experienced the panic of a power outage. I hate panic.