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Food Dehydrating

The process of dehydration removes moisture from the food while retaining the food's flavor.  It dramatically extends the time the food remains edible.  It also removes most of the food's weight which is a serious consideration for the canoeist.

There are a number of commercial dehydrators available but you can make your own with little effort.  If you can pass warm, slow moving air over and around the food you have a dehydrator.  The one I use is pictured below.

        

Dehydrator without cover.                      Dehydrator with cover in place.

The unit consists of a 11.5" x 22" wooden frame with a screen stretched across it.  This is placed in front of a small heating fan at an appropriate height so that the screen is level with the center of the fan unit.  When dehydrating food the cover, shown in the right photo, is put over the screen unit to focus the airflow over the food.  Warm air from the fan is able to move over, under and around food placed on the screen.  NOTE:  The air passing over the food should be just warm and moving at low speed.... you want to dry the food, not cook it.

To dehydrate liquid foods such as pasta sauce I pour the sauce onto a cookie sheet that has been coated with a light film of oil and place that on the screen unit.

Dehydrating/Rehydrating tips.

Peas, corn, blue berries and other kernel vegetables/fruit.  Use frozen vegetables/fruit.  Pour them directly on to the screen.  Peas will rehydrate when cooked.  Corn must be soaked for at least 8 hours to rehydrate.

Broccoli , mushrooms, carrots and other larger vegetables must be cut up onto small prices and then dehydrated.   Carrots must be soaked for 8 hours prior to cooking.

Apples are peeled, cored and cut into 1/4" thick slices then dehydrated.  They are eaten while dehydrated as a snack or can be added to pancake mix for a little extra flavor in your breakfast.

Eggs should be purchased in commercially prepared packages available at camping supply retailers such as Mountain Equipment Coop and Europe Bound.  A number of nice breakfast options are available this way.

Meat must be fat free and well cooked prior to dehydration.  The fat in meat will not dehydrate and goes rancid.  Chicken breasts and pork tenderloin are well cooked on a barbeque and sliced into 1/4" strips or cubes then dehydrated.  Very lean ground beef is fried until it is well cooked then run under very hot water to remove an fat from the meat prior to dehydration.  Meat must be rehydrated for 6 hours or more or it will be rather chewy.

Pasta sauce can be dehydrated on an oiled cookie sheet.  When dry it will be like a flexible leather that can be folded up and placed in a plastic bag.  The sauce will rehydrate when soaked for a couple of hours.  You can use the same process to make fruit rollups out of yogurt.

Beef jerky makes an excellent, high protein, snack food.  Flank steak or other very lean meat is first sliced into strips 1/16" to 1/8" thick then marinated in soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, pepper and other spices that strike your fancy.  Try a few different marinades to get one you like.  The meat is dehydrated after marinating for 24 hours in the refrigerator.  It is eaten in it's dehydrated state.