Dehydrated Meals Can Be Delicious

By Lee Flynn

 

Why keep dehydrated food on hand?

There are a lot of good reasons to dehydrate and store foodstuffs, and it is something that everyone can do with a little bit of practice. Dehydrated food takes up less space and weighs less for camping trips. For those who want be prepared for any contingency, dry goods and dehydrated foods are stored along with potable water in case of a food shortage or natural disaster.

 

How tasty is it?

Space travel brought us freeze-dried food, which lasts longer but is a lot more expensive. The military introduced us to MREs, or “Meals Ready to Eat,” but the flavor and texture left something to be desired. Today, dehydrated food can be as gourmet as you like, with hikers bringing dehydrated lasagna and fish chowder on the trail.

 

What kind of foods can be dehydrated?

Meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy and even complete meals can be dehydrated and stored for a year or more. Imagine having a year’s worth of healthy food stored for emergencies!

 

How is food dehydrated?

According to extension services, successful dehydrating of fruits and vegetables depends on heat, air dryness and air circulation. You need to get the food hot enough to dry out without cooking and the air around it must be dry enough to absorb the moisture. Good circulation will draw the moist air away, allowing the food to continue to dehydrate.

 

That’s why purchasing a good quality food dehydrator is the first thing to do if you’re dehydrating at home. Professional food dehydrators control the temperature and they have fans to blow warm air over the food as it dries.

 

Dehydrated food can be bought pre-packaged in pouches or cans, including complete meals. The only way to dehydrate food expertly at home is to do some experimenting with temperatures and times. So be prepared to eat a lot of your first efforts!

 

What’s the best way to store dehydrated food?

Most dehydrated food can be stored for up to a year with the exception of meats, which should be used within two to three months. Dried herbs can last for several years if they are packaged correctly.

 

Do-it-yourself dehydrated food can be stored in zipped freezer bags with the excess air pushed out before sealing. A lot of pre-packaged essential emergency foods are sealed in mylar bags because they are lightweight, tough and resistant to tearing. Dehydrated food should be stored in a cool, dry area that is not exposed to light, in sealed bins.

 

Does dehydrated food have the same amount of nutrition as fresh food?

The fiber and calories will be the same but a small amount of vitamins may be lost in drying out food. Amounts of vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, selenium and sodium tend to stay stable. Vegetables will lose most of their vitamin C content when they are blanched. One way to make sure that all of the nutrition of rehydrated foods is consumed is to drink the water that is used to rehydrate them.

 

How does the taste and texture of dehydrated food compare to fresh food?

Rehydrated foods are almost indistinguishable from their fresh counterparts when used in soups, stews and casseroles. The texture may change but the flavor remains in food that has been properly dehydrated. Here’s a sample recipe for a delicious rehydrated meal:

 

Greek Unstuffed Peppers (Serves 1)

 

1/3 cup instant rice

3 T dried bell pepper

2 T dried artichoke hearts

1 T dried zucchini dices

1 t dried parsley

1 packet True Lemon (or more to taste)

½ t vegetable bouillon

½ t dried oregano

¼ t onion flakes

¼ t garlic powder

 

Add enough hot water to cover. Allow to sit until the rice and vegetables are rehydrated. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.


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6 Comments

  1. Lee, I just started dehydrating this season and its easy. i am using fruit and veggies from our garden
    otherwise it might not pay. Tomorrow I will do pears.Dried apples and pears make great snacks-the
    grand children love them and so do we.
    It takes approx. 12 lbs. of apples to make 3 pints of dried. It took me 10 hrs of dehydrating for the three
    pints . Arlene

  2. Dehydrated food is truly an economic way to preserve food. Canning works but the shelf life is limited
    and goods heavy. We use the 9 tray “Excalibur” electric dehydrator. Available a reasonable cost. Dried
    cherries and nectarines superb on cereals or trail mix. The summer harvest is on and a visit to local
    farmer markets productive. Good article John!

  3. We use a dehydrator with a fan on the back rather the bottom for a more even drying process. We dehydrate a lot of produce so we can have produce, such as cabbage, for our outreach feedings to veterans in the cold months. To package dehydrated food, I strongly urge people to use a vacuum sealer because I had food mold by just putting in a zip plastic bag or jars.

  4. Over the decades, I’ve eaten everything from C-rats to MREs and much commercially prepared along with food I’ve preserved myself. The best I can say is that some was better than others and none would be quite described a being ‘delicious.’

    Canning and dehydrating are likely the best we’ll have for some time for preserved food. Years ago I purchased a nitrogen bottle, threaded jag adapter and hose. I flush the air from food in mylar bags with the nitrogen and add oxygen absorbers as well before sealing. The combination of both seem to work the best for me.

    Nitrogen should only be used in well ventilated areas as it could exclude the oxygen from your lungs. Know what you’re doing and have a proper plan before opening the valve on your new nitrogen bottle.

    My thoughts,
    PR

  5. Jim, Does the 9 tray Excalibur have a setting for time or do you just keep track of the time yourself? Is it quiet or does it make a loud noise?
    Brenda, Our 5 shelf Excalibur also has a back fan.Ours is pretty loud. Thanks Arlene

  6. I have a small dehydrator that we use for fun, but I do prefer professionally dehydrated vegetables over the freeze-dried ones. They take longer to cook, use more water, and are frequently only good for soups or flavorings, but it’s a cost-effective way to add variety to your stores.

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