Equipment and methods for successful food drying

Drying or dehydrating food is an economical way to make the most of your foodstuffs. With some basic equipment and know-how, you can extend the life and flavour of your favourite foods.

Equipment and methods for successful food drying

Drying equipment

Some basic equipment is needed for food drying, mainly to prepare the food before drying. Most important are a large pot, a drying tray of slatted wood and a cutting board. To set yourself up with basic drying equipment you will need to obtain the following:

  • Heat source (sun, gas or electric oven, fuel stove)
  • Trays of slatted wood or non-metallic mesh
  • Cheesecloth
  • Stainless steel knives for slicing
  • Wooden cutting board
  • Wooden spoons
  • Large stainless steel pot for blanching
  • (Optional) ascorbic acid
  • (Optional) sodium or potassium metabisulphite and plastic bucket for sulphur dipping or large cardboard box for sulphur smoking; before buying chemicals it is a good idea to phone pharmacies to check the availability and price
  • Thermometer to check oven temperature
  • Airtight storage containers

Tips for success

Other than using only the best and freshest of produce for drying, here are some important tips for successful drying:

  • Vegetables and fruit should be thoroughly washed and drained before peeling, cutting and slicing
  • Make pieces as uniform as possible so all will dry at the same rate
  • To fix the natural colour in sliced fruit, dip the pieces in pure lemon juice or a solution of ascorbic acid (vitamin C, available in powdered form from pharmacies) as soon as they are cut. You will need about 250 millilitres (one cup) of lemon juice to process five litres (20 cups) of cut fruit; or mix 15 millilitres (three teaspoons) of pure ascorbic acid with 250 millilitres (one cup) of water
  • Fruit leather (kamaradin) can be made with over-ripe and blemished fruit because produce is converted to pulp before drying
  • Sulphuring and blanching food are the most common ways of halting the decaying action of enzymes while preserving colour and flavour
  • Sulphuring also ensures better storage, less loss of vitamins A and C and seems to give added protection against insect attack
  • Vegetables need only to be blanched; some fruits are best sulphured

With these tips and a little planning and effort, you'll soon be saving food from the compost bin and money from your grocery bills.

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